Single-Minded: I Worked for Oprah

But I'm pretty sure she didn't know that I existed.

(Continued from Page 1)

"Oh, that's my baby daddy," answered Gayle with a deadpan that told me that a), she knew she was being funny, and b), she'd probably said "baby daddy" more than once in her life. I was awestruck. I didn't need to meet Oprah because her BFF was this cool.

Weeks later, the eagle finally landed. Instead of huddling near the front desk like all the other should-be workers, I was stuck covering the phones at the receptionist's booth outside the office. I wouldn't even get a glimpse of Ms. Winfrey. For the past three months, I'd walked nearly eight miles a day just for the privilege of putting Oprah's name on my résumé. I had the emaciated figure to prove how hard I'd worked, but somehow, seeing her would make the whole thing more real. 

I was busy with a bowl of Top Ramen when I got the call that Cathie Black, then chairman of Hearst Magazines, would be stopping by. Could I let Oprah know? Could I! I smoothed down my H&M skirt and marched into the art department like I had something super important to say.

Whatever super-important voice I planned on using escaped me as soon as Oprah Winfrey looked up at me expectantly. She was a short giant. Her eyes were even bigger in person. I waited a beat before blurting out, "Cathie Black is coming!" with a squeak that had been on reserve since middle school. Oprah looked at me for just a half second more, gave me a little wink and went back to what she was doing.

A month later, I decided that I'd make my living writing as a journalist, and I've spent the last decade doing just that. Not because Oprah winked at me that one time when I was 21, but because I'd walked miles, risked malnutrition and come close to eviction for a calling that I wasn't sure I had the guts for.

But I did. As Oprah said on her final show this week, "Everybody has a calling. And your real job in life is to figure out what that is and to get about the business of doing it."

Helena Andrews is a regular contributor to The Root and author of Bitch Is the New Black, a memoir in essays. Follow her on Twitter.

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Helena Andrews is a contributing editor at The Root and author of Bitch Is the New Black, a memoir in essays. Follow her on Twitter.