Photo Credit: Timothy Hiatt/Contributor
Oprah Winfrey is one popular lady. So, it's no surprise that Hollywood's biggest stars, from Beyonce to Tom Cruise,came out to honor the talk-show queen as she approaches the end of her 25-year reign on daytime TV.
Oprah, 57, and her pals gathered at Chicago's United Center Tuesday night for a giant star-studded tribute. The videotaped celebration, "Surprise Oprah! A Farewell Spectacular," will air on The Oprah Winfrey Show on May 23 and 24 -- the last two shows before her grand finale episode on May 25.
Leading up to the event, there was much buzz about which celebrities would appear -- but the guest list had been kept under strict lock and key. Even Winfrey herself didn't know who would show up.
The first hour of the show was hosted by Oprah's longtime friend Tom Hanks. "Your show has turned surprise into an art form," he said. "Oprah Winfrey, today you are surrounded by nothing but love. Your studio was not big enough to hold it all, so here we are."
The second hour of the show was hosted by husband-and-wife powerhouse Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith. Between each celebrity guest or musical performance, clips showing some of Oprah's most memorable moments were broadcast on three giant screens.
Tom Cruise, who has been on Winfrey's show 12 times (including the infamous couch-jumping episode!), was the first guest. After watching a clip of his first appearance on the show, Winfrey joked, "You looked like you were 10 when you on my show in 1988. And what was up with my hair?"
Madonna also paid personal tribute to Winfrey. "It's no secret that millions of people are inspired by Oprah," she said. "I am one of those people ... She fights for things she believes in, even if it makes her unpopular... She's a self-made woman who's been at the top of her game for over 25 years and she is still kicking ass."
And Beyonce brought the house down as she performed her new single "Run the World (Girls)" in a tuxedo leotard. She told Oprah that, because of her, "women everywhere have graduated to a new level of understanding of what we are, who we are, and who we can be."
The special also included appearances by Dakota Fanning, Aretha Franklin, Diane Sawyer, Michael Jordan, Halle Berry, Queen Latifah, Stevie Wonder, Jerry Seinfeld and more. And, of course, Oprah's BFF Gayle King was in the audience to offer her support.
There had been much speculation about whether Maria Shriver (Winfrey's friend of 30 years) would make an appearance, especially after she and Oprah had a long dinner at a Chicago restaurant on Monday night.
It turns out, Shriver (who's dealing with the public scandal of estranged husband Arnold Schwarzenegger's affair) wasn't going to let her personal problems keep her from supporting her pal. "Well Oprah, for more than 30 years, you bestowed the most amazing friendship on me, given me love, support, wisdom and most of all truth," she said when she took the stage.
R&B star Usher closed the emotional evening by singing "Oh Happy Day," and at one point, an emotional Winfrey said, "I feel the love, and I thank you for it."
The contents of Winfrey's final show are still under wraps. But if there's anyone who can top this over-the-top celebration, it's Oprah!