Born to an unwed adolescent mother, Oprah Winfrey spent her childhood on her grandmother’s farm which is situated in Kosciusko, Mississippi, meanwhile, her mother searched for work in the North. Life on the farm was simple and easy going, but she learnt to read at an early age from her grandmother, and at the age of three Oprah was narrating poems and Bible verses in nearby local churches. Despite difficulties of her physical environment, she adored the loving support and care of her grandmother and the church community, who appreciated her as a gifted child.
At the age of 6, her world changed for the worse, when she was sent to live with her mother in Milwaukee, who was working there as a housemaid. In the mean time when her mother was gone out to work from their inner city apartment, young Oprah was constantly molested by male relatives and other visitors. The exploitation, which continued from the ages of nine to 13, was emotionally shattering. When she tried to run out of this, she was sent to a detention home for juveniles, only to be denied admittance because all the beds were occupied. At 14, she was out of the house and living alone on her own. By her own reason, she was sexually loose as a teenager. After giving birth to a baby boy who passed away in infancy, she went to live with her father in Nashville, Tennessee.
Vernon Winfrey was a strictly disciplined person, he provided his daughter the secure home life she needed. He saw to it that she met a curfew, and he required her to read the book daily and write a report after reading each week. “As strict as he was,” says Oprah, “he had some worries about me making my life better, and would not accept things less than what he believed was my best.” In this organized tight environment, Oprah succeeded, and became an honour student, winning many prizes for oratory and dramatic recitation.
At the age of 17, Oprah Winfrey won the title of Miss Black Tennessee beauty carnival and was offered an on-air job at WVOL, it’s a radio station aiding the African American community in Nashville. She also achieved a full scholarship to Tennessee State University, where she majored in Speech Communications and Performing Arts. Oprah continued to work at WVOL in her starting years of college, but her broadcasting career was already going well. Then she left school and started working with a local television station as an anchor and reporter.
In 1976, she joined WJZ-TV News as a co-anchor in Baltimore. There, she co-hosted her first talk show, which was very much liked by people, People Are Talking while continuing to serve as a news reporter. She had found a position that flawlessly suited her outgoing, compassionate personality, and word soon spread to other cities. The format was soon extended to an hour, and in September 1985 it was given a new name“The Oprah Winfrey Show”. After a year, The Oprah Winfrey Show was broadcast nation-wide, and rapidly became the number one talk show in national syndication.
Her love for acting and her wish to bring quality entertaining projects into production encouraged her to form her own production company, Harpo Productions, Inc., in 1986. Today, Harpo is a tough force in film and television production, as well as the Internet and magazine publishing.
Initially, The Oprah Winfrey Show tracked a model established by other talk shows, engaging sensational stories and shocking guests to attract viewers, but since the 1990s, Oprah started following spiritual values, self-help and healthy living, and her program touched new heights than ever. Inspired in part by her own childhood abuse memories, she started a campaign to create a national database of convicted child abusers, and attested before a U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee on behalf of a National Child Protection Act. President Clinton signed and passed the “Oprah Bill” into law in 1993, establishing the national database she had required, which is now accessible to law enforcement agencies and concerned parties across the country.
Despite her complete dedication towards daytime talk show field, Oprah Winfrey had not broken up her acting ambitions. In 1998, she acted and produced the feature film Beloved, taken from the book byToni Morrison, Nobel Prize-winning American author. Winfrey has long used her television program to showcase the works of authors she follows, including Morrison, and her long-time friend Maya Angelou. Her effect on the publishing industry burst when she began her on-air book club in 1996.
After two decades she first established herself as a national presence, Oprah Winfrey was still giving much of her extraordinary energy to film and television production. She produced a film in 2005, adaptation of Zora Neale Hurston’s novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God, with a script by Suzan-Lori Parks. In the presidential election of 2008, Winfrey openly recognised a political candidate for the first time, hosting a supporter for Politician Barack Obama and appearing with him at campaign events.
Oprah Winfrey marks her principal home at Montecito, California, just south of Santa Barbara on a 42-acre ocean-view estate, but also possesses homes in another six states and the island of Antigua. The press measures her wealth in several superlatives: the richest self-stand woman in America, the highest-paid artist on television, and the richest African-American woman of the 20th century. More tough to calculate is her deep influence over the way people around the globe read, feel, eat, exercise and think about themselves and the world around them.
She is there on every list of the world’s top opinion-makers, and has been truly called “the most powerful woman in the world.” Her wide-ranging generous efforts were acknowledged in 2011 by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences with a special Oscar statuette, the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award. In 2013, she was awarded by President Barack Obama, the nation’s highest civilian honour, the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
For me and many other ladies, her life story is really a true inspiration, hats off to Miss Oprah Winfrey.