How her box office flop Beloved led her to look for a new home with a specific vision

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Annie Leibovitz/Vogue
| Credit: Annie Leibovitz/Vogue

Oprah's 65-acre California estate is truly heavenly, but it's filled with references to a much darker time and place.

The TV mogul began looking for a Southern plantation to call home shortly after the release of her 1998 movie Beloved, she tells Vogue in the September issue. The film, which is based on the novel by Toni Morrison and tells the story of a runaway slave, was a box office flop, Oprah notes, but it did have a profound effect on her house hunt.

The property she fell in love with is actually in Southern California, far from the film's setting, but it maintains the feeling of one of the historic estates. It's also a symbolic purchase for Oprah, who was born in Kosciusko, Mississippi, in 1954.

"I was calling it Tara II," she says, referencing the famous plantation in Gone with the Wind, but her friend and fitness guru Bob Greene convinced her to change it. "'You need a better name,'" she recalls him telling her. "'The fact that you are an African-American woman from Mississippi and you get to have this . . . it's deep.' So I go, 'Yeah! It's like a dream.' And he's like, 'Yeah! It's a promise! It's the Promised Land!' So I feel that every day."

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The biblical allusions don't end there for the sprawling retreat, which started as 42 acres purchased in 2001 and was expanded with another 23 last year. There's also Hallelujah Lane, a path that leads to a grouping of a dozen Live Oak trees dubbed the Twelve Apostles, which is one of the star's favorite spots to read. A sizable pond with a fountain, a tea house and a formal rose garden can also be found on the plot.

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Credit: Annie Leibovitz/Vogue

Vogue's tour continues inside Oprah's neo-Georgian mansion, where she keeps drawings by Nelson Mandela — "He gave them personally to me," she says — and what she calls "the prize of my life," first editions of every Pulitzer prize–winning book.

Two more piece in the house allude to the theme of plantation life: "When I was shooting Beloved, I actually had this in the trailer with me. They are the names of slaves—their ages, their prices," she says of a framed piece of parchment hanging in the study. The other is a pre-Civil War painting of a mother and daughter being separated and sold at auction. It's "not the quote-unquote best painting in the house," she says, "but my favorite painting in the house."

Read the full feature on Vogue.com.