10:50 PM

An Evening of Grace

Posted by Prosy Delacruz

Oprah with Lee Daniels ( Photo by Janet and Ruben Nepales )

The author, Sapphire and Janet Nepales
Ruben Nepales with Sapphire, author of Push, the novel on which Precious is based on.

Oprah with Lee Daniels.
“The worst thing about being poor, as I recall, is that it makes you feel abnormal. I’ve always encouraged giving. Using your life. Teaching what you learn. Extending yourself in the form of service. So I put a challenge to myself: Using the abundance I’ve been blessed with, what could I offer that would be meaningful to someone else? I wanted to reach a million children in South Africa; time allowed for only 50,000. … I received a gift from a 12-year-old that far surpasses what I gave. [“Mother Oprah” her letter began, “ thank you for making me feel normal – for giving me self-esteem and my humanity. I am convinced that God provides. “] - Oprah Winphrey, 2005

One chilly, fall evening got me on a roller coaster of worry, hope and joy. Tears streaked down my face. I was pinching myself. I was actually inside Chateau Marmont, a luxurious getaway in Sunset Blvd., patterned after France’s Loire Valley castle, which the rich and famous like Raquel Welch and Humphrey Bogart frequented and rooms rented at $395 to $3,700 a night.

I am not rich, nor famous. Yet I am here, about to see Oprah in person, basking in the warm-glowing spirits of Janet and Ruben Nepales, Dante Nico Garcia, the Philippine-based director, whose latest works are Ploning and Oh My Girl.

Janet and Ruben, fondly called Mr. and Mrs. Write, are distinguished members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association. They both write about entertainment figures in Hollywood and in the Philippines. They invited me to the screening of Precious, a film that was executive-produced by Oprah and Tyler Perry, and directed by Lee Daniels.

The Nepales heard of my Oprah dream through Facebook, a popular form of social media. I was on the edge for days, wondering whether she would attend or not, while Ruben and Janet prepared me for the possibility: dress up, enjoy, and soak in the moment.

Hope and worry became my partners for the early part of the evening. Mind you, I was supposed to meet the Nepales at 6:15pm, but I was at the theater at 5pm, concerned that the traffic on Highland might thwart my dream.

While waiting, I was reading the October 25 issue of the New York Times on The Audacity of ‘Precious’, and Lee Daniels’ journey to locate funding after several studios turned him down.

Lee Daniels said “ It’s just this girl, and she’s trying to live. You know her. But we just choose not to know her.“ It was not easy. And it is not easy for me to wait either.

I walked to a nearby coffee shop and there was Dante, who offered to split his merienda with me. His generosity was my signal that my prayers will be heard. Tonight, I will see Oprah.

Our gracious hosts, the Nepales, arrived on time. We all headed to the Chinese Grauman Theater. 45 minutes later, a commotion started. Miss O and company had arrived. She was led towards the side doors, away from the center aisles, until she was called to the stage. A parade of stars came to our view: Mariah Carey, Paula Patton, Monique, Gabourey Sidibe, Lee Daniels, Oprah Winfrey and of course, Sapphire, the author of Push, the novel from which the film was based.

I wanted to be with the paparazzi, much closer to the stage. But I told myself, the rest of the evening shall unfold, patience is a virtue. Mind you, it took self-restraint to make me stay where I was.

After-Party at Chateau Marmont

I met Regina Martin, who came to the screening with Sapphire’s friends. Like long-lost friends, Regina and I had a lot to share, reminiscing to 15 years ago, when our children played soccer. Ruben announced that Oprah just walked in with Lee Daniels. I jumped out of my seat. I squeezed myself among the hundreds who were standing shoulder to shoulder, cameras flashing in a packed 300 sq. ft. room. A reporter held her tape recorder high enough to capture Oprah’s words of wisdom, and apologized for blocking my view.

Oprah spoke of how Precious opened her eyes; how a light shone in the darkness that enveloped the African-American community and other ethnicities. Precious tells the story of an obese girl who was twice raped and impregnated by her father while living with her abusive mother on welfare. It is a tale about Precious’ triumphant spirit, how she grew to love herself, nurtured by a loving teacher who walked with Precious through her ordeals until she was able to obtain a high school diploma. Precious lived in a home lacking in love, but her robust imagination took her to a fantasy life of fame and glamour.

Even Mary J. Blige was moved to tears, while she sang passionately. She acknowledged having a sisterly bond with Oprah. They shared a similar past -- they were triumphant survivors of sexual abuse.

After she sang, Oprah, Lee Daniels and Mary J. embraced each other. Their group hug quieted the room briefly. The program lasted five minutes before Oprah walked towards the exit door. She was guarded by an overbearing phalanx of female security officers, ushering her, while simultaneously instructing the crowd to clear the way and to give her room.

I whispered “ Oprah, thank you for bringing the light. “ She was alert, responsive and said: “The light, yes! Thanks for sharing that.“

I could not believe my dream came true, and I headed towards the exit, when Oprah walked in front of me, long enough for me to see her wearing a black V-neck blouse with a skirt, and of course, diamonds. I could not resist my urge to embrace her, and managed to rest my head partially on her left shoulder, and then, she was gone. Just like that. The volume of excitement diminished, the chaos dissipated, and normal conversations resumed.

I sat down with Director Dante Nico Garcia and the Nepales. I cried profusely, overcome by what just happened, feeling an overflowing inner reservoir of joy! Overwhelmed that my prayers were heard!

I waited for over two decades to meet her and never missed watching her show on TV. Her luminous spirit championed causes like child abuse, and influenced a culture of compassion and humanity --caring for the poor, not just in America, but around the world. And now, she has made us more aware that the light exists, if only we have the courage to shine it upon our community’s dark corners! Thank you, Janet and Ruben for my evening of grace! Thank you Dante for sharing this evening of grace with me!


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