Solana Beach resident and friends will never forget ‘Oprah’s Ultimate Australian Adventure’
By Diane Y. Welch
Once in a lifetime an event occurs that transforms one’s life. When that event is an unexpected trip down under, thanks to Oprah, then the world is watching.
For the three local ladies whose website stylesubstancesoul.com caught the eye and the hearts of Oprah’s producers, the recent gift of an all expenses paid eight-day trip to Australia has rendered them humbled, grateful, giddy, and still floating on air. Lois Alter Mark, Susan Jensen, and Amy Krause each used the word “amazing” when describing the trip that has changed their lives and which they couldn’t even have imagined a few months ago.
The magic started before the three knew about the trip.
“We all have watched Oprah for years, in fact, our website was inspired by Oprah’s philosophy to ‘look good, feel good and do good,’” said Alter Mark, who had received an email with questions for an Ultimate Viewers contest about how Oprah had inspired them. One of the questions was if there was a show that stood out more than another.
Alter Mark knew exactly what she was going to include. She had seen Sara Blakely as an Oprah guest when Blakely retold how when she was struggling to start her new business, Oprah became the catalyst that helped her found Spanx, now a multimillion-dollar industry. When Oprah mentioned that she cut the feet off her pantyhose, Blakely took this as a sign, developed her own footless pantyhose, and through hard work and determination was so successful that she was able to give back $1 million to Oprah’s charity. That show struck a chord for Alter Mark.
“This was my sign to start our website,” she said. “And I kept that vision in my mind as I filled out the answers in the email.”
The suspense increased when the three were asked to produce a two-minute video that reinforced them as Ultimate Viewers, which then won them tickets to be a part of Oprah’s show for the 25th season premier.
“We initially thought this was our prize, going to Chicago to be part of Oprah’s audience,” said Alter Mark. “We were thrilled.”
But during the taping of the show when they heard Oprah’s words, “You are all going to Australia!” the real prize became evident, said Jensen. “We were all screaming and I started thinking, ‘I can’t do that, I have to go to work!’”
But the opportunity to go to Australia had always been on Jensen’s “bucket list” she said, “and to have this experience with my two closest friends along with 302 people was truly amazing.”
On arrival in Australia, the red carpet treatment greeted the group, along with an Aboriginal welcoming ceremony that set the tone for a week of five-star-plus treatment. “There was no detail overlooked, everything was taken care of,” Jensen said.
Day one was a visit to the Sydney Opera House with a champagne reception and a private concert. A short boat ride took a subgroup (that the three were part of) to the Taronga zoo. There was a bird show, dinner, live music and the high point, “We got to hold koalas and pet them,” said Jensen.
Day two was a private beach party on Hamilton Island visiting Whitehaven Beach, one of top 10 beaches in the world. Oprah and her best friend, Gayle, flew in by helicopter to join them.
”They were both very real and we were able to talk with them briefly. We could see that Oprah genuinely cared about each of us. She was so grateful to us for being Ultimate Viewers, but we were way more grateful to her,” quipped Alter Mark.
Then there was the Great Barrier Reef expedition on day three.
“It was like our own personal National Geographic adventure,” said Krause. The trip also took a lot of people out of their comfort zone. Two-hundred people out of the group had never been out of the country, said Krause. There were people who were afraid of heights climbing the Sydney Harbor Bridge, and people who were afraid of water snorkeling in the Great Barrier Reef.
Each day was packed with activities and the fact that the whole world was watching added an extra dimension to the trip.
“It was like being part of pop culture history,” Krause said.
Camera crews followed the groups, and edited footage will be aired on Oprah’s daytime show in the next few weeks. But more than anything, the other winning participants were remarkable, said Krause.
“We go through our lives and we get hung up on working and our personal problems and if you just stop to talk to others you hear their amazing stories. And what Oprah says is true, while we may all be different, in essence we are the same.”
Visit www.stylesubstancesoul.com to read more about the Oprah Ultimate Australian Adventure.
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