What we know about Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson's longstanding friendship with Oprah Winfrey, leading up to their controversial fundraiser

Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson and Oprah Winfrey in a composite image.
Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson and Oprah Winfrey have been friends for numerous years.AP Photo
  • Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson and Oprah Winfrey have been friends for many years.

  • The pair have participated in multiple public events together, including a Super Bowl commercial.

  • They faced recent backlash when they asked people to donate to their Maui wildfire fund.

Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson and Oprah Winfrey have been friends for years, with the former even saying Winfrey is like a sister to him.

While they have kept their relationship mostly private, they have worked together on numerous ventures including appearing in a Super Bowl commercial.

Recently, the pair received backlash for setting up a relief fund to help local residents who were affected by wildfires in Maui, Hawaii, with fans arguing that they should request money from other rich celebrities instead of asking the public to donate.

Here's what we know about their friendship.

In November 2015, Dwayne Johnson appeared on Winfrey's "Master Class."

Dwayne Johnson in a green shirt
Johnson opened up about his personal life on Winfrey's show.Pablo Cuadra/WireImage/Getty

The first public interaction between Johnson and Winfrey appears to have been when Johnson opened up about his career and history with depression on "Oprah's Master Class," a TV show in which celebrities shared their stories of success.

In 2015, Johnson appeared on the fourth episode of season five of the TV show.

The Los Angeles Times reported that he said, "I found that, with depression, one of the most important things you could realize is that you're not alone. You're not the first to go through it; you're not going to be the last to go through it."

Although Johnson was on Winfrey's show, she did not directly interview him for the episode.

In January 2020, Johnson appeared on Winfrey's live show.

Their next public interaction was in January 2020, when Johnson was interviewed by Winfrey on the Georgia stop of her live event series Vision Tour.

He was there to promote his new alcohol brand Teremana Tequila, and the pair later made a toast on stage with this drink. Johnson was also asked about his career, fatherhood, and his late father Rocky Johnson who died 10 days before the event.

"I had a very complicated relationship with my dad and it was really... there was a foundation of tough love with my father and wasn't a big 'I love you' guy," he said. "As complicated as it was what gave me great satisfaction at the funeral was to see he was a great friend to so many guys."

Later in the interview, Johnson and Winfrey joked about running for presidential campaign together, which many fans have expressed support for.

Winfrey said: "Did you hear that some people said you and I should run?"

Johnson then replied: "I did. I gotta tell you that ticket looks pretty good, Oprah."

Winfrey then added: "I'd be your vice any day, honey."

While Johnson is still considering running for president, Winfrey shut down the idea numerous times, telling InStyle in 2018 that she wasn't interested in running.

"I've always felt very secure and confident with myself in knowing what I could do and what I could not," Winfrey said. "And so it's not something that interests me. I don't have the DNA for it."

The pair continued to lean into the joke about running for office as part of a Super Bowl commercial.

A day after Winfrey gave an impassioned speech at the 2018 Golden Globes, after winning the Cecil B. DeMille Award to a standing ovation, actor Meryl Streep mentioned in an interview on Jimmy Kimmel Live that it felt like Winfrey had "launched her presidential campaign" and joked Johnson would make a fitting running mate if she ever made a bid.

Two years later, in February 2020, Winfrey and Johnson could be seen in a video posted to both their Instagram accounts walking down a corridor while embracing , then running on parallel treadmills, with a caption that teased an upcoming project: "WINFREY JOHNSON 02.02.20. Tune in to the pre-game kick off!"

The end result turned out to be a commercial played at the Super Bowl which showed the pair jogging side by side, leaning into the election joke as Johnson said, since they were running, and they were mates, they could be running mates.

"I'm in. You in?" Winfrey said, before they fist bumped and the video cut to an end screen that invited people to join a campaign, but nor a political one — the campaign was for WW (formerly WeightWatchers), where Winfrey was a shareholder, board member, and spokesperson, USA Today reported.

Johnson reflected on his relationship with Winfrey in a video interview and said she was like a "big sister" to him.

In a YouTube video posted in September 2020, Johnson spoke with his friend and colleague Hiram Garcia to promote the publication of his book "The Rock: Through the Lens," which featured a photographic record of the Hollywood star, captured by Garcia.

In a section of the video interview between the two, Johnson recounted his experience chatting with Winfrey on the 2020 Vision Tour and their backstage moments which led to the Super Bowl commercial they featured in together, and their general relationship.

"She's one of my favorite human beings, and someone who I consider family," Johnson said in the interview. "She's kind of like a big sister to me."

The video featured a clip of the duo hugging and saying they loved each other. In the interview with Garcia, Johnson went on to say about his dynamic with Winfrey, "I've been an only child, so it's been very special, our relationship."

The duo announced a fund to help Hawaiian residents affected by recent wildfires, but viewers were critical of their approach.

On August 31, Johnson and Winfrey appeared together in a video shared on Instagram and their TikTok accounts announcing the People's Fund of Maui, which aimed to help raise funds for local Hawaiian residents who had been impacted by the wildfires that swept through the area earlier that month, Insider previously reported.

A lengthy caption alongside the Instagram post shared to Winfrey's account read they had personally contributed $10 million towards the fundraiser.

In the upload, the duo appealed to viewers for further donations, but the video was met with sizable backlash as people questioned why the celebrity pair couldn't draw more money from their own substantial wealth, instead of putting out a call to ordinary, working people who may have their own financial issues.

Neither appeared to publicly comment on the controversy, but Winfrey posted an update on September 2 thanking the 10,000 people who she said had made contributions towards the fund.

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