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Fairy tale

It’s a philanthropy fairy-tale, right down to the Oprah-approved uniforms and cheerful bathroom accessories. Wearing a shiny pink gown and a $40 million smile, Oprah Winfrey opened her new private boarding school for girls in South Africa on January 2.

“Oprah’s touches abound,” says her website, “She has chosen white sheets, towels for their softness, pillowcases bearing an embroidered O, and the colors for the bathroom tiles – orange, green and happy yellow.”

The queen of inspiration says the basic lesson she wants the 152 hand-picked students to learn at her school is this: “You are your possibilities. If you know that, you can do anything.”

The process of selecting the lucky 152 girls had all the drama and trauma of reality TV. Applications came in from 3,500 girls. The field was narrowed based on essays the girls wrote describing their dreams and pictures they drew of their dream homes. Those who performed well received a final interview with Oprah.

Her online photo album shows expectant girls, large-eyed girls being interviewed by her, tearful girls, jubilant winners, Oprah carrying a bucket of water on her head, Oprah showing the girls their new dorms, girls jumping on their new beds, dreams being built.

According to People magazine, the 28 buildings on the school compound south of Johannesburg include “computer and science laboratories, as well as a beauty salon and a 600-seat auditorium where Winfrey will check in on the girls and teach classes via video conferencing.”

Nelson Mandela, who attended the opening said it is his hope “that this school will become the dream of every South African girl.”

Of her girls, Oprah says on her site that they “possess a will to succeed despite terrible odds.” They are, in her words, “graceful, sweet, giggly and bursting to live a dream unthinkable only one generation ago… . They are my dream girls.”

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Issue 5, Spring 2007

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