“Oprah Winfrey because of you women everywhere have graduated to a new level of understanding of who we are, of what we are and most of all who we can be,” Beyonce said before starting her performance.
The stadium was decorated with pictures of Winfrey at seminal moments over the course of her talk show. Boxes of tissues were on scattered seats throughout the audience.
Before the taping, the guest lineup for “Surprise Oprah! A Farewell Spectacular” was a secret, but the show quickly delivered on promises from Winfrey’s producers that the biggest names in Hollywood would be there.
Tuesday’s taping will air May 23 and 24, before Winfrey’s final show on May 25.
Harpo Productions received more than 154,000 ticket requests for seats to Tuesday’s event. Tickets were free and distributed to fans through a lottery.
Winfrey also received messages from some not-so-famous admirers. Female American soldiers gave a taped message from Iraq and three female fans from countries around the world came on stage. Scholarship recipients from Morehouse College walked along the United Center aisles as Kristen Chenoweth sang “For Good” from the musical “Wicked.”
Fans started lining up outside hours before the taping started.
Cathy Deters, 52, of Cincinnati, drove to Chicago without a ticket, but someone outside the stadium gave her one.
“I don’t think anyone could replace Oprah Winfrey,” said Deters, an energy broker. “Not many people will have the chance to experience this.”
Celebrities such as Lisa Ling, Carson Kressley, Jessica Seinfeld, Ally Wentworth, Bob Greene and former Chicago Mayor Richard Daley sat in the audience.
The content of the final episode of “The Oprah Winfrey Show” is still under wraps.
AP reporter Alicia Rancilio contributed to this report.
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