Oprah Winfrey’s ‘Daughter’ Calls Her ‘Mom O’ — After Rescue from Poverty She Adores Visiting & Taking Care of Her
Oprah Winfrey never had children of her own, but hundreds of girls know what it’s like to be loved and supported by her. Many lives were improved when she built the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls (OWLAG) in South Africa. Thando Dlomo has a touching testimony of how OWLAG and Winfrey got her through her toughest moments.
Oprah Winfrey is known as a talk show host mogul, but she is also an actor, producer, and author. She has used her platform to share some of her painful experiences but also some of her philanthropic work.Winfrey is passionate about the well-being of people, but as a woman that endured a lot of pain as a little girl, she also deeply cares about the welfare of girls and young women.
The talk show host has also been honest about not wanting to have children. She and her partner of 37 years, Stedman Graham, have also chosen not to marry. The couple even agreed that they would not have lasted this long if they had tied the knot.
But Winfrey has shown that she does not need biological children to express love because her heart is big enough to be “Mama O” to hundreds of kids worldwide.
One of the recommendable developments attached to Winfrey’s name is the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls (OWLAG) she opened in South Africa in 2007. It is a boarding school with facilities similar to top American prep schools, and 90% of the students have ended up in colleges.
In South Africa, only 20% of young people make it to university due to different economic setbacks; therefore the opportunity to have access to education is very important.The talk show host said, “I wanted to build a school for girls that are like me,” and Winfrey’s school has changed many lives for the better. She also expressed that her girls are her “greatest deepest joy.”
Meet Thando Dlomo, One of OWLAG’s Alumnae
Before Thando Dlomo became a student at OWLAG she lived with her grandmother, who worked as a domestic worker and lived in her employer’s backyard.White people mostly populated the neighborhood, so the school Dlomo attended was no different, meaning that not many girls looked like her.
School fees were expensive, and Dlomo’s grandmother could not always afford them while trying to provide necessities like food and clothing.At the end of every month, Dlomo had to bear the pain and embarrassment of being sent home with a white envelope, which meant that she owed fees.
Therefore, after what she had experienced, she could not believe it when the school administrators told her about Winfrey’s school. She thought the offer was too good to be true and a tactic for the school to be rid of her.But looking back, Dlomo can only laugh at her doubts. In 2007 she and 71 other students arrived on OWLAG grounds. Dlomo recalled getting off the bus with “Mama O” holding her hand as she entered the beginning of a bright future.
The moment her mother and grandmother dropped her off and drove away, Dlomo saw her mother get teary, but little did she know it would be one of the few times she saw her in good health.Dlomo’s mother visited her a few times until her grandmother arrived alone on a fateful day. She searched for her mom thinking she was still walking behind, but her grandmother had to tell her the painful news that she was terminally sick in the hospital.
At the time Dlomo did not know that her mother was in the hospital fighting HIV. “This is the plague of the African family—the shame that comes with this disease,” expressed Dlomo.Only two days after her grandmother broke the news, Dlomo was told her mother had died. Her mother had her when she was a teenager so they were like best friends, but 15-year-old Dlomo had to return home and bury her mom.
Dlomo admitted that she struggled to grapple with her mother’s death, mainly because she wished her family had been honest about the severity of the disease since she did not think it was a matter of life or death.
Nonetheless, Dlomo continued with her studies and was part of the class of 2012 and the first group to graduate from OWLAG. She moved to America and enrolled at Johnson C. Smith University in North Carolina.Then 2018, she graduated with a Master’s degree in Journalism and worked as a content producer at Entertainment Tonight in Los Angeles.
Thando’s Life Now
As a journalist, Dlomo was inspired to bring news that would make her audiences happy. She has experienced a lot of pain in her life, but she would like to use her tough experiences as strengths.
Since she worked at Entertainment Tonight, she gave herself the responsibility to only report good news. Even though world events are not always positive, Dlomo said she knows how to create beautiful moments in chaos.Dlomo also advocates for trauma-based education and does a lot of work to help young girls overcome their painful pasts and teach them not to let those hurts define them.
She credits OWLAG for helping her with her trauma but Dlomo still wonders how her life would have turned out if she had believed the academy did not exist.
She even revealed that Winfrey had asked her the same question, and all Dlomo could do was imagine a bleak life of constantly hustling for the next paycheque. “Without OWLAG, I know I wouldn’t be half the person I am now,” she said.
Dlomo does not only appreciate the opportunity that OWLAG gave her to change the trajectory of her life, but she is also grateful for Winfrey’s constant support through her trials and tribulations.When she arrived at OWLAG Winfrey was there to guide her; when she lost her mother, she was there to hold her and tell her things would be alright, and when she finished high school the talk show host was there to walk her on her graduation.
Then Dlomo made her big move to America, and Winfrey was aware that she was away from home, so she gave her all the support she needed. Throughout all her university achievements, Winfrey was there to cheer her on.During quarantine, Dlomo, Winfrey, and her partner Graham were together, getting haircuts, and pedicures and indulging in all things self-care, which the television producer shared on her Instagram.
On Thanksgiving, Winfrey gifted her “daughter-girls” with her favorite skincare and beauty products and some of her loved smart glasses that can record videos and take pictures.Despite not having children, Winfrey knows that everyone deserves love, and many girls worldwide have experienced her big and generous heart.