In January 2007, Oprah Winfrey opened the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls (OWLAG) just south of Johannesburg, South Africa, to give academically talented girls an education they simply weren’t likely to receive. A decade later, Fusion is premiering a documentary special on five of the girls from the Academy’s first class, following them as they mark new milestones and featuring an interview with Winfrey. “O Girls,” hosted by Fusion correspondent and former Harpo staffer Kimberly Brooks, premieres Jan. 15 on Fusion.
Each of the stories showcased in “O Girls” aims to show how education can empower young women and girls all over the world to do incredible things. But though attending the Academy opened doors they may not otherwise have been able to walk through, the documentary also delves into the challenges that come along with such a life-altering opportunity. In an interview, Winfrey notes that on average many of the girls had experienced six major life traumas before even coming to the Academy — from violence and sexual abuse to dealing with the deaths of several family members.
In the special, Brooks talks with Academy graduates Bongeka, Thando, Charmain, Debra and Mpumi about dealing with those traumas at a young age, as well as the personal pressure to succeed after life at the Academy and the challenge of balancing their lives in the U.S. with their South African roots.
“My work with these girls feels as natural to me as if they were my own children. For me, this is what mothering was meant to be,” Winfrey told Brooks in an interview. “I wanted to help girls who really wanted it. They could see the possibility for themselves, if only. If only they had the means to do it.”
Watch the trailer for “O Girls” above or on YouTube.