Sherri Shepherd Recalls Her First Phone Call from Oprah Winfrey: 'I Almost Passed Out'

THE VIEW - The cast of Lee Daniels' "The Butler" featuring stars Oprah Winfrey, Forest Whitaker, Cuba Gooding Jr., Lenny Kravitz and David Oyelowo, appears on Walt Disney Television via Getty Images's "The View," Friday, August 16, 2013. "The View" airs Monday-Friday (11:00 am-12:00 noon, ET) on the Walt Disney Television via Getty Images Television Network. (Photo by Lou Rocco/Disney General Entertainment Content via Getty Images) SHERRI SHEPHERD, OPRAH WINFREY
THE VIEW - The cast of Lee Daniels' "The Butler" featuring stars Oprah Winfrey, Forest Whitaker, Cuba Gooding Jr., Lenny Kravitz and David Oyelowo, appears on Walt Disney Television via Getty Images's "The View," Friday, August 16, 2013. "The View" airs Monday-Friday (11:00 am-12:00 noon, ET) on the Walt Disney Television via Getty Images Television Network. (Photo by Lou Rocco/Disney General Entertainment Content via Getty Images) SHERRI SHEPHERD, OPRAH WINFREY

Lou Rocco/Disney General Entertainment/Getty

As the old adage goes, Oprah Winfrey walked so Sherri Shepherd could run. Well, maybe the saying doesn't go exactly like that, but the idea is the same.

Winfrey, 68, who became the host of the highest-rated daytime TV talk show in history, thanks to the national syndication of The Oprah Winfrey Show in 1986, opened doors and pushed the limits of what was possible for women in media — especially Black women — some of whom who perhaps one day would want to do what Winfrey did.

Today, the Emmy winner is a media maven, having branched out beyond television into the world of film, books, theater, radio and philanthropy, to name just a few areas she's touched. She's one of the richest women in America, and shortly before The Oprah Winfrey Show ended in 2011 after 25 seasons, she literally founded her OWN television network (the Oprah Winfrey Network).

RELATED: Sherri Shepherd 'Took 15 Pages of Notes' from Oprah Winfrey About Her New Daytime Show

Shepherd, 55, is one of the many women who looks to Winfrey for inspiration. But for Shepherd, the connection is also personal, as she herself is not only an actor, comedian and best-selling author, but she's also a Daytime Emmy Award-winning host, too, having gone from co-hosting The View from 2007 to 2014 to hosting her own daytime TV talk show, Sherri.

In an exclusive essay written for PEOPLE ahead of Black History Month, Shepherd praises Winfrey for her vanguard spirit and unending wisdom, and she even details the first time she got a call from Winfrey.

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - NOVEMBER 14: Sherri Shepherd attends Vulture Festival 2021 at The Hollywood Roosevelt on November 14, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by David Livingston/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - NOVEMBER 14: Sherri Shepherd attends Vulture Festival 2021 at The Hollywood Roosevelt on November 14, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by David Livingston/Getty Images)

David Livingston/Getty Sherri Shepherd

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Oprah is a pioneering media mogul who paved the way for women—and especially Black women—in television. The foundation she set opened the doors so that I and women who look like me could have a daytime talk show.

Every time I get to speak to her, it's a master class. I walk away with a notebook full of her gems of wisdom. I am so grateful she answers my calls (and challenges me to be greater and intentional about the energy I give my audience).

In fact, when Oprah first called me back in 2009-ish, she said, "This is Oprah Winfrey. Gayle told me you do a great impression of me."

I almost passed out.

RELATED VIDEO: Sherri Shepherd Looks Back on What She Learned from The View

We had a 40-minute conversation and laughed about everything under the sun. (And yes, I did my Lady O impression!)

She's a once-in-a-lifetime TV icon, an actress, an advocate of literature, a patron of theater and the arts, and the biggest proponent of educating young girls.

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But more than anything, Oprah Winfrey has been a champion of a better humanity, and I'm blessed to call her a friend. I don't take it for granted.