Jan 15 2012

Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls: Celebrating the 1st Graduating Class

From the moment Oprah Winfrey announced her intention to build a leadership academy for impoverished girls on the African continent, critics were vehement and vocal about why it was the wrong thing to do.

When scandal rocked the school, not once, but repeatedly, the critics’ voices were amplified in the media, and their negative opinions about Winfrey’s methods and motives seemed even more valid in the eyes of dubious observers.

Winfrey said that to her, these girls are like her daughters, daughters whose lives included devastating experiences that never deterred them from wanting to reach their full potential:  “Divorce. Violence. Molestation. The loss of one parent. The loss of another parent. Sorrow. Sadness. Grief,” Oprah recounted.

Despite the many harsh realities the girls faced, 72 of the original class of 75 persevered and graduated. All 72 are headed to universities in South Africa and the United States to study in a diversity of fields including law, engineering, medicine and accounting.

“I’m one proud mama today,” said Winfrey, calling the students “phenomenal, phenomenal, phenomenal women.”

Winfrey noted that these students were born in 1994, the same year apartheid died in South Africa. She told the graduates they were brought to life  “in a nation that said: You are free. You are free to rise. You are free to soar.”

Oprah asked staff and family members to stand for applause during the commencement ceremony. She praised the teachers, administrators, social workers, psychologists and family members who devoted themselves to educating the young women, saying the school’s success was owed to teachers who came early and stayed late, social workers committed to their roles, and parents who helped to  instill discipline despite difficult home lives.

Winfrey said she has learned over the years that it takes a dedicated team to support students, especially those who have experienced poverty and personal trauma.

When the first group of students arrived five years ago, most of the 11- and 12-year-old girls had never used a computer. Many had attended schools with dirt floors and no desks. Some were left orphaned by AIDS, cancer and crime. All of them were selected for their desire to be educated, and their passion to serve their people.

There were times Winfrey felt discouraged by serious problems that occurred at the academy, including molestation charges against a dormitory matron, and a newborn baby found dead in a student’s room. Throughout the crises, Winfrey said she “always held the vision that this day was possible.”

Now that these women are headed out into the world to realize their potential and make their impact, it is impossible to side with the naysayers who said, among other criticisms, that Oprah should have done something like this closer to home.

Regardless of where on earth these women stand, they stand as beautiful, brown, brilliant symbols of what caring motivation and quality education can and should produce.

–by Kathleen Cross for rollingout.com


Jul 9 2011

Oprah Rumored to Top Short List to Host 2012 Academy Awards

It has been almost 25 years since Oprah Winfrey didn’t get an Academy Award for her critically-acclaimed portrayal of Sophia in the Spielberg-directed film, The Color Purple, and right about now the folks at the Academy have to be hoping she’s not holding that against them.

Now that the undisputed queen of talk’s 25-year-reign at that other five-letter-O-word  show has ended, she is rumored to top the short list of celebrities worthy of consideration to host the 2012 Oscar ceremony.

If Oprah is selected to do the honors, and she accepts, she’ll make another short list—that of African Americans who have served as sole host of the prestigious event. Although Richard Pryor, Diana Ross and Sammy Davis, Jr. were invited to stand at the podium with other co-hosts over the years, only Chris Rock (2004) and Whoopie Goldberg (1993, 1995, 1998 & 2001) have been awarded sole custody of the Oscar hosting mic.

Motion Picture Academy sources told The Chicago Sun-Times that if Winfrey accepted the invitation, the awards would be broadcast on ABC, and Oprah’s OWN network would be granted exclusive rights to a post-Oscars telecast.  Sounds like a win-win for all involved, especially Oprah’s huge and diverse television fan base who have to be missing t and will be more than eager to tune in.

Jun 2 2011

Lauren London Exclusive Interview: ‘Under My Skin” (Part 2)

After we got most of the serious topics out of the way last week in part one of this interview, the beautiful actress and model Lauren London responded candidly to my barrage of not-quite-so-deep questions:

You are stranded on an island for the weekend. Name three male and three female celebrities you hope are stranded there with you, and why.

Dr. Phil, so he can talk me off the ledge (laughs). Barack Obama, because you better believe Air Force One is coming to get him, and we won’t be stranded too long. And, Bobby Flay, because if we’re going to be stranded we might as well be enjoying some good food.

And the females?

Oprah, because… (pause) she’s Oprah. Barbara Streisand, because I’ve admired her since I was a little girl. And, Khloe (Kardashian) because she’s a real friend and she’s hilarious.

What would you name the street you’d like to build your home on?

Get Away Lane

Is that “Get Away” as in “this is my refuge” or “Get Away” as in “leave me alone?”

(Laughs) It could go either way, right?

You are rear ended at a traffic stoplight. What are you doing in the first ten seconds?


I’m a genie granting you one wish with the stipulation that you have to use it on yourself. What is your wish?

I wish you would give me the ability to get out of my own way.

Name a character in a book that forever changed you.

Dinah in The Red Tent by Anita Diamant. She lived through tough circumstance but she kept overcoming and getting stronger the more difficulties she faced. She knew more than she should have for her age, but it helped her survive and thrive.

If you could spend a day in any man’s skin, who would you want to be for 24 hours?

Will Smith. I think I could learn so much about this business being him.

What are three qualities you don’t want in a husband. Three deal breakers:

Someone who doesn’t believe in God.  A liar.  And, someone who’s been madly in love more than ten times.

You once told an interviewer that O-Dog from Menace to Society was your dream date.  Who’s your dream date now?

Okay, that was my first interview ever and I was being sarcastic. Sarcasm doesn’t translate well in print, does it?

So, who’s your dream date now?

I haven’t met him. I’ll tell you what… He’s not a menace to me or society.

My last question is keeping in line with the theme of Skin Deep. How do you feel about being half Black and half Jewish. How has that impacted you?

Whatever your ethnicity is, in this life you are going to be on a journey to discover who you are and how you feel about yourself. I do remember being teased by my cousins on my mom’s side for not being black enough, and  then I’d spend the summer with my dad and be sent to all white summer camps where I was “that black girl.” I struggled for about a minute with that, then I figured it out for myself. What it has done for me is I don’t care what people think about my identity. If someone thinks I’m not black enough that’s their issue. I’m okay with who I am and it is what is. I’m a Black woman like my mother, and I love who my father is, and I love both sides of me.  Nobody makes a big deaI about it anymore because I won’t take that anymore.

This is an exclusive interview. All rights reserved. Excerpts of this article can be published with a link back to http://kathleencross.com. To use the article in its entirety, please contact the author:  email (at) kathleencross (dot com)