Is Oprah Moving to South Africa?
An insider tells BettyConfidential that the daytime TV queen plans on spending a lot more time at her $40 million girls’ school when she quits her talk show in 2011.
When Oprah Winfrey announced her plan to retire from her iconic TV show in September 2011, she told viewers that her relationship with them is “the greatest joy” she has ever known. But there’s another group she holds even closer to her heart — the students she calls “her girls” at the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy in South Africa.
While there is speculation that Oprah will be putting all of her time into her new TV network, OWN, when she leaves her show in less than two years, an insider tells BettyConfidential that Oprah plans to spend a good deal of time at the school she spent $40 million to open outside of Johannesburg in 2007. Back then she told Newsweek that she was building a house for herself on the school grounds, where she planned to use the same dishes, sheets and curtains that the 300 students do.
“I want to be near my girls and be in a position to see how they’re doing,” she said. “I want to have a presence they can sense and feel comfortable with.”
It’s safe to assume that Oprah wants to be near her girls in the wake of two sex scandals that have rocked the school. The first occurred just after the facility opened and involved a staffer who allegedly abused students, and the most recent case occurred earlier this year when seven students were accused of sexually harassing fellow pupils.
“Oprah wants to make sure things are properly taken care of and the girls have everything they need,” the insider says. “She doesn’t like to feel rushed to leave when it’s time to get back to tape a show, so this will allow her to ease up on her tight schedule.”
The insider says that Oprah has been quietly planning out the details of her retirement for the last year and has in fact been mulling over the idea for many years.
“She is excited to do something a little different but it is a huge deal for her to end such a massive part of her life,” the pal says. “But Oprah has plenty on her plate so she won’t get bored when her show ends. In addition to her OWN network, she will spend more time with her girls and squeeze in just a little more personal time. She’s been going nonstop for 25 years and she has timed it just right.”
But our insider says Oprah’s devoted followers need not worry about getting their daily dose of O. “Even if she spends extended periods of time in South Africa, Oprah will still have a strong presence in her fans’ lives. She will still be a voice for women and is not ready to give up helping and influencing women all over the world. There is much to come, just in different formats!”
Magazine and newspaper reporter Kelly Will has written celebrity columns for the New York Times, the New York Daily News and the New York Post. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/misswill.