The stars came out to honour Oprah Winfrey in a pair of spectacular farewell shows taped in front of 13,000 ecstatic fans on Tuesday as the talk show queen wraps up her 25th and final season.

Tom Hanks served as host and cheerleader for the evening, telling Ms Winfrey: “Tonight you are surrounded by nothing but love” and thanking “a friend who had a classroom of millions” for everything she’s done for her viewers.

Much was said about Ms Winfrey’s charity work, but even more was said about how she inspired her fans to lead better lives and help others.

“It’s no secret that millions of people are inspired by Oprah,” a gushing Madonna told the crowd.

“She’s a self-made woman who’s been at the top of her game for over 25 years and she is still going strong and encouraging people to dream big, to work hard, to read a book, to ask questions, to get an education no matter who you are or where you come from.”

The two shows – which will air on Monday and Tuesday ahead of the final episode on Wednesday – were filled with surprises for Ms Winfrey, who was brought to tears again and again.

Ms Winfrey could do little more than shout “MJ is in the house!” when Chicago Bulls basketball legend Michael Jordan returned to Chicago’s United Centre arena to join her on stage.

She was also overwhelmed when Jaime Foxx serenaded her with “Isn’t she lovely” and Stevie Wonder rose up from under the stage at the keys of a grand piano with a new song he’d written for her.

And she sat stunned as esteemed poet and personal mentor Maya Angelou told the story of Ms Winfrey’s life while Alicia Keys accompanied her on the piano.

“I’m just trying to stay inside my body, girls,” Ms Winfrey told her friends Gayle King and Maria Shriver as the tribute-filled show approached its emotional conclusion.

Dakota Fanning led a group of young “ultimate viewers” – including one who thanked Winfrey for helping to “lift the shame of being abused and taught me it wasn’t my fault”.

“We call ourselves Oprah show babies. Your voice has been the soundtrack of our lives,” Ms Fanning said.

“We’ve learned from the Oprah show that we are enough. That we matter, that our lives are of value.”

Beyonce stunned the crowd with a rousing performance of her female empowerment anthem Run the World (Girls).

“Oprah, because of you, women everywhere have graduated to a new level of understanding of what we are, of who we are, and most importantly, who we can be,” Beyonce said before launching into the set.

Jerry Seinfeld got the audience laughing by thanking Ms Winfrey for teaching men how to be better husbands and how to survive disagreements by learning to talk as if they’re on Oprah: “Just listen, nod and answer the question.”

Will Smith hosted the second show with his wife Jada Pinkett Smith, who told Ms Winfrey that, while she doesn’t have children of her own, “you have mothered millions” and “that puts you in the status of a goddess”.

Aretha Franklin, Usher, Josh Groban, Patti LaBell Rascal Flatts and Broadway star Kristin Chenoweth also put in rousing performances. Halle Barry, Katie Holmes and Queen Latifah were among the stars to pay tribute.

Ms Winfrey’s devoted fans may be losing a beloved afternoon companion, but they certainly won’t have to say goodbye.

The cultural kingmaker – whose comfy couches have launched scores of careers from Dr Phil to the inventors of her “favourite things” – expanded her media empire on January 1 with the high-stakes launch of her OWN cable network.

The first national episode of the Oprah Winfrey Show aired on ABC on September 8, 1986, and Wednesday’s finale will be episode number 4,561. An estimated 40 million Americans watch the show each week, which is distributed in 150 countries.

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