11/13/2011 at 11:10 AM EST
has a new favorite thing: Oscar.
In an emotional evening that saw Winfrey wiping away tears and leaning heavily on longtime partner Stedman Graham, the former talk show host accepted the Academy of Motion Picture's Arts & Science's Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award
, given periodically for philanthropic efforts.
"I never imagined receiving an Oscar, especially for doing what is part of my calling, part of my being," said Winfrey
, 57, who gave an Oscar-nominated performance in 1985's The Color Purple
and was a producer on the films Beloved
"If you are not a former colored girl born in Mississippi in 1954," she said, "it is impossible for you to know what this journey has meant."
On hand for the event were such friends of Oprah as Tyler Perry, Sidney Poitier, Gayle King, John Travolta and Maria Shriver
, who helped present the award to her former WJZ Baltimore colleague.
"We found each other through our shared struggles, our shared dreams, and our unconditional belief in who the other wanted to be," said Shriver.
Also receiving Oscars Saturday night at the third annual Governors Awards held at the Grand Ballroom at Hollywood & Highland, above the Kodak Theatre, were James Earl Jones, who accepted his from the stage in London, where he is performing in Driving Miss Daisy
, and makeup guru Dick Smith, who created groundbreaking effects in movies such as The Exorcist
and The Godfather