Oprah steps into ‘mother role’ for her South African Leadership Academy for Girls

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Oprah Winfrey doesn’t have any biological children, but the first graduates of the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls call her “mom Oprah.”

Oprah’s journey to successfully educate girls in South Africa came to life in a two-hour documentary, The First Graduating Class: Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls, which premiered Sunday on OWN.

During a recent interview on ABC’s Nightline, Oprah opened up about her emotional journey to provide education to underprivileged girls in South Africa.

Her bond with the girls began 5 years ago when she started The Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls with her own money.  The “Queen of Talk” handpicked 72 underprivileged girls from shantytowns in South Africa and empowered them through education. Over the past 5 years, Oprah has been accessible to her students and thus has been able to experience the ups and downs of motherhood.

“We’re texting all the time. I was on the phone last night for an hour with one of them,” Oprah said.

Six girls from the academy are now in college in the United States. Oprah said she got emotional when it came time to furnish their dorm rooms.

“The very first morning that the girls from the United States were here and we were going– I can’t believe I’m weeping over Target and Bed, Bath and Beyond,” Winfrey said. “But the morning that we were all getting dressed to go shopping at Bed, Bath and Beyond for their college dorms, I mean, it just [was] the moment it hit me that all the pain, really, and challenges, and difficult circumstances, and the crisis we went through in 2007, and all the questions and times I thought about, ‘Give them the money and step out of this and let them have it,’ it all came to a head, a joyous fruition.”

According to Forbes, Oprah has donated $400 million to the girls’ education in the U.S. and abroad. But Oprah says she made a point of not just donating money to fund the leadership academy project, but also her time and energy.

“I will tell you what has brought me the greatest happiness,” Oprah said. Being able to step into the mother role and be a real mother, friend, companion, advisor, comforter to these girls has added another level to my life that really just came as a surprise to me. I didn’t really know that I would love it so much.”

Follow Chris Witherspoon on Twitter at @WitherspoonC