EXCLUSIVE: Oprah Winfrey Explains Iconic 'You Get a Car!' Moment

by Raphael Chestang 5:40 PM PST, November 18, 2015
Playing EXCLUSIVE: Oprah Winfrey Explains Iconic 'You Get a Car!' Moment

Eleven years later, Oprah Winfrey's "You get a car!" moment is one of the most quoted phrases of television history. Now, the media mogul and ET Icon Award recipient is dishing to ET's Nancy O'Dell about what prompted the joyful outburst.

In The Oprah Show's unforgettable free-car giveaway episode, which originally aired on Sept. 13, 2004, the audience was led to believe that only one of them would win a brand-new Pontiac G6. Staff members then handed each audience member a box, telling them that one of the boxes would have the key to the free car. When they each opened their boxes and found that there were keys in all of them, no one knew what to think.

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"I was saying that because people were screaming so loudly they didn't know what was going on," Oprah said. "Prior to that moment, I had said, 'Open up your boxes. One person has a key.' So when I looked at the faces of the audience, they go, 'But I have a key ... but she has a key,' so that's why I said, 'You get a car! You get a car!' to try to clarify, because they all looked so confused. Everybody gets a car!"

Oprah declared the phrase, "You get a car," 11 times, as the audience erupted in pandemonium, and with good reason. Prior to the show taping, Oprah told producers to fill the crowd with people who "desperately needed" cars.

The 276 sedans given out that day, each worth approximately $28,500, were donated by Pontiac.

A couple months later, Oprah hosted a giveaway episode specifically for teachers. The educators, who came from around the country, received gifts including TV sets, laptops, washer/dryers, champagne and checks for $2,500.

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The giveaway episodes came during the talk show's 19th season, which was dubbed the "Wildest Dreams" season. As Oprah put it at the time, "This year on the Oprah Show, no dream is too wild, no surprise too impossible to pull off, and it can happen anywhere at any time to anybody."

Oprah seems to have always lived most of her life by that motto. Once a poor girl from Mississippi, Oprah climbed up through the ranks of broadcast television, and now sits at the head of an empire. In 1985, the 61-year-old Queen of Talk shared her secret to accomplishing her wildest dreams.

"I believe that when you believe in yourself -- when you truly do believe in yourself, and I don't mean just kind of liking yourself enough to go out to Neiman's and buy a pair of shoes, but believe in yourself and your own possibilities -- that the world is open to you," Oprah said at the time. "I really do."

The following year, Oprah earned her first Oscar nomination for her supporting role in Steven Spielberg's The Color Purple.

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"It's where I discovered love," Oprah told ET about working on the film. "What it means to love your work, what it means to love friends, what it means to be impassioned by work."

Oprah recently launched a new show on OWN called Belief that takes an emotional, empowering and inspirational look at the mysteries of existence. She admitted to ET that this series has been a challenge for her.

"Life is about trying to grow yourself to whatever is the next level," she shared. "So this Belief series is the next level for me."