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This story first appeared in the April 4 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
The Oprah Winfrey experience is coming to an arena near you.
Starting in September, Winfrey will set out on an eight-city Oprah’s The Life You Want Weekend tour. The plan: pack 18,000-seat arenas for a two-day experience featuring a keynote by Winfrey, who will share her personal story and advice on Friday night, and group activities and speakers picked by her on Saturday. Among those signed to participate: Eat Pray Love author Elizabeth Gilbert, pastor Rob Bell, OWN star Iyanla Vanzant and, in certain cities, guru Deepak Chopra.
PHOTOS: The Resurgence of Oprah Winfrey
“There’s no question that Oprah’s supreme gift is connecting with an audience,” says OWN president Sheri Salata of the impetus for the tour, which will allow Winfrey to interact with her fans in a way she hasn’t since she ended her daily Oprah Winfrey Show in 2011. She will make tour stops in Atlanta; Auburn Hills, Mich.; Houston; Miami; Newark, N.J.; Seattle; San Jose, Calif.; and Washington, with tickets starting at $99 and rising to $999 for VIP packages that can include meeting Winfrey. (Tickets will go on sale April 7 on a relaunched Oprah.com.)
Winfrey tells THR a domestic tour has been atop her “bucket list” since she finished a speaking circuit in Canada in early 2013. Although Life You Want will be much larger in scale, her message remains the same. “It’s about living the life you want, because a great percentage of the population is living a life that their mother wanted, that their husband wanted, that they thought or heard they wanted,” says Winfrey, adding that she will use the platform to push themes of “empowerment, resilience and authenticity.”
Life You Want is being staged in partnership with Harpo Studios, O, The Oprah Magazine, cable network OWN and her agency, WME, which recently launched a live events division. (The latter, a way to capitalize on another potential revenue stream in a fractured media environment, also is behind other events, including Arianna Huffington and Mika Brzezinski’s Thrive: A Third Metric Live and Cosmopolitan Magazine‘s Fun Fearless Career Weekend.) Toyota and Olay will serve as sponsors. Although the different Winfrey media outlets likely will use tour content, fellow OWN president Erik Logan says they haven’t yet determined how.
The move comes as Winfrey, 60, continues to push her brand in new directions. She made a high-profile return to acting in Lee Daniels’ The Butler in 2013 and is in talks to star opposite Audra McDonald in a Broadway revival of the Pulitzer-winning ‘night, Mother. Logan suggests there could be more tour stops, too. “We believe that this will be successful,” he says. “And if it is to the degree we think it will be, you should expect us to continue.”
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