Oprah Winfrey and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson had a poignant conversation about grief during Oprah’s 2020 Vision: Your Life in Focus tour stop at State Farm Arena. The day-long event ended with the two reflecting on loss following the death of Johnson’s father less than two weeks ago.
Johnson, who’d just buried his father, WWE wrestler Rocky Johnson, on Tuesday, said he’s been exploring the complicated relationship he had with his father and allowing himself to heal. “In death [and] in spirit, I have a new relationship with [him],” he said.
PHOTOS: See more from Oprah’s 2020 Vision tour at State Farm Arena
The pair discussed a series of other topics, too, including what Johnson has learned from parenting three daughters, how he went from being jeered to becoming a wrestling phenomenon, how working out serves as his “anchor,” his past mental health struggles and more.
Johnson and Winfrey also discussed how the actor and wrestler manages success and fame, reflecting on his troubled upbringing. Johnson, who spent time living in Atlanta as a child, recalled how being evicted as a kid fueled his work ethic. He named his production company Seven Bucks Productions based on a time when that’s all the money he had.
Johnson, who plans to release a new brand of tequila, Teremana, next month, gifted Winfrey, a self-proclaimed lover of the spirit, with the first bottle from his line. The pair ended their interview by toasting to Johnson’s father (“To the man who helped make you the man that you are,” Winfrey said).
Following the conversation, Winfrey closed the event by reflecting on her own complicated relationship with her mother, who died in 2018. Teary eyed, she talked about how she, too, has found healing in her mother’s death. “My relationship with my mother is finally at peace. And my mother finally knows who I am,” she said.
It was a touching, albeit heavy, ending to a day focused on setting goals and a clear vision for 2020. Sponsored by WW, formerly known as Weight Watchers, the event sometimes felt like a massive ad for the company’s rebranding. Still, the event included several standout moments, including Jesse Israel leading the audience of 12,000 people in a “mass meditation” and successfully quieting an arena that is typically raucous, and gospel singer Tamela Mann performing her hit “Take Me To the King.”
Mann has recently lost 55 pounds using WW. Throughout the day-long event, Winfrey walked through the audience, leading the crowd to fill out a workbook aimed at helping them set wellness goals for the rest of the year.
Winfrey, who was fighting off a cold during the event, discussed her own public struggles with weight, while continuously emphasizing that her current vision of wellness does not center on how much she weighs, but her overall health.
Ahead of the event, she’d visited a number of local businesses, including a black hair salon and the historic restaurant Busy Bee. Noting that Busy Bee has partnered with WW to highlight healthy dishes, Winfrey admits she opted for the fried catfish instead, adding that it was the “best fried catfish I’ve ever had.”
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The media mogul also highlighted two men from Atlanta during the event, including Erik Pimentel. A patient advocate at Shamrock Prosthetic, Pimentel says he joined WW after a work-related accident that led to the amputation of one of his legs. Winfrey also surprised one of Julianne Hough’s dancers with a shoutout and a hug after discovering he was one of the men she helped put through college at Morehouse.
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It’s easy to be skeptical of events such as this one. The wellness industry is a multibillion dollar business aimed at “solving” some of people’s biggest fears by selling them goods. But it’s hard to deny that Winfrey, and everyone who joined her on stage at State Farm Arena, were there because they truly felt like they could make an impact in people’s lives. To them, WW is just a catalyst for doing so.
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