Oprah Winfrey is an American media mogul, talk show host, actress, producer, author, and philanthropist.
Dubbed the ‘Queen of All Media’ Oprah Winfrey is the richest African-American and the only black woman to feature on the Forbes list of the 400 richest people in America. She is admired as one of the most powerful and influential women in the world.
Above all, Oprah is an inspiration and perfect role model for any women in the world. She is well known for her openness, passion, determination and a strong sense of self.
However, this legendary success, fame, power and wealth she has today did not come easy for her. She rose from extreme poverty and overcame a tumultuous childhood filled with pain and struggles.
Let’s look at the inspiring life of Oprah Winfrey who always believed she can do it, and so she did it.
OPRAH WINFREY – FROM BEING RAPED AT 9 TO A BILLIONAIRE
EARLY LIFE OF OPRAH
Oprah Winfrey was born on January 29, 1954, in Kosciusko, Mississippi, United States. She was born to an unmarried young couple Vernita Lee and Vernon Winfrey.
Her mother worked as a housemaid while her father served as a soldier stationed at a nearby local base.
She was originally named as ‘Orpah’, after a character in the Biblical Book of Ruth. However, most of the people mispronounced it as ‘Oprah’. Eventually, even her family and friends started calling her Oprah.
Oprah’s parents separated soon after her birth and she was left in the care of her maternal grandmother, Hattie Mae Lee.
Oprah’s grandmother raised her on a farm with extreme poverty. Her grandmother was so poor that Oprah often wore dresses made of potato sacks, for which she was mocked at school.
Her only friends were farm animals. She had a very innovative mind even at the young age. She gave them dramatic parts in the plays she made and included them in games.
Life on the farm was very terrible without running water. As a young child, Oprah used to do a lot of chores which includes getting water from the well each day and carrying it up to the house.
OPRAH – THE ‘LITTLE PREACHER’
Grandmother Hattie thought her to read and write at very young age.
By the age of 3, Oprah was reciting poems and Bible Verses in local churches which earned her the nickname ‘The Preacher’. The church community and the entire neighborhood cherished her as a gifted child.
Oprah’s grandmother was very religious which she instilled to Oprah as well.
Every Sunday Oprah would dress up in her best of clothes and go to the Buffalo United Methodist Church, with her grandmother. In fact, the church was a very important part of her life, as she grew up.
Hattie was a very strict grandmother who used to beat Oprah with a stick when she misbehaved or did not do the assigned chores.
On reminiscing one such beating which has stuck out vividly in her mind, Oprah Winfrey said,
I went to a well to get some water and carry it in a bucket. And I was playing in the water with my fingers, and my grandmother had seen me out the window and she didn’t like it.
She whipped me so badly that I had welts on my back and the welts would bleed. And then when I put on my Sunday dress, I was bleeding from the welts. And then she was very upset with me because I got blood on the dress. So then I got another whipping for getting blood on the dress.
Oprah joined Kindergarten at the age of five.
As she already knew to read and write, she herself wrote a letter to her teacher on the first day of school saying she belonged in the first grade. Little Oprah’s talent surprised her teacher and she moved her straight to the first grade.
After finishing her first grade, Oprah was promoted directly to the third grade as she had high potential.
LIFE IN MILWAUKEE
Winfrey’s disciplined and cultured life became miserable when she moved to her mother’s home in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1960 (at the age of 6).
As a housemaid, her mother spent her all day out working and had no time for little Winfrey.
Being left alone in the inner-city apartment, Oprah became a prey for her relatives and family friends who repeatedly raped and molested her.
Oprah Winfrey was first raped at the age of nine by her 19-year-old cousin while babysitting her stepsister. Later, he took her out for an ice cream shop with blood still running down her leg and told her to keep it a secret.
It did not end here. Oprah was again raped by her uncle and a family friend.
Despite all the pain, Oprah did not tell a single soul about this for years. She was emotionally very devastated.
Due to the lack of mother’s affection and constant sexual abuse, Winfrey became a bit of a wild girl and became addicted to drugs.
Having had enough, Winfrey tried to run away from home at the age of 13. She was sent to juvenile detention center but luckily escaped as all the beds were filled.
At the age of 14, she became pregnant. She hid her pregnancy until the day baby was born. Unfortunately, the baby was born prematurely and died shortly after birth.
OPRAH TURNING DISCIPLINED UNDER HER FATHER
As she misbehaved and ran away from home, her mother sent her to Nashville, Tennessee to be put under strict rules of her father.
Her father taught her to be a disciplined person and made education her priority. Oprah flourished into a beautiful person under her father and stepmother Zelma’s guidance. As Zelma had no children due many miscarriages she was happy to accept Oprah.
Winfrey was given a new set of rules and tasks to do daily.
She had to read a book and prepare a report on it every week and memorize five new vocabulary words daily. If she failed to do it, she would not be given any food for that respective day.
Oprah took education seriously and managed to become an honors student, winning a host of school awards.
She joined the drama club, forensics club, student council, and was voted the most popular student at East Nashville High School.
She won the Open Speech Competition at the local Elks club which secured her a full scholarship to Tennessee State University.
In 1971, the university chose Oprah Winfrey as one of two students in the state to go to the White House Conference on Youth where she met President Nixon.
THE CAREER LIFE
During the final year of her high school, Oprah Winfrey won the Miss Fire Prevention beauty pageant which got her a chance to work at the local radio station, WVOL.
Here, she received a part-time job to read news on the radio.
After completing high school, Oprah joined Tennessee State University as she had won a full college scholarship. During her first year, Winfrey was crowned Miss Black Tennessee followed by Miss Black Nashville.
Meanwhile, she continued to work at the radio station after her college hours.
The Nashville Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) saw one of her radio sessions and was impressed by her talent.
Oprah who was just 19 then, received a job offer as a co-anchor on a CBS television station.
Initially, Oprah turned down the offer few times, but later her speech professor convinced her that it was a great opportunity to launch her career.
Oprah became the youngest, and the first African-American woman to anchor the news at Nashville’s WLAC-TV.
In 1976, Winfrey moved to Baltimore, Maryland to co-anchor 6 ‘o’ clock news with WJZ-TV. However, her performance didn’t go well as she became too emotional while reporting the news.
As a result, she was fired from news division and was asked to become a co-host of its local talk show, People Are Talking in 1978. The show became a hit with excellent ratings. As a result, Oprah hosted the show for the next seven years and won many hearts with her anchoring.
In 1983, Winfrey relocated to Chicago to host a low-rated morning talk show AM Chicago. The show received a tremendous response and become extremely successful.
Within a short while, Oprah turned AM Chicago from the lowest-rated talk show to the highest-rated one in Chicago.
Her natural charisma, unique compelling style, and her fun personality encouraged guests on her show to talk.
THE OPRAH WINFREY SHOW
Within a year, the show was expanded to one hour and renamed as The Oprah Winfrey Show that addressed human issues, from family disputes to racism.
The show broke all the records and went on to become the highest-rated talk show in American television history, running for 25 years from 1986 to 2011.
Meanwhile, Winfrey made her first Hollywood debut in the film The Colour Purple Produced by Steven Spielberg in 1985. The movie became hit and Oprah’s popularity increased further.
Oprah played a role of a troubled housewife named Sofia. The character received an Oscar (Academy Award) nomination for the Best Supporting Actress.
By the end of the first year, The Oprah Winfrey Show grossed $125 million, with Oprah receiving $30 million of it.
HARPO PRODUCTIONS, TURNING BILLIONAIRE AND RELATIONSHIP
In 1988, Winfrey established her own production company named Harpo (‘Oprah’ spelled backward).
She soon gained ownership of The Oprah Winfrey Show from ABC to be under her new production company.
Oprah became the third woman in the American entertainment industry (after Mary Pickford and Lucille Ball) to own her own network studio.
Within just five years of Harpo Studios launch, Oprah’s personal income amounted to whopping $98 million as per the reports of Forbes Magazine in 1993.
Not stopping there, Winfrey started producing films, TV series and plays. She launched her own radio channel, Oprah Radio which focuses on various topics like uplifting stories, current events, self-improvement, health, and fitness.
Going further, she created an on-air book club in 1996, and published her own magazine own magazine, “O, The Oprah Magazine” and “O At Home”.
Oprah continued to act occasionally after her first debut and appeared in movies like Women of Brewster Place (1989), Beloved (1998), Before woman had wings (1997), Their eyes were watching god(2005), The Butler(2013) and Selma (2014), A Wrinkle in Time (2018).
Oprah not only acted in movies but also voiced for many characters. She voiced for Gussie the goose character in Charlotte’s Web (2006), voiced Judge Bumbleton in Bee Movie (2007), voiced for Eudora’s (the mother of Princess Tiana) character in Disney’s The Princess and the Frog (2009) and narrated the US version of the BBC nature program Life for Discovery in 2010.
THE OPRAH WINFREY SHOW – FINAL EPISODE
As mentioned above, the show aired for 25 years where Oprah Winfrey interviewed and hosted a number of famous personalities and stars like Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, Michael Jackson (who very rarely agreed to socialize with the press), the founder of Microsoft Bill Gates, CEO of Facebook Mark Zuckerberg and many more.
With the success of The Oprah Winfrey Show, Winfrey became the richest African-American of the 20th century and the world’s only Black billionaire for three years running.
The final episode of her show was aired on May 25, 2011.
Unlike other episodes, the show didn’t have any guest on that day. The Queen of the talk offered a small speech and thanked all her staff for their longstanding work and loyalty.
I won’t say goodbye. I’ll just say…until we meet again
Winfrey has been in a relationship with Stedman Graham, a public relations executive, since the mid-1980s. They became engaged in 1992 but never tied the knot.
Apart from being a TV host, and producer, Oprah is also known for her other works. Oprah Winfrey is the co-founder of cable television network, Oxygen Media. Further, she partnered with Discovery Communications to launch her own TV network called the Oprah Winfrey Network in 2009.
WINFREY ‘THE PHILANTHROPIST’
Winfrey is not only a great host but also a great philanthropist. She has donated millions of dollars to charities and for organizations supporting children.
Oprah Winfrey also started two charitable organizations herself named Oprah’s Angel Network and A Better Chance.
Oprah’s Angel Network raised more than $80 million for charitable programs which focus on child’s education, woman’s shelter, and scholarships. Notably, it donated $10 million relief to the victims of Hurricane Katrina.
In 2005, being 235th richest American, she was regarded as the 32nd most philanthropist person in the world.
AWARDS AND RECOGNITIONS
Oprah received numerous honors and prestigious awards for her accomplishments and always had a positive influence on people.
Altogether, Winfrey and her “The Oprah Winfrey Show” has received a total of 16 Daytime Emmy Awards for Outstanding Talk Show Host (1987, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995 and 1998), Outstanding Talk Show (1987, 1988, 1989, 1991-1992, 1994-1996 and 1997) and one for her work as supervising producer of the ABC Afterschool Special: Shades of a Single Protein.
Winfrey was also presented with two honorary awards.
In November 2013, Winfrey received the nation’s highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom. President Barack Obama gave her this award for her contributions to her country.
In 2018, Winfrey received 2018 Golden Globes’ Cecil B. DeMille Award, and became the first black woman to win prestigious Golden Globes awards -which is given “to a talented individual for outstanding contributions to the world of entertainment.”
According to Forbes annual list of the world’s billionaires 2018, Winfrey’s net worth amounts to $2.7 billion.
Despite her enormous wealth and popularity, Oprah remains as a humble and down-to-earth person forevermore.
Oprah Winfrey is not just a famous personality, she is an inspiration who proves that you can get whatever you want if you are willing to work towards it.
OPRAH WINFREY QUOTES
Winfrey’s life is full of inspiration and motivation for those who hide behind life’s hurdles.
Here are 28 best quotes from Oprah Winfrey that will help your inner-self start working towards your dreams.
Here is my personal favorite quote from Oprah Winfrey.