"Extra" was in the virtual studio audience Saturday as the one and only Oprah Winfrey joined forces with WW for "WW Presents: Oprah's Your Life in Focus: A Vision Forward — Live Virtual Experience," a 90-minute Zoom webinar designed to give viewers a crash course in self-care, relationship-building, and the power of connection as we grapple with the COVID-19 crisis!
Oprah kicked off her latest event, accessed by tens of thousands looking to live their best lives, by talking about how even though she's cooped up with longtime partner Stedman Graham, the closeness doesn't always translate into connection. Sharing a personal story of how Stedman leaving clothes around the house can get on her nerves ("The man doesn't use drawers"), she noted that we all have to work on how we relate to one another — and that we should be exploring the use of "softer tones" in communication.
"Socially distanced doesn't have to mean socially disconnected," she went on to say, leading to lots of silent snaps from her on-screen audience.
Turning to relationship expert and psychotherapist Esther Perel, author of "Mating in Captivity," Oprah asked several participants to tell their personal stories so Perel could offer her advice in real time.
One couple told Oprah that while they've never been physically closer than they have for the past couple of months, they each feel they've also "never been further apart."
An observation Perel said applies to them and to us all is that the pandemic and its necessary lockdown is a disaster that acts as a "relationship accelerator." That means the situation isn't going to help or hurt what you've got so much as it's going to make the positives and negatives all the more clear.
One answer is to acknowledge those who are with you, and not merely in superficial ways.
Oprah revealed that every few days, she is tasked with making the main meal of the day for everyone she's locking down with (including "love sandwiches" with cheese in the bread!) and said a good example of how to connect would be not only to thank the person making your meals, but to thank them for the quality of their work.
She stressed how "privilege" is a major source of contention in our society, and how it is just as much of an issue on a micro level — in our own homes. Don't just expect a meal to be made for you, praise the person who is making it — and who is making it with care!
Oprah also talked about her childhood, saying she had been pre-diabetic prior to her WW (Weight Watchers Reimagined) regimen, and remembering that she had a hard time relating to people who say they feel lonely because she had, from an early age, learned to develop a relationship with her self.
Enter special guest Tracee Ellis Ross, star of the new movie (streaming everywhere from May 29) "The High Note," whose recent joyful dance video went viral. Tracee told Oprah's audience that she sees dancing as a way to re-set, to put things into perspective.
You're definitely "on the right beat," Tracee!
Tracee also demonstrated a powerful deep-breathing exercise, one that Oprah pointed out is especially moving in light of how many people globally can no longer take for granted what it feels like to breathe freely thanks to COVID-19. Oprah said the sense of connection received during such exercises reminded her of sweet Mattie Stepanek, the poet and peace advocate who died of an extremely rare disorder at 13 in 2004. She said Mattie had told her that the blood transfusions keeping him alive made him feel connected "to the whole world."
Tracee, who just dropped her debut single, "Love Myself," at age 47, went on to say that now is a time to push ourselves, to accept the challenges that life is sending us, and to grow, to which Oprah replied that "moving to a higher level" is her life's work.
Tracee said, "I was working at a pace that was like: Work smart and work hard, and I feel like the pandemic has offered an opportunity for me to shift that to be easy, joyful, and gentle with myself and even in how I meet myself and how I greet myself, my feelings — the hard stuff, the good stuff, just slowing it all down and softening my gaze a bit."
Then, as a special treat, Oprah asked early-morning dance movement "Daybreaker" co-founder and CEO Radha Agrawal to lead everyone in a wild dance party as the perfect ending to a "choice-ful" morning!
The remaining sessions in Oprah's series with WW will be held every Saturday until June 6, and will feature Oprah sharing wellness lessons and interactive workbook exercises for achieving your healthiest, happiest self!