Oprah Considers Opening an All-Girls School in the US

Oprah Winfrey confirmed that she is considering opening an all-girls school in the United States, 12 years after opening the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls (OWLAG) in South Africa.

Winfrey mentioned the school during a behind-the-scenes segment on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah on April 10. An audience member asked Winfrey whether she ever considered opening a school in North America.

“Yes, I’m actually thinking about it,” Winfrey said, to cheers and applause from the audience. “I’m actually thinking about where, and the reason why I called it the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls: South Africa [is that] even then, I was thinking this will just be one. This will be the satellite school and then I will do others.”

Winfrey said it had taken her “a while to get it right, it took me about 10 years to actually get it right,” she said, but that she was “thinking” about opening another school.

During her Daily Show interview, Noah asked Winfrey what advice she has for the students at her school. “You only have to be yourself,” she said, “because there’s no one else in the world who is quite like you. What your real job is to come to the world and understand that your job is to figure out what it is you have to offer.” In 2017, Winfrey’s school, which serves underprivileged girls living in nine provinces in South Africa, celebrated its 10 year anniversary. The boarding school, located just outside of Johannesburg, accepts students in grades 8-12 from poor communities in remote and rural areas, Variety reported.

The entertainer and philanthropist pays for the girls’ uniforms, braces, and anything else they may need. She also routinely visits the girls and holds fireside chats with students.

“[W]hat our school does is work at creating a foundation of worthiness. It’s a patriarchal environment where they come from. Just being a girl makes you less than. I stand before them and tell them there is no bar, there is no ceiling. We’re not just going to crack the ceiling; it doesn’t exist,” she told the magazine. The girls, in turn, call her “Mama O.”

“She’s not just giving of her time, she’s giving of her talent,” Head of School Melvin King told Variety in 2017. “She’s visible, she’s present, she is amongst the students. That is a very unique feature for any founder of a school to be so personally invested.”

Winfrey also discussed mental health and how she helped one of her students understand that depression was not something to be ashamed of. She recounted the time her girls came over and one of them was depressed but would not acknowledge it.

“We on the phone Googled all the symptoms for depression,” she said. “And this girl, who’s now by the way doing very well but said to me… I said so you’re every single symptom of depression. You need to get help. And she said, ‘I can’t be depressed, I’m African. And Africans don’t get depressed.’” Winfrey also spoke about the mental health documentary series she is co-creating with the UK’s Prince Harry.

“Harry and I are gonna normalize it to the point where people are like, ‘Hey! I got mental illness!’” Winfrey said. “That’s what you want, to call it out to the point where it’s no longer such a stigmatized big deal, it’s no longer a taboo.”

About the Author

Nicole Rojas is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has published in various venues, including Newsweek, GlobalPost, IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, and the Long Island Post. Nicole graduated from Boston University in 2012 with a degree in print journalism. She is an avid world traveler who recently explored Asia and Australia.