Oprah Winfrey's Legends Ball

Oprah Winfrey's Legends Ball was a three-day celebration held by Oprah Winfrey honoring twenty-five African American women in art, entertainment, and civil rights.

Oprah Winfrey's Legends Ball
Omag 200508 leg 106 350x263.jpg
"Young'uns" recite Pearl Cleage's poem We Speak Your Name to the "Legends" (2005). From left to right: Ashanti, Janet Jackson, Alicia Keys, Mariah Carey, Mary J. Blige, Missy Elliott

The celebration included a luncheon, white-tie ball, and gospel brunch. On May 22, 2006, a year after the celebration, a one-hour program about the weekend aired on ABC. It included celebrity interviews and behind-the-scenes moments.[1]

The 25 women were: Maya Angelou, Shirley Caesar, Diahann Carroll, Elizabeth Catlett, Ruby Dee, Katherine Dunham, Roberta Flack, Aretha Franklin, Nikki Giovanni, Dorothy Height, Lena Horne, Coretta Scott King, Gladys Knight, Patti LaBelle, Toni Morrison, Rosa Parks, Leontyne Price, Della Reese, Diana Ross, Naomi Sims, Tina Turner, Cicely Tyson, Alice Walker, Dionne Warwick, and Nancy Wilson.[1]

Legends luncheonEdit

These women, who have been meaningful to so many of us over the years, are legends who have been magnificent in their pioneering and advancing of African-American women. It is because of their steps that our journey has no boundaries.

ABC advertised its television program about this event by describing the luncheon as follows:

The historic weekend began Friday with a private luncheon at [Winfrey]'s Montecito home where the "legends" were greeted by the "young'uns" -- acclaimed stars, including Alicia Keys, Ashanti, Angela Bassett, Halle Berry, Mary J. Blige, Brandy, Naomi Campbell, Mariah Carey, Natalie Cole, Kimberly Elise, Missy Elliott, Tyra Banks, Iman, Janet Jackson, Phylicia Rashad, Debbie Allen and Alfre Woodard, Yolanda Adams among others. Throughout the weekend, the "young'uns" paid homage to the "legends" for their great contributions. World-renowned event planner Colin Cowie attended to every detail, and Grammy Award-winner John Legend performed his hit song, "Ordinary People."[1]

At the end of the luncheon, Winfrey surprised her guests with a parting gift. The "legends" received diamond drop earrings and the "young'uns" received diamond hoop earrings.[citation needed]

White-tie ballEdit

ABC advertised its television program about this event by describing the ball as follows:

On Saturday night, it was an elegant white-tie Legends Ball with notable guests, including Sidney Poitier, Michelle and (then Senator) Barack Obama, Tom Cruise, Katie Holmes, Dr.Rudolph.Kermit King from The Bahamas, Usher, Barbra Streisand, James Brolin, Lionel Richie, John Travolta, Kelly Preston, Diane Sawyer, Mike Nichols, Maria Shriver, Chris Tucker, Barbara Walters, Quincy Jones, Spike Lee and Tyler Perry, among many others.[1]

Sunday brunchEdit

ABC advertised its television program about this event by describing the brunch as follows:

The finale of the Legends weekend was Sunday's exuberant gospel brunch featuring Walter, Edwin, Lynette, and Tramaine Hawkins with spontaneous performances by, among others, Shirley Caesar, Patti LaBelle, Gladys Knight, Dionne Warwick and Chaka Khan.[1]

No-shows/Omitted WomenEdit

People who might have been there but were not included Etta James, Whoopi Goldberg, Aretha Franklin, Whitney Houston, Donna Summer, Monica, Dr. Mae Jemison, Queen Latifah, Lauryn Hill, Mavis Staples, Eartha Kitt, Beyoncé, and Vanessa L. Williams. Goldberg was the only African American actress to be nominated for an Academy Award more than once, and the first African American actress to win one since Hattie McDaniel. Dr. Mae Jemison was the first black woman in space. The absence of Houston was not a surprise to many, because of her drug battle around that time. Hill was both the first woman to receive 10 Grammy nominations in one year and first to win 5 in one night. Williams was the first African American Miss America. Of the women listed here, notably Franklin is included in the "Legends" section of the book We Speak Your Names, written by Pearl Cleage to mark the event, including the titular poem that was recited twice during Legends weekend.

Possible reasons for these absences:

  • Both Whoopi Goldberg and Aretha Franklin had well-documented fears of flying. Franklin was on tour at the time of the Legends Ball and it may have been logistically impossible for her to travel to California by bus or car and still honor her touring commitments. Additionally, Goldberg and Winfrey had a decades-spanning "disconnect," which could have been a reason Goldberg either wasn't invited or declined to attend.[2]
  • Beyoncé was on tour with Destiny's Child with shows in Dubai and Oslo during the weekend of the Legend's Ball.


  1. ^ a b c d e f "Oprah Winfrey's Legends Ball". ABC.com. Archived from the original on 2007-10-07.
  2. ^ "Oprah and Whoopi Goldberg's Misunderstanding - Video".

External linksEdit