Of course, Oprah inspired and empowered us, speaking about sexual harassment, the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements, and the future for women and, well, everyone from this day forward.
One of her biggest moments from the speech, however, was focused on the past and the actor who inspired her to want to achieve greatness: Sidney Poitier.
“In 1964, I was a little girl sitting on the linoleum floor of my mother’s house in Milwaukee watching Anne Bancroft present the Oscar for best actor at the 36th Academy Awards. She opened the envelope and said five words that literally made history: ‘The winner is Sidney Poitier.’ Up to the stage came the most elegant man I had ever seen,” Oprah began her speech.
“I remember his tie was white, and of course his skin was black, and I had never seen a black man being celebrated like that. I tried many, many times to explain what a moment like that means to a little girl, a kid watching from the cheap seats as my mom came through the door bone tired from cleaning other people’s houses. But all I can do is quote and say that the explanation in Sidney’s performance in Lilies of the Field: ‘Amen, amen, amen, amen.'”
For those of you who don’t know (for shame!), Sidney is an actor best known for films like Lilies of the Field, Separate But Equal, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, To Sir, With Love, and many more. He is a Bahamian actor who was frequently in films that worked to break down the barriers of race in film and comment on society. In 1964, he broke another barrier down for black Americans by winning the best actor Oscar and the best actor Golden Globe Award for Lilies of the Field, and he didn’t stop making history there. He became the first black man to win the Cecil B. DeMille Award. Now, Oprah has become the first black woman to win the coveted award, and it’s not lost on her.
“In 1982, Sidney received the Cecil B. DeMille Award right here at the Golden Globes, and it is not lost on me that at this moment, there are some little girls watching as I become the first black woman to be given this same award,” she continued. “It is an honor – it is an honor and it is a privilege to share the evening with all of them and also with the incredible men and women who have inspired me, who challenged me, who sustained me and made my journey to this stage possible.”
Oprah met Sidney, who is currently 90 years old, years ago, and interviewed him around 2000. Even back then, her words about the legendary actor were inspiring, and he clearly made an impression on her and those around her with his groundbreaking roles and awards. Since then, the two have had dinner on Oprah’s Master Class and clearly continued to influence one another’s lives.
Now, Oprah is doing the same thing for more young women who are seeing her continue to succeed and not back down. Sidney and Oprah are birds of a feather, and if you believe in yourself, like both these actors have for so long, there is no barrier you can’t break – don’t trust us, trust Oprah!