Oprah Winfrey was born on January 29, 1954 in Kosciusko, Mississippi, to an unmarried teenage mother named Vernita Lee. After Oprah was born her mother traveled north to live with her grandmother for six years. During Oprah’s early years she was made fun of for being so poor, however she was very smart and was able to learn to read before the age of three. Oprah also had a high level lever of talent at public speaking. She was even nicknamed “the preacher” at her local church because of her abilities to recite bible verses. While living with her grandmother, Oprah was very harshly disciplined and was whipped with a stick when she misbehaved or did not do what she was supposed to do.
At the age of six, Oprah moved with her mother to the inner city of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Her mother worked extremely long hours, making it difficult for her to spend much time with Oprah. Besides her long work hours, Oprah’s mother had a second daughter while living in Milwaukee. Because she was having a difficult time raising both daughters, she sent Oprah to live with her father (Vernon Winfrey) down in Nashville, Tennessee.
While Oprah was living in Tennessee, Oprah’s mother gave birth to a third daughter whom Oprah didn’t know about until 2010. Her mother also gave birth to a boy who ended up passing away from AIDS-related causes in 1989.
When Oprah was nine years old, she was molested by her cousin, uncle and a family friend. The family did not want to accept that this happened, and at the age of 13 Oprah ran away from home to get away from the abuse. At the age of fourteen, Oprah became pregnant with a son who was born prematurely and died shortly after being born. Although Oprah wanted this story to remain private, in 1990, a family member betrayed her trust and sold the story about her son to the National Enquirer.
Oprah started her high school career at Lincoln High School where she entered the Upward Bound Program, a program established to provide certain categories of high school students better opportunities for attending college. Due to her success in this program, she was transferred to a suburban high school where the students came from well-to-do homes. The students at this school constantly made fun of her poverty. Oprah tried to fit in with her peers by stealing money from her mother. When her mother realized what she was doing, she shipped her off again to live with her father in Nashville.
Oprah’s father was strict as well as encouraging and he emphasized Oprah’s education. Living with her father Oprah, started to flourish in high school. She joined the speech team where she finished second in the country in dramatic interpretation. Oprah was an honors student and was voted the most popular girl in school. Oprah’s success in high school earned her a full-ride scholarship to Tennessee State University.
Once Oprah graduated from Tennessee State, she became the first black female news anchor at Nashville’s WLAC-TV. In 1983, Oprah became the host of a low-rated morning talk show, and after a few months with her as the host the show went from last to first in ratings.
Movie Critic Rodger Ebert was impressed by this and persuaded her to sign a syndication deal with King World. Ebert predicted that Oprah would do much better than his current show “At the Movies.” When Oprah agreed to the deal, the show was renamed “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” and the show was expanded to a full hour. In September 1986, the show began broadcasting nationally. The syndicated show brought in twice the audience size of her closest competition. Originally, “The Oprah Winfrey Show” was classified as a tabloid talk show. She eventually got into much deeper topics and get away from the shallow tabloid stories.
With the success of her TV Show, Oprah started to get into other endeavors in the entertainment industry. Oprah co-founded the network TV channel Oxygen. She is also the president of Harpo Productions, which is Oprah spelled backwards. Winfrey also signed a deal with Discovery Communications, and they announced plans to change the Discovery Health Channel to OWN- Oprah Winfrey Network.
The last Oprah Winfrey Show aired on May 25, 2011. The show was a massive success. The Oprah Winfrey Show last 25 seasons with 4,561 episodes, and to this day it remains the highest rated talk show in American television history. The Show received 47 Day Time Emmy awards and in 2013 TV guide rated it the 19th greatest show of all time.
Since her show went off the air in 2011, Oprah has still maintained a very successful career. She has continued to maintain her occasional roles in film and producing. She appeared in Stephen Spielberg’s, “The Color Purple,” and received an Academy Award nomination for best supporting actress. She was the voice of Gussie the Goose in “Charlotte’s Web,” and the voice of Judge Bumbleden in “The Bee Movie.”
Oprah was born into poverty, but worked her way to being a millionaire by the age of 32, when her talk show received national syndication. At the age of 41, Oprah’s net worth grew to 340 million dollars, and in 2000, she replaced Bill Cosby as the only African American on the Forbes with a net worth of 800 million dollars. Winfrey is believed to be the richest African American of the 21st Century.
In 2006, Winfrey became the highest paid TV entertainer, making more than 5 times Simon Cowell, the second place person. Oprah is also the world’s first female African American billionaire in world history, and as of 2014 she had a net worth of 2.9 billion dollars.
Oprah is known as the world’s most powerful woman. In 2007, USA Today ranked Oprah as the most influential woman in the country. The ladies Home Journal ranked Oprah the most powerful person in America. Also in 1998, Oprah became the first woman and African American to top entertainment weekly’s list of 101 most powerful people in the entertainment industry. Forbes named Oprah the most powerful celebrity in 2005, 2007, 2008, 2010, and 2013. Life Magazine listed Oprah as one of 100 people who changed the world.
Oprah’s opinions have a far-reaching and powerful influence on the public. This influence is so powerful that it has been given the name “The Oprah Effect.” Oprah started “Oprah’s Book Club,” a segment on her show where she recommends books to her audience. Anytime a book was introduced on the book club, it instantly became a best seller.
Oprah has always been someone that has given back to the community. In 2004, she became the first black person to be ranked as the “Most Generous.” In 2012, Oprah gave over 400 scholarships to Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia. In 2013, Oprah donated 12 million dollars to the Smithsonian’s Natural Museum of African American History. This just names a few of the several different institutions that Oprah has given to. She will always be remembered for her own talk show. However, it is her efforts as a humanitarian that have had the largest impact on people.