Last Friday, I found myself stuck in afternoon traffic and swearing loudly while driving to “Oprah’s ‘Live Your Best Life’ Weekend” at the Palace of Auburn Hills with my mom. I had gotten distracted after my only Friday class and left campus an hour later than I intended. My mom had already called, telling me in a sharp tone to hurry up. I was not overly enthused to be there, and after we finally arrived at the Palace (and paid a steep $15 for parking), I trailed after my speed-walking mom to the entrance of O Town.

Every attendee was sent a QR code connected to their names, seat numbers and e-mail addresses. Once the code was scanned, the information was transferred to a wristband you wore for the entire weekend. As we visited the sponsor booths and participated in activities, staff members tapped our wristbands, allowing them to instantly transmit pictures, coupons and information sent to our email. The technology helped optimize the attendee interactions all weekend — an ingenious way to facilitate engagement in real time. Additionally, the wristbands were programmed to flash various LED colors throughout the event, including when the DJ started an arena-wide dance party, and when SoulCycle held a 15-minute arena-wide workout. Very, very cool.

To fit into the Oprah-loving demographic, I wore my best “momfit.” A momfit is exactly what it sounds like, any outfit that you could easily imagine at a local PTO meeting. Surprisingly, my assumptions were a bit off. The crowd at the event did consist primarily of middle-aged women, but many older and younger women were in attendance as well. Over the course of the two days, several jokes were made at the expense of the small number of male significant others in attendance.

Oprah is intelligent, funny and warm in person. Along with what I loosely estimated as 9,000 other people in attendance, I felt like I could easily become Oprah’s new best friend. Even from the top balcony (my mom evidently does not love me enough to buy me $500 floor seats), I could tell that O is caring and genuine, with a unique ability to empathize and connect with her audience.

It was an overwhelmingly friendly crowd, and the women in attendance seemed to bond freely with those around them. The event had a hashtag, #LifeYouWantDET, that was aggregated on a mobile app, and chosen tweets and pictures were projected on the screens in the arena. Let me be the first to say that I was surprised not only that so many middle-aged women have Twitter accounts, but that so many middle-aged women seem proficient using said accounts — my mom was positively giddy after a picture she made me tweet flashed on the arena screens. One group of note were the women who tailgated in the parking lot with mimosas at 7 a.m the second morning. Oprah read their tweet on the screens, gave them a shout out for their enthusiasm and then actually joined them in the parking lot for lunch.

A message of female empowerment was woven through the entire event and the speakers were chosen by the positivity of their messages. Elizabeth Gilbert (author of the New York Times bestseller “Eat Pray Love”) went on an extended rant about how the fact that epics are male-centered is bullshit — women are worthy of starring in epics, too. Author and motivational speaker Iyanla Vanzant was fabulous while explaining how we need to learn to be honest in examining our life stories and be proactive about not feeling like, or speaking like, victims. The resounding message was that women are stronger, more capable and more deserving of self-love than they usually give themselves credit for. And throughout everything, Oprah continued to promote her message that “you can.”

Aside from the incredible speakers, this community of thousands of women striving for self-acceptance, mental and physical betterment and life empowerment was incredible. Oprah has built an empire because she understands the importance of making everyone feel like they are heard, they matter, and they are a part of something bigger than themselves — even the grumpy college kid trying to blend into the crowd with her momfit. Sadly, however, no one won a car.

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