Oprah Winfrey’s Legends Ball was a three-day celebration held by Oprah Winfrey honoring twenty-five African American women in art, entertainment, and civil rights.
The celebration included a luncheon, white-tie ball, and gospel brunch. On May 22, 2006, a year after the celebration, a one-hour program about the weekend aired on ABC. It included celebrity interviews and behind-the-scenes moments.
The 25 women included Maya Angelou, Shirley Caesar, Diahann Carroll, Elizabeth Catlett, Ruby Dee, Katherine Dunham, Roberta Flack, Aretha Franklin, Nikki Giovanni, Dorothy Height, Lena Horne, Coretta Scott King, Gladys Knight, Patti LaBelle, Toni Morrison, Rosa Parks, Leontyne Price, Della Reese, Diana Ross, Naomi Sims, Tina Turner, Cicely Tyson, Alice Walker, Dionne Warwick, and Nancy Wilson.
ABC advertised its television program about this event by describing the brunch as follows:
The finale of the Legends weekend was Sunday’s exuberant gospel brunch with spontaneous performances by Patti LaBelle, Gladys Knight, Dionne Warwick and Chaka Khan.
People who might have been there but were not included Whoopi Goldberg, Aretha Franklin, Whitney Houston, Donna Summer, Dr. Mae Jemison, Toni Braxton, Lauryn Hill, Eartha Kitt, Vanessa L. Williams and Beyoncé. Franklin’s absence was probably the most surprising to many followed by Goldberg’s and Braxton’s. Winfrey’s The Color Purple co-star Goldberg was the only African American actress to be nominated for an Academy Award more than once, and the first African American actress to win one since Hattie McDaniel. Dr. Mae Jamison was the first black woman in space. The absence of Houston was not a surprise to many, because of her drug battle around that time. Toni Braxton at the time held the record for having the biggest-selling single by a female artist in the United States as well as becoming the first African American performer in Las Vegas to have her act enter the top ten Vegas shows charting, and being the first and only African American to star in a Disney musical on Broadway for her role as Belle in Beauty and the Beast. Hill was both the first woman to receive 10 Grammy nominations in one year and first to win 5 in one night. Williams was the first African American Miss America. It has been said[who?] that Winfrey mentioned Franklin and Beyoncé’s absences were due to scheduling conflicts.