Born in 1954 as Orpah Gail Winfrey to a non-wed teenage mother but whose name was subsequently changed due to continuous mispronunciation thereof to Oprah Gail Winfrey, in Mississippi, and known as one of the richest, most famous and influential women today, Oprah Winfrey did not experience a great start in life.
Her childhood was marked by poverty, various moves (she initially lived with her mother, later on with her maternal grandmother and subsequently to the man she considers her father, Vernon Winfrey, in Tennessee), sexual abuse (which led to the birth of her only son at the age of 14 – he died prematurely), until she landed a job as a radio host as a news anchor on the local black radio station WVOL after winning the Miss Black Tennessee beauty pageant at the age of 17 and worked there during her senior year in high school and throughout college.
After working at various radio stations, she moved to Chicago where she became the host of a rather unpopular morning talk show, AM Chicago, which became hugely popular within months of her taking over, even beating the then very popular talk show Donahue.
She signed a syndication deal with King World for what would later become known as The Oprah Winfrey Show which remained on air for 25 years and beat the previously first-ranked talk show, Donahue. Her talk shows reinvented the format of the so-called tabloid talk show.
She also ventured into the world of film and TV acting and producing – in 1986, she was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role as Sofia in The Color Purple. In 2011, she launched her own network, OWN (The Oprah Winfrey Network). She is known for her philanthropic work, especially for her academy for girls in South Africa for which she also holds a class via satellite.
Between the years 2004 and 2006, she was ranked as the only black billionaire on the Forbes 400 and became the first female black multi-billionaire in 2003. She is also regarded as the richest African American in the US in the 20th century and was the highest paid TV entertainer in 2006 (for making 260 million US dollars). She is the first black woman to have beaten the previously predominantly white male world of talk show anchors and remains one of the most influential people in the world.
Did you know:
- She was initially called Orpah after a biblical figure in the Book of Ruth on her birth certificate which was changed because her name got frequently mispronounced;
- That her matrilineal line is shown to have originated from today’s Liberia;
- That she used to be called “The Preacher” at her grandmother’s local church that her ancestor used to take her to while she stayed with her because of her ability to recite Bible verses like no other;
- That she credits her grandmother with promoting her public speaking talent and helping her become one of the most popular TV anchors to this day;
- That her grandmother said that she always knew Oprah would be a public speaker one day because she always loved to be on stage and even interviewed her corncob doll and crows on the fence of the family’s property;
- That she considers Maya Angelou her mentor and “mother-sister friend”?
Most Inspiring Oprah Winfrey Quotes
“When you undervalue what you do, the world will undervalue who you are.”
“Doing the best at this moment puts you in the best place for the next moment.”
“Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more.
If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.”
“Turn your wounds into wisdom.”
“You can have it all. Just not all at once.”
“Real integrity is doing the right thing,
knowing that nobody’s going to know whether you did it or not.”
“One of the hardest things in life to learn are which bridges
to cross and which bridges to burn.”
“Challenges are gifts that force us to search for a new centre of gravity.
Don’t fight them. Just find a new way to stand.”
“The thing you fear most has no power.
Your fear of it is what has the power. Facing the truth really will set you free.”
“Surround yourself only with people who are going to take you higher.”
“True forgiveness is when you can say,
“Thank you for that experience.”
“You don’t become what you want,
you become what you believe.”
“The great courageous act that we must all do,
is to have the courage to step out of our history
and past so that we can live our dreams.”
“Everyone wants to ride with you in the limo,
but what you want is someone
who will take the bus with you when
the limo breaks down.”
“Do the one thing you think you cannot do
Fail at it. Try again. Do better the second time.
The only people who never tumble
are those who never mount the high wire.”
“You get in life what you have the courage to ask for.”
The more you praise and celebrate your life,
the more there is in life to celebrate.”
“I trust that everything happens for a reason,
even when we’re not wise enough to see it.”
“Everybody has a calling.
And your real job in life is to figure out
as soon as possible what that is,
who you were meant to be,
and to begin to honour that in the best way possible for yourself.”
“The key to realizing a dream is to focus
not on success but on significance
and then even the small steps and little
victories along your path will take on greater meaning.”
“The biggest adventure you can ever take is to live the life of your dreams.”
“Self-esteem comes from being able to define the world
in your own terms and refusing to abide by the judgments of others.”
“Forgiveness is giving up the hope
that the past could have been any different.”
“Breathe. Let go. And remind yourself that this very moment
is the only one you know you have for sure.”
“Opportunity may knock only once
but temptation leans on the doorbell.”
“Luck is a matter of preparation meeting opportunity.”