Oprah credits Mary Tyler Moore for inspiring her to follow her dreams

By Sarah Walker

Have you ever wondered who Oprah's "Oprah" is? The answer is Mary Tyler Moore.

As Hollywood continues to mourn the passing of the television icon who died on Wednesday at the age of 80, one voice is breaking through the crowd. Oprah Winfrey is quite possibly the actress's biggest admirer and has even credited Mary with making her career possible.

MARY TYLER MOORE'S LIFE IN PICTURES

"Mary Tyler Moore first gave me the idea that you can own your own show and produce it. She was the one," the 62-year-old told ET upon learning of Mary's passing.

"So, when I say that she had a powerful influence on me, it wasn't just being that iconic figure that was women in the workforce, doing the same job I was doing, working in news as a journalist, in a newsroom, and who was single and really OK with it. Every episode wasn't about trying to find a man, it was about trying to find your way in life."

Many of those mourning the loss of the star agree. Mary's eponymous show is widely considered to be groundbreaking for its focus on a single woman in her thirties who was more interested in her career than finding a relationship.

"What I'm grateful for is that, in my lifetime, I was able to share with her what her presence in television had meant to me as a young, growing, aspiring reporter," Oprah continued. "It's the first time that I can recall a public figure in recent years passing -- and we've lost so many people recently -- where I actually sat down and shed tears about it."

She added, "[Mary] paved the way through storytelling for women and was a value system for women without even knowing it. So, her legacy will live on in ways I know the creators of [ The Mary Tyler Moore Show] never even imagined."

TAP FOR GALLERY Mary passed away on Wednesday, aged 80.

For Oprah fans, it should come as no surprise that the talk show host feels passionately about the late star. Many will recall the moment in 1997 when Mary surprised the television host live on-air and the result was tears and a powerful discussion about women's rights.

Mary appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show in 1997. Photo: © Harpo, Inc./George Burns

CELEBRITIES PAY TRIBUTE TO MARY TYLER MOORE

Wrapping up her interview with ET, Oprah remembered their meeting fondly.

“The moment she surprised me on that show was a life-changing moment for many reasons. First of all, it’s the time I coined the ugly cry. And I went into double, triple overtime. After that I said, ‘Never again!’ I called all my producers together -- and that was in 1997 -- I said, ‘Never again will I be surprised on the show, and if I’m ever surprised on the show, it will cost whoever produced that show their job.’ Because I could not speak, hear or think!”

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