The media was in a frenzy. Women all over Australia were glued to the television. Australia’s top tourist attractions prepared in advance and Prime Minister Julia Gillard made time in her schedule. The top Aussie entertainment, chefs and security were rolled out; and a gigantic ‘O’ lit up the Sydney Harbour Bridge. No, nothing to do with the New Year – Oprah was in town.

I continue to be amazed by the reaction that Oprah’s visit to Australia created. We were calling the Sydney Opera House the “Oprah House” during her visit, for goodness’ sake! And she responded as enthusiastically as hoped, with her open-armed and American-accented “I LOVE AUSTRALIA!” replaying on our screens ever since.

Definitely an inspiring woman of her time, she has battled through many a tough time to get to her pedestal-high position of today. I do tend to be a bit cynical towards the cult of the celebrity and that is what kept my eyes somewhat critical during the coverage of her visit. She is only, after all, a fellow human being. Would President Obama get an “O” on the Harbour Bridge? 

However I do understand her appeal; and it is one that will benefit Australia immensely. It is only logical to assume that she has done for our tourism industry what no million-dollar campaign could hope to. Her empathy is especially beneficial now, after Australia has been devastated by floods in multiple states over the last few weeks. And where it does happen, it is refreshing to see a celebrity use their fame for the positive.

So while I do feel that Australia may have overdone it just slightly – rolling out the (24 carat) gold carpet instead of the red – I guess I’m willing to overlook that to see the good. You couldn’t say that we were anything but welcoming and Oprah did show the world how easy it is to love Australia!


Tamara El-Rahi is an associate editor of MercatorNet. A Journalism graduate from the University of Technology Sydney, she lives in Australia with her husband and two daughters.