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Oprah spends an evening with Montreal

MONTREAL — They came from far and wide to see her, clutching their tickets like precious jewels and bearing offerings both large and small. Some had paid hundreds of dollars for the chance to be in her presence; to hear her speak without the barrier of a television screen between them.

And when she appeared, the floor of the Bell Centre vibrated and the rafters shook as 15,000 (mostly female) fans rose to their feet and cheered (no, screamed) for their idol.

It was pandemonium. It was surreal. It was Oprah.

Watch Global’s Jamie Orchard Introduce Oprah to the stage with Mitsou

Dressed in a flowing green skirt and neatly pressed white blouse, the grand dame of daytime talk took to the stage in Montreal on Thursday night to regale her audience with stories of an incredible life lived and difficult lessons learned. For over two hours, she spoke to them about everything from her new favourite tea to the spiritual energy that she believes binds us all together.

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She had “raised” many of them, she boasted — welcoming them home each afternoon when they burst through door after school or work, entertaining them when they were sick, comforting them when they were lonely.

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For many in the audience, the sense of personal connection to one of the most powerful women on Earth — however fleeting — was priceless.

“I paid $400 to be in the first row on the side, and it’s worth every penny,” said Valerie Kamel, who teaches Grade 11 English in Montreal. “Just to be in the same room (as Oprah) is inspiring to me. She’s changed my life and my students’ lives.”

Asked what she hoped to gain from the night’s presentation, Kamel paused for a moment.

“I don’t think I’m going to hear anything new, but it’s just to be in her presence,” she finally replied. “Nothing’s going to shock me. She’s just so elegant … so articulate and moving.”

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A few steps away, Quebec City-based artist André Garon smiled down at his recently completed portrait of Oprah, painted especially for the occasion. The superstar’s instantly recognizable face filled the large canvass, bathed in warm light.

“Oprah spread light throughout her career,” Garon said of his muse. “She gave to others. She gave her personality, her money, her time.” He said he hoped to hand his gift to the superstar in person.

But not everyone showed up at the Bell Centre on Thursday to bask in Oprah’s glow.

Jeremy Kung, a member of a group of activists opposed to the circumcision of male infants, arrived wearing a white jumpsuit with a very conspicuous red mark over the pubic area. Kung and his fellow protesters are upset that Oprah has sung the praises of SkinMedica, an anti-wrinkle face cream made using fibroblasts from the foreskins of circumcised babies. As with anything Oprah endorses, the cream is now wildly popular.

“I consider (circumcision) to be a violation of human rights under the United Nations declaration on the rights of the child. It’s medically unethical to cut a healthy body part off a non-consenting individual,” explained Kung, who is visiting Canada from Australia.

By endorsing the cream, he added, Oprah is perpetuating the practice.

“She does not care,” he said. “I would like her to stop endorsing it, and start speaking out about it.”

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