Oprah covers People, said she didn’t think she’d live past 56

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Oprah Winfrey covers People Magazine this week. I love everything about that cover photo, she looks like a queen. Whoever did her makeup deserves one of each of Oprah’s favorite things this month. The issue, as you can see, focuses on Oprah turning 65 this year and the five moments that changed her life. One of the things she told the magazine is that she never believed she’d see 65 because she thought she die the year she turned 56.

While she certainly celebrated turning 65 this year, it was Oprah Winfrey’s 57th birthday that turned out to be the most significant.

That’s because the talk show icon never expected to live past the age of 56. In this week’s issue of PEOPLE, the mogul and philanthropist opens up about the childhood dream that gripped her despite her success.

“I used to have this dream that I was going to be dead at 56, so the year that I turned 56 I was filled with dread,” Winfrey says. “I had only told one other person that I had a number in my head when I was going to die, and that was Gayle [King, her best friend].

Gayle said, ‘What’s the number?’ I said, ‘I’m not going to tell you, because you will drive me crazy and then I will end up dead.’”

“When I got to 57, it was like, ‘Why did all my life I think it was going to be 56?’” she says. “At the time I started having this vision of 56, it was when I was in Milwaukee and I was trapped in a world where I could see how dire it was.”

[From People]

I know people who have a death age in their minds. Fortunately, like, Oprah, most outlived those visions. My own mother was convinced she was leaving us at 73. Given her need to be right, I thought sheer will alone was going to take her out. (She’s 10+ beyond 73 now and sees no reason to die at all, she says.) But as Oprah said, it can really mess with your head. And she was so right to not tell Gayle, Gayle would have packed her in bubble wrap and never let her out of her sight. Oprah ended her talk show in 2011, at the age of 57. The article doesn’t make any connection but that can’t just be a coincidence, can it? Oprah mentioned that the 56 vision took place when she, “was in Milwaukee and I was trapped in a world where I could see how dire it was.” Oprah cites leaving Milwaukee as the number one moment that changed her life and thinks if she hadn’t left, the 56 vision would have come true. She’s Oprah Winfrey, I’m certainly not going to contradict her. Whatever motivated her to outrun 56 worked, and we are better for it.

Case in point: 30 years ago, Oprah donated $12M to Morehouse college for scholarships. That donation has sponsored the education of 600 men. The college held a ceremony to honor Oprah for her contribution and unveiled her portrait that will hang in their halls. Oprah was so moved, she pledged another $13M during her speech, making her $25M total the largest endowment the college has ever received. CB was telling me about the talks she’s been listening to on YouTube from Oprah. She said a story Oprah often reflects on is a time when Oprah was five, hanging laundry with her grandmother, and her grandmother told her she hoped Oprah found some nice white folks to work for who treated her right. Instead, she became a billionaire and is sending thousands of young people to college with her own money.

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Photo credit: People, WENN photos and Twitter

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16 Responses to “Oprah covers People, said she didn’t think she’d live past 56”

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  1. manda says:

    Her grandmother would probably be so proud of her now. I wonder if she saw her achieve any of her success? I will say, working for (or with; let’s modernize this) nice people really does make so much of a difference in life

    Also, I dream of becoming super rich so I can pay for school or wipe out student loans, it’s one of my top fantasies. I imagine it is such a great feeling

  2. Pineapple says:

    Awwwww, I am in tears first thing in the morning … that is fun. XO XO XO This woman is pretty great.

  3. LindaS says:

    My bother is very well off and well known in the city he lives in. We are very close and he donates a lot to places where people will be helped. One of his priorities is helping homeless youth. He does it all anonymously as the public has no idea who is donating. Why does Oprah feel it necessary to announce what she does? I am sure I will get blasted but I find her very attention seeking for what she donates

    • MariaS says:

      Perhaps her visible charitable giving puts pressure on other people to do something positive with their wealth, and highlights the importance of preserving HBCUs and helping young Black men receive excellent educations without crushing debt? Have fun being bitter and judgmental.

      • LindaS says:

        You are judging me as being bitter and judgemental. Was that fun for you? I turned 65 this week. Oprahs age. I have had a very good life. I do not feel it necessary to announce everything that a person does .

      • MariaS says:

        Yes, I am, because your words leave no other conclusion. Unlike you who is choosing to look at a positive action on Winfrey’s part in the worst possible light. Good for you!

      • MariaS says:

        Yes, I am, because your words leave no other conclusion. Unlike you who is choosing to look at a positive action on Winfrey’s part in the worst possible light. Good for you!

    • Ramona Q. says:

      She might announce her donations because she hopes/thinks it will bring publicity to the organisation and others will donate too. I don’t think she’s looking for accolades.

    • Anh says:

      I suspect that, as in the Mark Zuckerberg education donation case, she hopes that such a large gift attached to someone so high profile will gain greater coverage and encourage greater giving or at least greater conversations about giving.

  4. ChillyWilly says:

    I can’t believe she is 65! She looks really, really good. I miss her talk show. It was so good.

    • Anh says:

      I miss it so, too. As a kid growing up in what i now recognise as a highly-dysfunctional home, i honestly felt that Oprah was the closest resemblance of a loving, supportive, intelligent, present mother/parent. She recently revealed that she gets told that often by former viewers. Oprah may never have literally given birth but she gave hope, sustenance, information and entertainment to generations so sorely lacking such as i.

  5. MariaS says:

    I can totally relate to her fear. My mother and maternal grandmother died young and I’ve always thought I’d go when they did. It feels like a huge countdown clock (with less than 20 years left) but it has spurred me to live NOW and not put off things. I feel like if I died tomorrow I’d go with very few regrets.

  6. Kate says:

    Sometimes people get fears in their heads and convince themselves it is intuition. I have a friend who says she thought she would die young (she didn’t). And 2 of my friends and I at the age of 24 or 25 were sharing our thoughts on how we “had feelings” we were infertile because we had never accidentally gotten pregnant. And none of us thankfully had fertility issues when we were ready to have kids. Goes to show you really have to question your inner voice sometimes when it’s trying to convince you random fears are the truth.

    • Anh says:

      👏👏👏 Yeah, just wanted to second that. Sure, pay attention and nurture that intuition that gives so much but try to cultivate that discernment from otherwise fears.

  7. dlc says:

    Ignore that voice! My dad thought he would be dead by 50, he lived till 69, but wasted 19 years acting like he was dying. So much admiration for Oprah for pushing thru that fear!