Oprah Winfrey was a proud Mama earlier this month in South Africa as she posed with her friend, Tyler Perry at the graduation ceremony of her Leadership Academy.
She’s a media mogul who has broken countless barriers across the world, and on December 1, Winfrey, 64, was in South Africa to celebrate the results of her philanthropic efforts.
About two decades ago, the “Oprah Winfrey Network” owner invested $40 million into birthing the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls (OWLAG) in Johannesburg, South Africa.
The prestigious school, finally established in 2007, celebrated its seventh graduation on December 1; Winfrey was present with her friend and collaborator, Tyler Perry, who served as the commencement speaker.
While delivering his speech, Perry shed more light on Winfrey’s criteria for choosing the girls, reports ESSENCE.
“Before the ceremony this morning, I spoke to Ms. Winfrey and asked her how she chose the girls,” he said, adding:
“She said she looks for something special, something that sparkles and is unique. Today that is all I saw. I saw all the hope, brilliance and intelligence. Being the chosen one is special and wonderful. It gives you the opportunity to strive and go higher and do things that you would have not had the chance to do.”
The “Madea” creator also spoke to PEOPLE about his speech, revealing that he was “pretty spooked.”
“I wanted to talk to them about the guilt that comes with being the one that is chosen, the one that is successful, but also to understand that when you’re building a career or building a boat to teach yourself how to fish, it’s very important to build that boat, to have other people join you so you can teach them how to fish as well,” said Perry. “I had no idea coming in how on point it would be for the moment. So I was pretty spooked by that, but still fascinated.”
Several top academic performers of the OWLAG were recognized during the ceremony, including Lethukukhanya Mbambo who won The Oprah Winfrey Leadership Award, an honor bestowed “to a student that epitomizes leadership, caring, and generosity of spirit.”
The academy’s 2018 Class Representative, Khensani Hlaise, addressed the crowd in a moving speech.
“It is such an honor and privilege to exist in a space where you can become more than you were yesterday.
For my sisters and I, this journey has been of becoming more of ourselves, it has been about uncovering and discovering, a journey of shedding our fears and becoming who we truly have always been. We are all here because of a dream that Mum O had.”
One of the famous success stories from Winfrey’s school is Thando Dlomo, an AIDS orphan who was part of the first batch of graduates.
Dlomo went on to earn her college diploma from Johnson Smith University in 2016 and in May this year, a Master’s Degree in Journalism from USC Annenberg. Dlomo was at the BET Awards in June and looked stunning in her pixie cut and glamorous white dress.
The "Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls" was created thanks to a 2002 pledge made by Winfrey to former South African president and human rights campaigner, the late Nelson Mandela. The Academy facilitates access to world-class educational resources for marginalized girls in South Africa.
Here’s wishing the Class of 2018 all the best as they venture into the world!