Celebrities on Oprah Share Lessons Learned from Mother

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Celebrities on Oprah Share Lessons Learned from Mother

Academy Award®-winning actor Denzel Washington credits his mother, Lennis, for keeping him grounded as he was starting to make a name for himself as an actor. "I remember coming home one time and feeling full of myself and talking, ‘Did you imagine all this? I mean, I’m a star,’" Denzel says. "And she’s, like, ‘Negro, please. First of all, you don’t know how many people been praying for you and for how long.’ Then she told me to get the bucket and the squeegee and clean the windows."

Matthew McConaughey says that growing up, his mother always made a great breakfast to start the day. Some mornings, Matthew and his siblings weren’t always in the best mood. On those days, Matthew says his mother would grab them by the arm and march them back to bed. "She’d say, … ‘don’t sit down at my kitchen table until you’re going to see the roses in the vase instead of the dust on the table!’"

Actress Hilary Swank‘s mother, Judy, believed in her daughter so much that she moved the family to California with only $75. Her little girl grew up to win two Academy Awards®. "The best life lesson my mom taught me is to always be myself," Hilary says. "She always told me that I could do anything that I wanted in my life."

As a boy growing up in rural Mississippi, Morgan Freeman says his mother used to tell him, "I’m going to take you to Hollywood." Years later, when Morgan was starting to make a name for himself in New York City, he landed a role on Broadway. When he saw his name in lights for the very first time, he says the first person he thought of was his mom. "Every time something good happened to me, I would always report to my mother," he says. "So the first time my name was in lights was on Broadway, and I was walking down 44th or 45th Street and there was my name up on the marquee, and I said, ‘Look, Ma!’"

"[My mom] is one of those people that you feel honored to meet," Beyoncé says about her mother, Tina. "And no matter who you are, you fall in love with her because she is spiritual, she’s inspiring, she’s strong, she’s funny, she’s creative, she’s talented…she’s everything that I want to be." Beyoncé says the best thing her mother taught her is "to concentrate on your inner beauty and your spirit because that’s what shines through."  Not only is Tina her mother, but Beyoncé says she’s also her best friend. "It’s not very many relationships I’ve seen where you want to hang out with your mother," Beyoncé says. "She’s so funny and cool. Sometimes I forget that she’s my mother. And just when I forget, she reminds me by example with her wisdom."

"She was everything to me," Lance Armstrong says of his mother, Linda. "She was my coach. She was my friend. She was my motivator. She was my nutritionist. She was my driver. You know, everything. Cheerleader. She was everything to me when I was a kid. So naturally, when I got older and I would get in a tough situation, I would call her. And the one thing that she always stressed to me wasn’t, like, ‘You’ve got to win today, son.’ Or, ‘Go out there and win.’ [But instead], ‘Just give it your best and don’t quit. Don’t ever quit.’ And that carries through, even today. That’s my attitude either in a bike race or an illness or talking to somebody that’s just been diagnosed [with cancer or an illness]: Just don’t quit. And I got all that from her."

Senator Barack Obama says lessons his mother taught him as a child continue to steer his politics today. "My mother taught me empathy—the basic concept of standing in somebody else’s shoes and looking through their eyes. If I did something messed up, she’d just say, ‘How would that make you feel if somebody did that to you?’ That ends up being, I think, at the center of my politics, and I think that should be the center of all our politics. If we see a child who’s languishing in an inner-city school, how would we feel if that was our child?"

"One of the things that my parents did is they put pictures all over our house," says Maria Shriver about her parents Eunice and Sergeant Shriver. "Pictures of kids in Africa. Kids who were disabled, in institutions. And [Mom] would explain why her work affected those children’s lives and those families’ lives. She would constantly talk about what we could do that might have an impact. So every Thursday, for example, she put a piggy bank on the table and said, ‘I would normally be spending this amount of money for groceries, but now we’re putting the money in the piggy bank and you’re eating cereal so I can send the money to Africa.’ … She was constantly trying to talk about what was going on in the rest of the world to open our minds and let us know that we were lucky and that we should be grateful."

Oscar® winner Charlize Theron credits her mother, Gerda, for keeping her grounded. "I don’t like creating unnecessary drama in my life," Charlize says. "I like things very simple and very peaceful, and I like to surround myself by people like that. And I think that [my] moral compass comes from the way I was raised. … The great thing that she really encouraged when I was young was to think for myself."

When Justin Timblerlake left Tennessee to begin touring with *NSYNC, his career took off. He credits his mom, Lynn, and stepfather for keeping him grounded through the years. "I just remember my mom always instilling those thoughts in me that at the end of the day or at the beginning of the day, we all put our pants on the same way," he says.

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