From cross-country road trips to sparkly ugg boots to jet-setting to the land down under, Oprah Winfrey is the queen of lavish gifts. Since the launch of her show in 1986, Lady O has changed thousands of people’s lives with her generosity.
Take a look back at the Queen of Talk’s impressive list of grand giveaways over the many years.
Use Your Life Award
In the year 2000, on the Oprah show, the daytime queen established Oprah's Angel Network and the "Use Your Life Award". The award is given to various, organizations all of which aim to enrich the lives of disadvantaged kids around the world.
Some winners include the Boys' Choir of Tallahassee, Young Aspirations/Young Artists (YA/YA), Food From the 'Hood, Camp Harmony, and many, many more.
The Book Contest
In January 2006, the TV queen created Oprah's National High School Essay Contest. Applicants were tasked with the essay question "Why is Elie Wiesel's book Night relevant today?" A group of judges that were made up of teachers, librarians as well as a team of Harpo staffers sifted through the fifty thousand applicants, and in the end, chose only fifty winners.
Oprah gifted each of them a $10, 000 college scholarship. It was a touching day in that studio. The fifty winners who all wrote moving essays came from a range of backgrounds, some of them very harsh and disturbing.
Oprah’s Got Everything to With It
Back in 1997 Oprah left the Harpo home, went on the road, and joined none other than Tina Turner on tour. Of course, Ms. Winfrey wouldn’t do just that alone. So, as you have probably already guessed, she invited some deserving fans along with her. Out of 76,000 fan letters on why they were the most deserving, Oprah chose six.
Those six lucky ladies toured along with Oprah and Tina getting total VIP treatment, a shopping spree, and of course, front row seats.
Who knew showing lifelong dedication could get you a sack of cash? Brian Fawcett had really lived up to his vows when he found himself taking care of his wife, Allison, all through her struggle with cancer.
On the show, Oprah awarded him by paying off his college debt — all $35, 000 of it. (Thanks to Charles Schwab Investments.) He also got $10, 000 for his personal account, a portfolio consultation, and last but not least — the title of Most Romantic Man, by Oprah herself. Not bad.
Philly Road Trip
This was one of the first of a series of big Oprah trips. In 1994, Oprah surprised her entire studio audience with a trip to Philly! Audiences could not believe it. Until that moment, the Oprah show was a place to talk about feelings. Suddenly it became the talk show haven of grand giveaways. Lady O gave them only a day’s notice before she whisked them all away, just because she loves surprises.
131 audience members were taken to Philadelphia to see the Liberty Bell, climb the famous "Rocky" steps, and of course chow down cheesesteaks.
A Royal Cruise
This one earned a top spot on “Oprah’s Favorite Things” of 2010. Audience members didn’t have to look under their seats for this one, as the gift was presented to them in the form of a giant inflatable cruise ship that was cranked out of a jack-in-the-box, right on stage. Yes, elaborate.
Of course, the actual gift was a real-life seven-day cruise and was called the Royal Caribbean’s Allure of the Seas. The luxury ship boasted a zip-line, ice-skating rink, and a 3-D movie theater.
A Decade of Oprah
The 10th anniversary of the Oprah show went down with a bang. In 1996, she surprised her entire audience with a small trip...to Disney Land. 217 Oprah guests made their way out of the studios, hopped on a plane, and a few hours later, landed in the fantasy world.
Oprah met them at Orlando airport, where they were greeted by her friends Mickey and Minnie Mouse.
Possibly the biggest promotional stunt in TV history, in September 2004, Oprah reached new heights when she set out to treat some folks who were having a tough time getting to work every day. Lady O had initially sought out 11 hopefuls to gift with a brand new Pontiac G6. But there was more.
On handing over the keys, Oprah told the audience that was another key under the lucky 12th person’s seat. Lo and behold, that additional key was under everyone’s seat and 276 members of her studio audience got a brand new Pontiac.
Hurricane Katrina was a dark time for many. Thousands of volunteers rushed to the rescue of these helpless people in the areas of New Orleans, many of them catching the eye of Oprah herself. Which is why she brought them to the show.
She donated $10 million of her own money and helped over 300 families. This was all thanks to Habitat for Humanity and Oprah’s Angel Network.
Everyone Is Going Where?
This was quite the production. For Oprah's 25th and final season and she was not going to skimp on the goods. To go out with a bang, the legendary TV host wanted to top all those unforgettable gifts over the years and after a little bit of teasing, she announced it. She was taking her ultimate viewers to...Australia.
After months of planning, she, together with all ultimate viewers, jetted to the land Down Under. People were in total hysterics.
Fannie the nanny was a super hard-working housekeeper. After the passing of her sister, Fannie had taken in her nephews and nieces and raised them as her own. Oprah read her story and decided to give the young woman a little break.
In February 2003, Oprah brought her to the show for a royal treat by giving her a maid service for an entire year, a car, and an all-expenses-paid trip to New York City.
When Oprah learned about the 19-year-old cancer patient named Jackie, she had to take action. The young woman was battling a rare form of cancer, but there was one thing that eased her pain — Saturday Night Live. So Oprah knew that there was only one thing she could do.
She invited Andy Samberg, Kristen Wiig, and Jason Sudeikis to surprise Jackie with an exciting trip to New York City complete with a VIP backstage tour of Saturday Night Live! It made her dream come true. The clan of comedians comforted young Jackie, giving her the most memorable day of her life.
The Car Comeback
After the first car saga, there was so much drama involved that Oprah waited another 7 years until she gave anyone a car. The year the new Beetle hit the headlines, Oprah knew this was her chance. In 2010 the TV queen gave her entire Harpo crowd a yet-to-be-released beautiful Beetle. Thankfully, this time the producers ironed out that nasty little crinkle of the $700 gift tax.
The crowd was ecstatic. Everyone loves a Beetle. Funky little cars for lovers of nostalgia. The Beetle had a strange time on the road. The revamped Beetle was kind of successful, but of course, they shot to the top the second they appeared on the show.
In 2010, Oprah hooked two of Maria Carey’s biggest, most die-hard fans ever with front-row seats to her New York show. She announced this right on stage in front of a massive live audience sending the fans Will and Marcus into utter hysteria. One of them even passed out right on stage.
Oprah promised to fly them out to New York City, not only they would watch the show, but they would also get to meet their idol, Mariah herself. Not only that, but they were also personally invited to appear in her new music video. Could you get any better?
Everybody Gets a Stroller
With this one, we’re stepping out of the Harpo home. It was 2004 and Oprah found herself in an army base in Kentucky with none other than supermodel Cindy Crawford. Why? She was on a secret mission to throw the world’s biggest baby shower! Oprah, along with the supermodel, showered 640 pregnant women with gifts. They were treated with everything from strollers, to baby Uggs to digital cameras.
This was by far one of the most extravagant Oprah gifts ever, and of course, in the history of television. The 640 women were in hysterics, tearing up from joy and emotion from the moving Oprah giveaway.
Paying It Forward
Stephen Paletta was just a regular guy who volunteered at the Atlanta Union Mission. Thanks to his time there, he made it as one of the contestants that appeared on Oprah’s Big Give reality show. The show invited a bunch of people to make a difference in the world by finding a cause they were passionate about and making their contribution. Paletta shared with Oprah just how moved he was during the time he volunteered at the Atlanta Union Mission.
Of course, there is nothing that Oprah loves more than a big giver who expects nothing in return. Which is why she gave him $1 million. $500,000 for the charity of his choice and $500,000 for himself. Oh, and a car. Looks like everybody won that day.
The Grand Giveaway
In this 2006 episode, themed “giving back”, Oprah stayed true to her philanthropic self and ended the show with a true statement. Instead of splurging on her guests and getting them random gifts, she decided to put the money to good use, but still not send home her guests empty-handed. Oprah sent each audience member home with $1000, a hand-held camera, and one small request.
On gifting her guests with this unexpected prize, she asked them to use the money to pay it forward. She challenged the audience to each come up with a creative way to help others. Gotta love her.
On November 19, 2012, Oprah splurged on a group of military spouses. The show was the official unveiling of Oprah's Favorite Things of that year. She had a huge collection of her most beloved goodies of 2012, from elliptical machines to cozy sweaters. But that wasn't the only thing she had up her Ralph Lauren sleeve.
The talk show queen filled her studio with spouses of US soldiers and decided to spoil them all with an all-expenses-paid trip to Fiji. The trip included two round-trip tickets on Air Pacific, along with a five-night stay at the all-inclusive Namale Resort & Spa.
Denni's Dream Come True
It's tough being a single mom. Especially being a single mom of three. Oprah got wind of a story about a single mom named Denni who worked three jobs to pay off her kids' college tuition. She hadn't had a vacation her whole life. Oprah had to make a difference, so in September 2010, she invited her to the show and changed her life forever.
Oprah surprised Denni with an all-expenses trip to Italy, one year's salary, and all the remaining money for children's student loans. Denni could not believe it.
It's no surprise that Oprah would be one of the biggest supporters of female empowerment. She has essentially dedicated most of her life to it. So when the Time's Up campaign was created, a movement that protected women from harassment and violence in the workplace, it was only natural that her contribution would make headlines.
Oprah reportedly donated $100,000 to the cause as of January 2018, according to CNBC. This massive amount of money has made a difference for thousands of women who have faced injustices.
N Street Village
This nonprofit is geared to helping thousands of homeless and low-income earning women. It was of course on Oprah's list of major contributions. According to The Washington Post, in June of 2016, Winfrey gave a $1 million donation to N Street Village.
In a speech at the N Street Village charity event, Winfrey announced her donation on stage. “For everyone in this room, every life you touch is your legacy. I thank you, N Street, for seeing, hearing, and knowing that every life matters. I’m pledging today $1 million.”
"A Wrinkle in Time" Campaign
While promoting her film, "A Wrinkle in Time" in March 2018, Oprah revealed some big plans to the hosts of Good Morning America. In the interview, she shared that she intends to donate $50,000 to Taylor Richardson's campaign.
Richardson was a 14-year-old girl who is on a mission to raise enough money for 1, 000 young black girls in her hometown to see Oprah's film. Winfrey, of course, read about this and promised to match the $50, 000 that they had already collected.
She Built a School
In 2007, Oprah established a school in South Africa for underprivileged girls. The education center was established for high school girls (grades 8-12). This was a project that was long in the running and took many years to get off the ground. In 2017, Oprah announced that she had spent about $140 million on it since the year it opened.
The school covers all living expenses including uniforms and school supplies. The students call her Mama O and even enjoy 'fireside chats' with her on a continuous basis. The kids in there are an inspiration.
Ron Clark Academy
If there is one thing Mama O can't get enough of, it's improving education and bettering the lives of the youth. In November 2017, Oprah made yet another contribution to yet another school. This time, the Ron Clark Academy — a middle school in Southeast Atlanta.
While attending the 10th-anniversary celebration of the Ron Clark Academy, Winfrey revealed her plans to donate $5 million to the school. The academy’s co-founder and author of “The Essential 55” has even been on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” multiple times.
Rise Against Hunger
This time, the TV host joined forces with the Kraft Heinz Company to help organizations that fight hunger around America and the world. In August 2017, Oprah Winfrey together with the food company introduced their new O, That’s Good! line. A collection of foods consists of four soups and four sides.
The initiative takes ten percent of profits and splits it equally among a number of hunger organizations such as Rise Against Hunger and Feeding America. This was the first project from the duo’s joint venture.
March for Our Lives
In February 2018, Winfrey tweeted that she would donate to March for Our Lives. The TV queen said she would match George and Amal Clooney's whopping donation of $500,000. The march took place on March 24, 2018.
“George and Amal, I couldn’t agree with you more,” she wrote. “I am joining forces with you and will match your $500,000 donation to ‘March for Our Lives.’ These inspiring young people remind me of the Freedom Riders of the 60s who also said we’ve had enough and our voices will be heard.”
Logan Square Neighborhood Association
The Logan Square Neighborhood Association is a Chicago-based non-profit that helps low-income individuals in struggling communities. It serves more than 7,000 adults and children from a number of programs. The organization had been struggling a little, which is why Oprah decided to help out.
In 2011, according to the Chicago Tribune, Oprah Winfrey’s Angel Network granted the city’s Logan Square Neighborhood Association $25,000. Chicago clearly has a special place in Oprah's heart as it was where she filmed her TV show from 1986 to 2011.
The Smithsonian National Museum of African American History — the flagship of American culture and history got a massive surprise in 2012 when Winfrey donated $12 million. The philanthropist wanted to totally revamp the cultural center with this donation, and she sure did. This was added to a previous donation of $1 million in 2007.
Oprah has been on the museum's advisory council since 2004. The newest wing of the museum was first open to the public in September 2016.
The Power of Giving
Over her years on the Oprah show, the daytime queen has certainly earned a reputation for being extremely generous. While she has given many gifts away (and checks), she always advocates for people to pay it forward.
During an October 2006 taping, Winfrey, gave her 400 studio audience a $1,000 debit card to donate to the charity organizations of their choosing, allowing them to also enjoy the gift of empowering others.
Saving Lives in Africa
In September 2015, Oprah Winfrey announced that she would make a contribution of $100,000 to the GEANCO Foundation. The foundation was established in 2005 by a Nigerian family who "saves and transforms the lives of the poor and vulnerable in Africa with special medical missions.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Oprah made her donation in honor of the actor, David Oyelowo. Oyelowo is involved with a charitable organization, which provides health programs and education to women and girls in Nigeria.
Save the Children
On one of the final episodes of “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” the daytime queen invited one of her favorite guests, Tererai Trent, back to the talk show. Trent, a Zimbabwe native, appeared on the Oprah show for the first time in 2009. There she shared his story about the people in her village who helped her relocate to America in order to further her education.
Trent also told her of her plans to go back to her hometown and improve the school there. Oprah essentially got her back on the show to tell her that she planned to donate $1.5 million to rebuild the Matau Primary School in Zimbabwe. She was speechless.
Hot Meals for All
In addition to the rebuilt homes, Oprah forked out even more money for Hurricane Katrina's reparations. Thousands of people needed so much help, with many needing nothing else but a hot meal. The daytime star donated $1 million from the Angel Network to an initiative that handed out hot meals to the hurricane victims.
The $1 million went to America’s Second Harvest (now known as Feeding America) which is, according to the New York Times, a food bank that feeds hungry people all over America.
Genevieve Piturro, the founder of the Pajama Program, a philanthropic organization that provides pajamas and books to disadvantaged children, was once a guest on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” in 2007. She appeared on the show to share her story about how she created the organization.
Little did she know that prior to the taping, Winfrey and her producers challenged all of her audience members to see how many pairs of pajamas they could give. Thanks to that, 32,046 pairs of pajamas were collected that day. Piturro was utterly speechless by the gesture.
The 'O Ambassadors'
In 2008 Oprah headed another initiative that succeeded in building a school in Kenya. The idea was to give students a mission to change the world in a small way. Oprah and her Angel Network teamed up with the Free the Children organization and launched the initiative.
Thanks to the program, students were able to build a school in Kenya and raise money for school supplies. No doubt, they made an actual difference in their communities.
Oprah's Favorite Things
It's no secret that the daytime star loves to spoil her loved ones, and Oprah certainly loves her audience. To add some holiday magic during the festive season, Oprah annually picked her favorite things that she bought that year and featured them on the show's segment, aptly named "Oprah's Favorite Things".
These things ranged from lobster truffle and mac and cheese to laptops and iPads and even some diamond-encrusted watches worth thousands of dollars. Year after year, Oprah would treat all her audience members to these wonderful goodies, treating them like royalty for a day.
Making Dreams Come True
One of the country's biggest providers of after-school mentoring, The US Dream Academy is a leader in education for at-risk youth. Oprah could not resist making her contribution to this organization.
In 2009, the superstar donated $900,000 to the charity, singlehandedly transforming it into an even better, more sophisticated, and technologically advanced after-school educational center. Gotta love her.
The "Pizza" Party
Oprah said that what inspired her was the West Side's "Lights On". This program in West Side High, Newark, provides the school with recreational activities after hours every Friday. The media mogul surprised the whole school one Friday afternoon with pizzas for all. At least that's what they thought.
Oprah Winfrey handed out pizzas but also donated $500,000 to the high school after she heard of its after-school program. "I thought what could I do?" Oprah said to the students. "So I'm going to leave here tonight and leave you with half a million dollars."
The Book Club
Oprah's Book Club is filled with amazing reads by authors who have told many inspirational stories. This is why this club serves as a great backdrop for another Oprah initiative. The Angel Network took a select amount of books and distributed them to various communities full of underprivileged kids.
Book club awards were distributed in many communities including, Beijing, China, and St. Petersburg, Russia.
Oprah to the Rescue
In order to inspire and motivate more life-changers out there, Oprah created the "Rescuing the World's Girls" and "Live Your Best Life Tour" events.
These events, originally inspired by O, The Oprah Magazine, provide grants to organizations that seek to provide life-changing assistance for disadvantaged women and girls.
Education for All
Together with the Free the Children organization, Oprah and her Oprah's Angel Network have built over 55 schools in 12 countries. Each of these schools provides the best education for thousands of kids in developing countries and rural areas.
For the majority of kids, their living expenses are also completely covered, as well as school supplies, uniforms, and clothing. She really does like to go the extra mile.
The TV queen has certainly created a legacy in this world, and she is not done yet. In a behind-the-scenes segment on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, an audience member asked the media mogul if she would ever consider opening a school in North America.
Her response garnered quite a lot of intrigue when she mentioned that she would actually consider it. Who knows, perhaps we will be looking at yet another Oprah school, filled with the best and the brightest.