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Local women in audience for taping of last Oprah show
Tyler Perry also attended final taping as fans remembered 25 years of the show
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Ashley Smithson, left, and her mother Susan Smithson were in the audience Tuesday for the final taping of “The Oprah Winfrey Show.”

‘The Oprah Winfrey Show’ Finale

When: 4 p.m. today
Channel: ABC

Over the years, Susan Smithson has watched from home as Oprah Winfrey interviewed guests such as Tom Cruise, John Travolta and President Barack Obama.

The Gainesville resident has seen musical performances on "The Oprah Winfrey Show" from the likes of Beyoncé, Tina Turner and even members of the Von Trapp Family, who inspired the movie "The Sound of Music."

But Tuesday, Smithson was right in the studio audience as Winfrey's last — and perhaps most powerful - guest poured out her heart.

"It was all about (Winfrey)," said Smithson, a Gainesville resident.

"It was just her reflecting on the 25-year run of her show. It was kinda quiet, but I won't say that it was somber."

Although there weren't any special guests, that doesn't mean the studio was void of star power.

"Tyler Perry was in the audience and so was Maria Shriver. Her best friend Gayle (King), her boyfriend Stedman (Graham) and Suze Orman were there too. But nobody was interviewed," Smithson said.

"It was just (Winfrey) reminiscing. You could tell she was really sad about leaving, but I think she was also excited about what is to come. She was crying. People in the audience were crying. It was really special."

Even Winfrey's fourth-grade teacher Mary Alice Duncan was there. Winfrey had a surprise reunion with Duncan in 1989. She credits the teacher with helping her become the powerhouse she is today.
One person who almost didn't make it was Smithson.

"A while ago, I started thinking about how I'd never seen (Winfrey) in person, so I went to her website and applied for tickets for two different shows," Smithson said.

Although she knew what one of the shows was about, the other was a mystery.

"After the first show aired, I knew that obviously I didn't get it," Smithson said.

"On Friday, I got an email asking if I was still interested in attending a taping. I didn't know if this was a scam or for real. On Sunday, I got a follow-up email saying that it wasn't a scam — apparently, they'd had a lot of people questioning the process."

It was only after confirming her interest in getting tickets that Smithson found out she would be attending the taping of the very last episode of the "Oprah Winfrey Show." A bittersweet moment for a woman who says she has watched the show off and on "since the beginning."

"I always liked that she had a lot of shows geared toward women and taking care of your body, your mind and your soul," Smithson said.

"And I loved her book club. I think that's what really started getting me involved with the show. I loved the books she recommended and would always try to read as many as I could."

Despite the short notice, Smithson was able to find a flight for her and her 23-year-old daughter Ashley Smithson, to make it to Chicago for the historic taping.

"We have watched the show together over the years, so she was a natural choice," Susan Smithson said.
"I loved being able to share this experience with her. She just graduated from Auburn University and I wanted to do something to celebrate, so this was a very memorable trip."

For 25 years, Winfrey and her invited guests have made TV viewers laugh, cry and even become green with envy when she passed out some of her favorite things to audience members.

While the tears were still around for the final episode, Smithson said no "big gifts" were handed out. An appropriate gesture, said Ashley Smithson, from a woman whose legacy is bigger than gifting an entire studio audience with a brand new car, which Winfrey did in 2004.

Despite her extravagant gifting over the years, Ashley Smithson says that's not how Winfrey will be remembered, at least not in her mind.

"Her philanthropic shows are the ones that I remember the most," she said.

"She basically came from nothing and did all of these great things with her life. I think her finale really showcases that you have to live to your full potential."

 

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