Picture it, Chicago 1992. I was a stuttering farmer’s daughter trying to make it as an actress in the theaters of the Windy City. My speech impediment didn’t land me many roles, so I turned to the non-speaking role of a catalog-model. Actually, I was more of a ‘Sunday Flier’ kind of model. You could find me every weekend in the Sunday paper sporting the latest fashions from Montgomery Wards, Sears, and Kohls. The best part of being a model in Chicago in the 90’s, was eventually you would get to model on the one and only Oprah Winfrey Show. After several weeks of modeling bras for JC Penney’s, I finally got the call that I had been waiting for. ‘I’m gonna be on Oprah, Mom!’
The morning of the show, I woke up and thought, ‘This is going to be a day to remember’. Little did I know how right I was. At the time I was living in a little one bedroom apartment in the suburbs of Chicago and waiting tables at a TGI Fridays on the weekends. I had just worked a long shift the day before and my bedroom still smelled like Loaded Potato Skins and Fried Cheese. But, I was up, in the shower, and standing out in front of my apartment by 6:00 am waiting for my limo. Yep, I said limo. How’s that grab ya? Oprah would send a limo to every one of her guests.
As the long shiny limo pulled into the parking lot, I looked over at my rusty tan Ford Taurus. My stained waitressing apron laid on the dashboard. The limo driver stopped the limo perfectly in front of me. He got out, tipped his hat, and opened the door. ”Good morning”, he said in the cheeriest voice I’d ever heard. As I climbed into the limo, I was amazed at what was waiting for me. There was a small counter of danishes, fresh fruit, and coffee. ‘Good Morning America’ played on a small TV next to the freshly squeezed orange juice. The limo driver said, “Help yourself. Next stop…Harpo Studios.” WOW! Is this what Cinderella felt like when she was whisked away in that golden pumpkin carriage and taken to the royal ball? Does that make Oprah my Fairy Godmother? It did that day.
With a smile on my face, I scooched my way over to the plate of danishes which were beautifully displayed alongside little melon balls. Where do I start? By now the limo was rolling down I-90 and on its way to the Windy City and the Oprah Winfrey Show. Before I could even reach for one of the fancy little pastry plates, I suddenly had an odd feeling in my tummy. An all-too-familiar odd feeling. I sat back in my seat and stared at Joan Lunden on the TV while breathing deeply through my nose. Oh God, not now. Not now. Please!!! Ever since I was a child, I would get car sick when I sat in the backseat of a car. Who in the hell would imagine that I could also get carsick in the backseat of a limo? DAMN!
My head began to spin. I laid down across the seat. I suddenly felt nausea. I sat back up and put my head between my knees. ‘I’m going to be ok’, I kept telling myself. I rolled down the window and stuck my head outside. I started feeling faint. I laid back down on the seat. Then I had that funny little taste in the back of my throat. That taste that tells you that any food you ate in the past 12 hours is about to exit your body in the same place it entered your body. SON OF A B$@#%!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I rolled off the seat. Like a wounded soldier I dragged myself across the floor of the limo to the wall that separates the back of the limo from the driver. I raised my hand and knocked on the small window located just behind the driver’s head. The driver slid open the window. “Everything ok?”, he asked.
“I’m gonna throw up,” I whimpered.
“Excuse me?” I heard the driver politely ask.
I took one more deep breath and crawled up to the little window and stuck my face through it. “I’m car sick. Can I sit up front with you?”
The driver immediately pulled over and opened my door. He helped me get out of the limo, and we stood together on the side of the freeway as the L-train rushed by. “Are you feeling better?” he asked. “Would you like a 7-Up or a wintergreen Lifesaver?”
Who the heck are you? My Grandmother? He informed me that we needed to be at the studio in thirty minutes. I got in the front seat of the limo, rolled down the window, and rode the rest of the way to Chicago like a Golden Retriever with its head hanging outside in the fresh morning air. Wonder if Cinderella ever got motion sickness inside of her carriage.
We arrived at Harpo Studio right on time. All the other limos were lining up. As other models gracefully stepped out of the back seat of their limos, I stumbled out of the front seat of mine. My driver was a real sport. He took me by the arm and escorted me inside where I was rushed off to hair, make up, and finally wardrobe where I would step into a designer gown. Cinderella had finally made it to the ball. But, where is my Fairy Godmother?
It was ten minutes to showtime. I was lined up backstage with the other models. My tummy was feeling a lot better. Just then, in true Fairy Godmother style, Oprah suddenly appeared. “Hello Ladies,” she shouted. I could almost hear the Fairy Godmother music from Cinderella playing in the air as Oprah welcomed each model. “Salagadoola menchicka boola, bibbidi-bobbidi-boo.” I took a deep breath and pinched my cheeks. I didn’t want to look like some hot-mess sorority girl, who drank the spiked punch at a frat party the night before.
Oprah then walked up to me, smiled, and said, “Shoulders back. Head up. You look stunning.” Oh thank God, she doesn’t know. Oprah took me by the hands, leaned in, and whispered, “How are you feeling?” Of course, she knows. Fairy Godmothers know everything.
“I’m fine”, I replied.
“Great.” Oprah said with a wink. She then lifted her arm up into the air and with a spin of her hand she announced, “Show time girls!” Oh my goodness. All that’s missing is her magic wand. It was magical. The show was so much fun. Oprah made everyone feel at ease, glamorous, and like they belonged there on stage with her. Even Oprah’s best friend, Gayle, was in the segment. Thank you, Fairy Godmother, for getting me to the ball. ‘Bibbidi-bobbidi-boo’. 🎵🎶🎵
And just like that, it was over. My Cinderella clock had struck midnight, and it was time to go home. Yep, home to my one bedroom apartment and my waitressing shift that was about to start in just a few hours. Then it dawned on me. HOLY CRAP!!! How am I going to get home? I don’t have my car with me. ‘Bibbidi-Bobbidi-ding-dang-DAMN IT- boo’!!! I got to get back in that limo! NO!!!
Just as I was thinking about walking to the nearest train station, my limo arrived. I was nauseous just looking at it. The driver got out and opened the front door. “Will you be riding up front with me?” he asked.
I looked around at all the other models getting into the back of their long shiny limos. Maybe I was never Cinderella. Maybe I am just the ugly step sister that couldn’t fit into the shoe. I’m such a freak. “Yes, I’ll sit up f-f-f-front.” I stammered.
As I slumped into the passenger seat, I noticed something on the console. It was a tray with a can of 7up, a sandwich, and a wintergreen mint. “I thought you might enjoy a snack”, said the driver with a wink.
Aww, shucks. Maybe I am Cinderella after all. Well, I’m definitely not a Disney princess. But, I am the unlikely, awkward, queasy gal who took a leap of faith, and went to the ball. Thank you Fairy Godmother and my Enchanted Limo Driver. ❤️