Oprah shocks Atlantans at "Belief" party

Winfrey's new 7-part series debuted Sunday night


Nothing is predictable about throwing a watch party. Is the house clean enough? Do you have enough food? Will Oprah show up?

Sunday night Oprah Winfrey stunned more than 50 people in Southeast Atlanta when she popped up at the home of Imara Canady, who was hosting a showing of Winfrey's new OWN Network series, “Belief.”

“It was pretty crazy,” Canady said, adding that his party has been heavily trending on social media. “It is pretty crazy seeing my living room all over the Internet.”

So how does one of the biggest stars in the world end up at the home of community activist and all-around Atlanta go-to guy Imara Canady anyway?  Canady said it started innocently enough about three months ago when he got a call from Joshua DuBois, the former head of President Barack Obama’s Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. He was now working on a project with Winfrey.

“Belief” is a seven-part series created by Winfrey that explores faith from several perspectives. DuBois wanted to put Canady – who is active in the Baha’i Faith – on a conference call with the president of OWN to discuss the project. A week later, Canady was part of a larger conference call that included Winfrey talking about the project.

As they looked at ways to extend the discussions about faith and beliefs into communities, Canady said he was struck with the idea of hosting “dinners of dialogue, where we invite people into our homes to begin to break down these barriers.”

Winfrey loved it and invited Canady and others to her home in Montecito, Calif., for dinner and a private screening.

“So my spirit was really moved. I was moved by the series, and I know the power of bringing people together,” Canady said. “I extended an invitation to people to come and break bread with me. And for them to feel free to invite other people.”

Early Sunday, he got another call from DuBois, telling him some OWN executives were in town and might want to come by and watch the show at his house.

“No problem,” Canady said.

Then he got a call that there might be a couple of special guests.

“No problem,” Canady repeated, as he prepared his home for about 60 people.

An hour before the show started, Canady got another call. Oprah might come by. Oprah was in town on another project, “Greenleaf,” a new OWN/Lionsgate project that is set in Tennessee but films here in Atlanta.

“We kept it a surprise to all the guests,” Canady said. “Then during a commercial break she knocked on the door and I introduced her to the room. They went nuts!”

Dressed in a simple black T-shirt over a white long-sleeved shirt, Winfrey just walked in, plopped down in front of the television and watched – just like everyone else.

“It never was like it was anybody else but a wonderful person who decided to come share the evening with us,” Canady said. “I never felt like my house wasn't good enough or clean enough. She came just like everybody came.”

But she was also funny, took selfies, tweeted and carried on meaningful discussions about the show.

“Oprah's 'Belief' was a cinematic masterpiece about faith and how spirituality is viewed around the world,” said celebrity blogger Ray Cornelius. “It was also an opportunity for us to see that we are more alike than we are different. Last night's viewing was special and Oprah's appearance made it magical."

Canady said Winfrey stuck around until about 10:30 p.m.

He didn’t say whether or not the mogul helped him clean up.


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