Oprah Winfrey revealed on Hoda Kotb’s “Making Space” podcast that she does not have many friends, with just three she considers her closest.
One of them is Maria Shriver, who met Winfrey 42 years ago one morning in a Baltimore television station bathroom.
“I forever think that that was, like, a divine moment that happened because she was one of my true, grounded friendships that carried me through my entire career,” Winfrey said.
Winfrey and Shriver spoke about their friendship for the first time on the podcast. And as you can imagine, being friends with Winfrey is quite the experience.
It’s the little things that kept them close. For Shriver, it was cups of coffee Winfrey made for her.
“It was so moving to me because I didn’t — that’s not how I grew up, you know? Nobody brought a cup of coffee, or a cup of water to me,” Shriver said. “In a funny way, even though I had a very close relationship with my mother, I wasn’t nurtured, mothered in that way, right? And (Oprah) wasn’t mothered in her own way. But I think, in a way, we have mothered each other.”
Both women experienced what Winfrey called “aggressions and micro-aggressions” as they started their careers. Shriver was there in the years before Winfrey “became Oprah.”
“There’s grit. There’s all-nighters. There’s Nashville. There’s Baltimore,” Shriver said. “There’s working the way up. There’s being yelled at. There’s being told you’re, you know, too this, too that, too whatever.”
Winfrey recalled one of her lowest moments after she launched her OWN network, a period she called “a humiliation for me.”
“Every newspaper, everybody was saying, ‘You shoulda kept your day job. The struggling OWN. What’d you leave The Oprah Show for? It’s a disaster.’ Just one story, after another story, after another story,” she said.
“I remember laying my head down on the table, Maria, and just sobbing.”
The pair were together when a song came on, “By Thy Grace,” by Snatam Kaur. Both women started singing.
“And I was, like, ‘How do you know that song?’ And she’s, like, ‘How do you know that song?’” said Shriver, who was getting separated at the time and shared that the song had helped her.
Shriver started making calls right away, and discovered the singer was nearby. She persuaded her to visit for Winfrey’s birthday, when they sat on the porch to watch the sunset.
The song began playing and Winfrey thought it was coming from a speaker. “And then I turn and Snatam Kaur is walking down the stairs of the porch, ‘cause she was on the upstairs balcony. She’s walking down the stairs of the porch. And it was the most out of body, surreal — I think tears literally shot out of my eyes,” Winfrey said.
She called it a healing experience that helped her think differently about her struggle.
Shriver also recalled the time after the death of her mother, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, when Winfrey gathered her close friends to her home and called them Team Maria. Each friend chose a word for Shriver and engraved it on a crystal stone. Winfrey’s word was “cherish.”
To Shriver, that meant the world. “Because I don’t feel like, in my life, I was cherished. Pushed, motivated — you know, all of these, kind of, really strong words — but not cherished.”
Grand gestures aside, both women said it’s the little moments, like cups of coffee, or a text to check in, that keep them connected.
“I grew up in a big family, in a big life. But when I close my eyes, it’s the little moments,” Shriver said. “It’s you having dinner with me. It’s her bringing the coffee. It’s having a laugh. I think we’re all pushed to have these big, big moments. But I think it’s the little moments that people aren’t pushed to have, that really are the transforming moments.”
And the two friends told Kotb that as they get older, they feel less driven to please other people. For Winfrey, the best part of getting older is having nothing left to prove.
“Anything you do, you choose to do it because it’s going to bring you pleasure, meaning, enjoyment — fulfill some kind of purpose that you want, or desire. But you have nothing to prove,” she said. “Nothing to prove ‘cause you already proved it.”
Listen to the entire conversation on “Making Space with Hoda Kotb,” wherever you get your podcasts.