HOW A YOUNG BLACK WOMAN BORN IN POVERTY BECAME ONE OF THE MOST INFLUENTIAL PEOPLE IN THE WORLD
We all know that this woman is one of the most popular celebrities on the planet currently. She is known for taking hugely insightful interviews of influential people in the whole world. She is a renowned American television host and philanthropist. This lady is best known for her award-winning show ‘The Oprah Winfrey Show’. She is also a fearless campaigner for women and black people’s rights.
But, beneath all this success, we forget the incredible struggles she has gone through. She was molested at the age of 9.
Her family was so poor that she wore vegetable sacks as clothing. Her mother was an unmarried teenager who had to bear the burden of motherhood at a very early age. Oprah is definite proof that struggles are not bigger than our passion to overcome them.
Oprah Gail Winfrey was born on January 29, 1954, to an unwed teenage mother in rural poverty. Her initial childhood days were spent on her grandmother’s farm in Kosciusko, Mississippi. Despite all the hardships of her physical environment, she enjoyed the loving support of her grandmother. She visited the church with her. At the age of 3, she recited poems and Bible verses in local churches.
When the financial condition of her mother stabled, she called Oprah back with her. There she became a victim of child abuse at the age of 9. She was emotionally devastated. She went to Nashville, Tennessee to live with her father. Her father was a strict disciplinarian who made it a point to secure his daughters life.
This lonely child found her solace in books. Her intelligence was rewarded by a 7th-grade teacher, who got her a scholarship to a better school. She flourished in this environment and won prizes for oratory and dramatic recitation. Her talent for public performance and spontaneity in answering questions helped her win beauty contests and get the first taste of public attention.
At the age of 17, she secured the Miss Black Tennessee crown, which opened the doors for an on-air job, at WVOL, a radio station serving the African American community. While continuing her job, she left her studies after her very first year in college. She found her medium and signed a deal as a reporter and anchor in a local television station.
In 1984, Orpah moved to be the host of a talk show A.M. which later became ‘The Oprah Winfrey Show’.
The show was broadcasted in 1986 and soon became the nation’s top-rated talk show. She was just 32 when she launched her show. It had its placement on 120 channels with an audience of 10 million people. By the end of the very first year, the show grossed USD 125 million and she garnered USD 30 million, making her a millionaire.
This led her to the ownership of the program from ABC, which helped her take control of her new production company, Harpo Productions. Today, Harpo is a formidable force in film and television production, as well as magazine publishing and the internet.
In 1987, the show received 3 Daytime Emmy awards in the categories of Outstanding host, outstanding talk/ service program and outstanding direction. In the following year, Winfrey became the youngest person to receive the international radio and television society’s “broadcaster of the year” award.
From 2006 to 2008, her support for Barack Obama delivered him over a million votes in the close 2008 democratic primary race. Also, her interview with the controversial entertainer Michael Jackson drew 100 million views, making it the most-watched interview in television history.
Another venture the ‘Oprah Book Club’, started 15 years ago, championed 65 titles and has 2 million members. In one of her shows, Winfrey gifted a car to all the 276 members of the audience. In 2000, Oprah’s angel network began presenting a USD 100,000 “Use your life award “ to people who served as a beacon to improve the lives of others.
In 2009, she announced the end to her popular talk show after a successful run of 25 years. Next few years she focused on her cable channel OWN (Oprah Winfrey Network), launched in 2011.
Along with her financial success, her other achievements are also astounding. She was included in the list of “100 most influential people of the 20th century” by time magazine. In 1998, she received a lifetime achievement award from the national academy of television arts and sciences.
Winfrey’s wealth has been measured in many superlatives: the highest-paid performer on television, the richest self-made women in America, and the richest African- American of the 20th century.
Because of her historical figure, the University of Illinois created the course “History 298: Oprah Winfrey, the Tycoon”. According to Forbes, in 2010 Winfrey was worth over USD 2.7 billion becoming America's richest self-made women. Her principal home is in Montecito, California on a 42-acre ocean view estate. She also owns homes in six other states and the island of Antigua.
The last episode of her show was conducted on May 25, 2011, with simplicity and as a no frills show. It was taped before an audience of 400 and the main focus was kept on what the audience meant to her.
Her last words on the show were, “It is no coincidence a lonely little girl who felt not a lot of love, even though my parents and grandparents did the best they could….it is no coincidence that I grew up to feel the genuine kindness, affection, trust and validation from millions of you, all over the world.”
In 2017, unstoppable Winfrey launched O That’s good, a line of prepared foods with a nutritious twist. This includes pizzas, soups, and sides like mashed potatoes and pasta.
Still, at the age of 65, Winfrey stands as a beacon, not only in the world of media and entertainment but also as an inspiration to millions of struggling people.
She is the living example of the phrase, “faith moves the mountains”.