American Icon: Oprah

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“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.” ― Oprah Winfrey

Life isn’t always fair. Not everyone has equal opportunities or a support system they can rely on. However, irrespective of our starting point in life, our destinies depend entirely on us. There’s no excuse for where we end up in life. It’s totally up to us to see to it that we work towards and live our dreams. The past has nothing on us, unless we make the choice to make it relevant to our present lives. Oprah Winfrey’s grass to grace story is a real life inspiration and reminder that we can all make something out of our lives, irrespective of where we start off. What she has developed to become today is a true reflection of the power of possibility and self-belief.

Oprah Winfrey is an American media proprietor, talk show host, actress, producer, and philanthropist. She is best known for her talk show The Oprah Winfrey Show, which was the highest-rated television program of its kind in history and was nationally syndicated from 1986 to 2011 in Chicago, Illinois. Dubbed the "Queen of All Media", she is the richest African-American and North America's first multi-billionaire black person and has been ranked the greatest black philanthropist in American history. Several assessments rank her as the most influential woman in the world. She is credited with creating a more intimate confessional form of media communication and is thought to have popularized and revolutionized the tabloid talk show genre, through which, according to a Yale study, she broke 20th-century taboos and allowed LGBT people to enter the mainstream.


Winfrey was born into poverty in rural Mississippi to a teenage single mother and later raised in an inner-city Milwaukee neighborhood. Her birth name was ‘Orpah’ after a famous biblical figure, but people mispronounced it regularly and "Oprah" stuck. After Winfrey's birth, her mother put her under the care of her maternal grandmother, Hattie Mae, who was so poor that Winfrey often wore dresses made of potato sacks, for which the local children made fun of her. Her grandmother taught her to read before the age of three and took her to the local church, where she was nicknamed "The Preacher" for her ability to recite Bible verses.

As a child, she played games interviewing her corncob doll and the crows on the fence of her family's property. Winfrey later acknowledged her grandmother's influence, saying it was Hattie Mae who had encouraged her to speak in public and "gave me a positive sense of myself. She has stated that she was molested during her childhood and early teens and became pregnant at 14; her son died in infancy.


At the age of 17, her mother sent her to live with the man she calls her father, Vernon Winfrey, a barber in Tennessee. There, she landed a job in radio while still in high school and began co-anchoring the local evening news at the age of 19. Her emotional ad-lib delivery eventually got her transferred to the daytime talk show arena, and after boosting a third-rated local Chicago talk show to first place, she launched her own production company, The Oprah Winfrey Show, and became internationally syndicated.

In the early years of The Oprah Winfrey Show, the program was classified as a tabloid talk show. However, in the mid-1990s, Winfrey adopted a less tabloid-oriented format, hosting shows on broader topics such as heart disease, geopolitics, spirituality, and meditation, interviewing celebrities on social issues they were directly involved with, such as cancer, charity work, or substance abuse, and hosting televised giveaways .


In 1993, Winfrey hosted a rare prime-time interview with Michael Jackson, which became the fourth most-watched event in American television history as well as the most watched interview ever, with an audience of 36.5 million. Her fame later intensified when she appeared on the Late Show with David Letterman to promote the new Broadway musical The Color Purple, of which she was a producer. The episode was hailed by some as the "television event of the decade" and helped Letterman attract his largest audience in more than 11 years: 13.45 million viewers.

Winfrey’s became a significant figure in propelling many unknown authors to the top of the bestseller lists and gave pleasure reading a new kind of popular prominence. In 2011, after 25 successful seasons of the Oprah Winfrey Show, Winfrey launched her own TV network, the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN). The Network has become a success over the years and produced some of the most successful movie productions in history.


Winfrey was called "the world's most powerful woman" by CNN and, "arguably the most influential woman in the world" by The American Spectator, "one of the 100 people who most influenced the 20th Century" and "one of the most influential people" from 2004 to 2011 by TIME. Winfrey is the only person in the world to have appeared in the latter list on ten occasions.

At the end of the 20th century, Life Magazine listed Winfrey as both the most influential woman and the most influential black person of her generation, and in a cover story profile the magazine called her "America's most powerful woman.

Born in rural poverty, and raised in a poor urban neighborhood, Winfrey stepped out of her past to live her dream life. She is today considered an international sensation and a source of inspiration to many people around the world. Winfrey has, in a large way, made the world a better place for millions of people. Regardless of her disadvantaged background, Oprah has overcome obstacles and become an International Icon!

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