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Who is Oprah Winfrey

by Vishul Malik

Oprah Winfrey Oprah Winfrey is a role model for all the women around the world in the truest sense of the term. She has set the perfect example of a…

Oprah Winfrey

Oprah Winfrey is a role model for all the women around the world in the truest sense of the term. She has set the perfect example of a woman who despite all obstacles moved forward in life.

Oprah Winfrey

Her story is a vehicle through which millions are inspired each day. She is a lady who not only fought with the world but also fought with her own self to establish an identity of her own. Leaving behind a ghastly past and moving ahead is no easy task, but Oprah Winfrey showed how determination and hard work can pay off and how destiny can change life for the better. Her way of life became a motto to the world – Never Give Up Hope!

A TV host, media manager, writer, producer, actress and philanthropist, Oprah Winfrey is a multi-talented lady who started climbing the ladder of success and fame at a young age. She is known to the world today for her gift of the gab, for her humble and down-to-earth nature and for the innumerable charitable works she has done for people.


Early Life

Oprah Winfrey was born on 29 January 1954 in Kosciusko, Mississippi to an unmarried couple. Her granny was entrusted with the task of taking care of her and Oprah spent the initial five years of her life primitively on a farmland in Kosciusko, Mississippi. Her first tutor was none other than her granny and she was taught to recite poems, and narrate Bible verses in various local churches. She lived in absolute poverty and was regularly seen wearing dresses made from potato sacks. Though she had limited exposure to the outside world, yet she enjoyed the love and support that her grandmother showered on her. Oprah’s mother was then on the look out for a job in housekeeping.

Her life turned for the worst when she was called to live with her mother, Vernita Lee in the suburbs of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Her mother’s long working hours did not go down well with Oprah as she was neglected as a result of it. Oprah neither got the love nor the encouragement that she received from her granny. Her mother gave birth to another girl during this time. Financial strain prompted her mother to send Oprah to her father Vernon in Nashville, Tennessee but she came back to her mother soon later.

The absence of her mother’s love turned her into a woman of immoral character. She was subjected to a life of molestation and sexual abuse by her uncle, cousin and a friend at the tender age of nine. In order to seek solace from the clutches of her abusers she ran away from home. She ended up pregnant at the age of 14, though she lost her child at the time of birth. She began to take the help of lies and stole money from her mother in order to match up to the status of her friend and go on a date with boys.



During her stay with her mother she attended Lincoln High School and was later sent to Nicolet High School. Later, when she was sent to live with her father in Nashville, Tennessee, she attended East Nashville High School. Her father was rather strict when it came to her upbringing and made her education her highest priority. She once stated about her father, “As strict as he was, he had some concerns about me making the best of my life, and would not accept anything less than what he thought was for my best.”

Her days with her father changed her days ahead. She became an Honors student at East Nashville High School and gained much popularity for which she was voted the Most Popular Girl. Given her talent she became part of her High School speech team and went on to win an oratory contest, which landed her with a scholarship to Tennessee State University. She took up communication as a subject at Tennessee State University.


Job and Career

Oprah’s first job was at a local grocer. Her brush with success came when she won the Miss Black Tennessee beauty pageant at the age of 17 years. Her talent brought her to the notice of the local black radio station, WVOL and she was appointed to work for an on-air job. She started working at the radio station when she was in her senior year of high school and continued working there during the first two years of her college as well.

Her next big move was when she became the first african-american woman and the youngest news anchor at WTVF-TV in Nashville. In the year 1976, she shifted to Baltimore’s WJZ-TV where she co-anchored the news of 6 o’clock. After a period of two years, she was asked to host the program People are Talking, a talk show. She took the media by storm with her charming personality and confidence. The show went on to be a big hit. She next appeared as a host for Dialing For Dollars.

She next shifted to Chicago where she was appointed to host WLS-TV’s morning show, A.M. Chicago. It was a show that was hardly watched by the viewers. However, the ratings of the show soared from the last to the first in less than a year, all thanks to her unique ways and spontaneity. The show decided to expand the concept renaming it as The Oprah Winfrey Show. It became a one-hour show and before long, Oprah took the show to new heights, replacing it with many top-rated shows of the time. As time went by, Oprah introduced new formats and concepts into the show much to the appreciation of her audience. The show sparked its magical charm all across the world and was applauded by the people for being one of the most unique shows on television. The show went on to receive 30 Daytime Emmy Awards all through the years 1987 to 1998.


Films and Production

Along with hosting, she also got into producing and acting. A gifted actress, she went on to act in films like The Color Purple, Native Son, Throw Momma from the Train, Beloved, Listen Up: The Lives of Quincy Jones. Her acting skills were highly appreciated by her fans. For her role in The Color Purple she was an Academy Award nominee. Her love for entertainment led her to start her own production house, Harpo in 1986 (her own name spelled backwards). Through this production house she not only produced but also made appearances in shows like The Women of Brewster Place in 1989, There Are No Children Here in 1993, Before Women Had Wings in 1997, and a host of others.

Oprah experimented with an on-air book club in the year 1996. The reaction was astonishing and the show ran a span of six years uplifting the works of many lesser-known authors on the way.


Magazines, Writing and Publishing

Oprah’s next move was to join hands with the printed media industry. She published O, The Oprah Magazine and O at Home. Oprah once again garnered a huge scale of audience. So far, she has authored and co-authored five books.


The Launch of the Oprah Winfrey Network

When her contract with ABC ended in the year 2011, Oprah ventured to start her own network in collaboration with Discovery Communications. It was named Oprah Winfrey Network. She hosts a number of programs in this channel.


Personal Life

Oprah Winfrey had a number of failed relationships. At high school, Oprah was in a sweet relationship with Anthony Otey. Although the two planned to get married, Otey’s instinct told him that it was not meant to be. In the year 1971, she started an affair with William Taylor. There was much seriousness in the relationship and as per her words, “We shared a deep love. A love I will never forget”. After her breakup with William Taylor she got romantically involved with John Tesh. Later she dated Lloyd Kramer but cheated on him by having a love affair with a married man. Of her relationship with the married man she expressed, “The more he rejected me, the more I wanted him. I felt depleted, powerless. At the end, I was down on the floor on my knees groveling and pleading with him.” Her depression even led her to contemplate suicide, and on 8 September 1981 she wrote a suicide note asking her best friend Gayle King to take care of her plants.

Her failed relationships and her emotional disturbances were the reason behind her weight gain and her taking cocaine. She again got involved in drugs with Randoph Cook in 1985. She was also in a brief relationship with Roger Ebert, a movie critic and filmmaker, Reginald Chevalier before meeting Stedman Graham. Her relationship with Stedman Graham continues till date.


Charitable Works

Oprah’s generosity and humility is evident from the number of philanthropic works she did over the years. Her name was included in the list of 50 most generous americans and she was the first black person whose name appeared in the list. She occupied the list until the year 2010. She made titanic donations at various charitable institutions and for relief efforts. Her benevolent nature led her to start the Oprah’s Angel Network in the year 1997. It is an organization, which takes care of a number of charitable projects and contributes to various nonprofit organizations.



She was credited with a number of rankings. CNN and Time.com said Oprah is “arguably the world’s most powerful woman”. She was declared as “the most influential woman in the world” by The American Spectator, and “one of the most influential people” from 2004 to 2011 by Time. She was also recognized for being “one of the 100 people who most influenced the 20th century.” The Life magazine listed her as “one of the most influential woman” and “the most influential black person of her generation.” The Ladies Home Journal placed her in number one position in their list of the most powerful women in America. USA Today in the year 2007, placed her in the list of “the most influential woman” and “the most influential black person” of the previous quarter-century.

She went on to top the Entertainment Weekly’s list of the 101 most powerful people in the entertainment industry. In the years 2005, 2007, 2008, 2010, and 2013, Forbes ranked her as “the most powerful celebrity” in the world. In the list of the 100 people who changed the world, Oprah was the only living woman to have found a place. In a public poll for The Greatest American, Oprah was voted as the greatest woman in American history.

She has to her credit one Academy Award, two Emmy Awards, several NAACP Image Awards, and a number of People’s Choice Awards amongst several others.



Oprah Winfrey turned into a millionaire at the age of 32. She is believed to have occupied the list of the richest African-Americans of the 20th century. She was earning $260 million every year, and that made her the highest paid TV entertainer in the United States. She saw a surge in her income in the year 2008, when she started earning $275 million. Forbes’ ranked her as “the world’s only black billionaire” in the list of the international rich through the years 2004 to 2006. She was also declared to be “the first black woman billionaire” in the history of the world.


Facts and Information

Full Name Oprah Gail Winfrey
Born 29th January 1954
Place of Birth Kosciusko, Mississippi, USA
Nationality American
Residence Montecito, California, USA
Profession African-American actress, Television host, Producer, Philanthropist
Father Vernita Lee
Mother Vernon Winfrey
Relationships Anthony Otey, William Taylor, John Tesh, Lloyd Kramer, Randoph Cook, Roger Ebert, Stedman Graham
Children None
Teenage Winfrey had a horrid time as a teenage as she was a victim of sexual abuse. Moreover, she was hardly cared by her mother and that led to the wild nature in her.
Schooling Lincoln High School, Nicolet High School, East Nashville High School,
Education Tennessee State University (Communication)
Philanthropic Activities Oprah Angel Network
Awards and Recognition
  • CNN and Time.com: World’s most powerful woman.
  • The American Spectator: Most influential woman in the world.
  • Time: The most influential people from 2004 to 2011.
  • Ladies Home Journal: Number one in the list of the most powerful women in America.
  • Entertainment Weekly: Number one in the list of 101 most powerful people in the entertainment industry.
  • Forbes: The most powerful celebrity in the world.
  • Academy Awards: 2011 (Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award)
  • Emmy Awards: 1998, Lifetime Achievement Award and 2002, Bob Hope Humanitarian Award.
  • Jefferson Awards for Public Service: 1998, S. Roger Horchow Award for Greatest Public Service by a Private Citizen
  • NAACP Image Award, 1989 : Award for Outstanding News, Talk or Information – Series or Special|Outstanding News, Talk or Information – Series or Special: Oprah Winfrey: On Location in Forsythe County.
  • NAACP Image Award,1993: Outstanding News, Talk or Information – Series or Special: The Oprah Winfrey Show.
  • NAACP Image Award, 1994: Outstanding News, Talk or Information – Series or Special: The Oprah Winfrey Show.
  • NAACP Image Award, 1995: Outstanding News, Talk or Information – Series or Special: The Oprah Winfrey Show.
  • NAACP Image Award, 1991: Entertainer of the Year.
  • NAACP Image Award, 1999: Outstanding Lead Actress in a Motion Picture: Beloved: Nominated.
  • NAACP Image Award, 2005: Hall of Fame.
  • People’s Choice Awards, 1988: Favorite Talk show Host.
  • 1997: Favorite Female Television Performer.
  • 1998: Favorite Female Television Performer.
  • 2004: Favorite Talk show Host.
  • Presidential Medal of Freedom, 2013: Presidential Medal of Freedom.
  • Primetime Emmy Award, 2000: Outstanding Made for Television Movie: Tuesdays with Morrie.
  • November 2013 : The Presidential Medal of Freedom
Net Worth As per 2012, US$ 2.8 million
Years Active 1983-present
Films Acted in The Color Purple, Native Son, The Women of Brewster Place, There are No Children Here, Before Women Had Wings, Beloved, The Butler
Shows Produced Serving Life, Extraordinary Mom, You OWN Show, The Oprah Winfrey Oscar Special, Christmas at the White House, Precious, The Dr. Oz Show, The Great Debators, Oprah Winfrey Presents: Mitch Albom’s For One More Day, Building a Dream, The Oprah Winfrey Oscar Special, Oprah’s Big Give, Legends Ball, Their Eyes were Watching God, Oprah After the Show, Amy and Isabelle, Tuesdays with Morrie, David and Lisa, Beloved, The Wedding, Before Women Had Wings, Michael Jackson Talks to…. Oprah Live, ABC Afterschool Specials, Overexposed, Nine, The Women of Brewster Place, The Oprah Winfrey Show
  • Co-Authored: A Journal of Daily Renewal: The Company to Make the Connection along with Bob Greene
  • Co-Authored: Make the Connection: Ten Steps to a Better Body and a Better Life, with Bob Greene
  • Co-Authored: Journey to Beloved, with Ken Regan
  • Authored: The Uncommon Wisdom of Oprah Winfrey: A Portrait in Her Own Words. Bill Adler was its editor


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