May 1, 2019

Oprah Winfrey: She Told It Like It Was… And Made History

“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.” ― Oprah Winfrey

Oprah WinfreyOprah Winfrey was born Oprah Gail Winfrey January 29, 1954. She is an extremely well-known American media executive, talk show host, actress, television producer as well as a philanthropist. However, she is best known for her talk show The Oprah Winfrey Show. This was hands down the highest rated television program of its kind since television media had been invented up until that time.

As a matter of fact, the program was nationally syndicated for well over a quarter century (from 1986 to 2011) in Chicago.

She has also been called the “Queen of All Media” and this was a title that was particularly well deserved, considering the fact that she was widely considered to be the richest African American of the last century. Furthermore, she was also first African American multi-billionaire.

Apart from that, one of her most well-deserved accolades has been that of being the greatest and most generous African American philanthropist in American history. Many publications rank her as the single most influential woman in the whole world.

Real integrity is doing the right thing, knowing that nobody’s going to know whether you did it or not.”
― Oprah Winfrey

o   Her early life

She was born in the town of Kosciusko in Mississippi to an unmarried underage mother. Her mother, Vernita Lee was a housemaid while Winfrey’ father Vernon Winfrey (born c. 1933), was a coal miner turned city councilman, who was serving in the armed forces at the time she was born.

Oprah’s early life was anything but easy. Her mother was too poor to afford her, so she was sent to live with her grandmother who used to make clothes out of potato sacks for the little girl. As a result, kids used to tease her mercilessly.  She was sent back to live with her mom who did not really care about her at all. During her pre-teens she was sexually abused and assaulted multiple times.

Later on, when she managed to gain admission in high school, most of the privileged children made fun of her because her mom was a maid.

However, she saw academics as a means of rising out of the squalor and poverty and became a really diligent student. She also excelled in dramatics and debates and managed to gain admission in college due to her oratory skills as well as her academic performance. It was in college that she really started blooming and was noticed by the local radio station. They hired her on as a DJ for their night shift and later on she ‘graduated’ to the prime time day shift, thanks to her ever increasing popularity.

Challenges are gifts that force us to search for a new center of gravity. Don’t fight them. Just find a new way to stand.”
― Oprah Winfrey

o   Her TV career

From radio, her progress to TV was all but inevitable.  While working in the local media, she was not just the youngest news anchor but also the very first black female news anchor at Nashville’s WLAC-TV. Subsequently, she moved to Baltimore’s WJZ-TV in early 1976 as their new co-anchor for their prime time six o’clock news.

Winfrey relocated to Chicago in 1983, in order to host WLS-TV’s low rated morning talk show, AM Chicago. The very first episode aired on January 2, 1984. At that time the show was slated to be removed from the air waves, since it was being produced at a loss. However, within only a few months after Winfrey took over, the show went from rock bottom in the ratings to actually overtaking (Phil) Donahue as the highest-rated talk show in Chicago, at that point in time.

Recognizing her raw potential, the movie critic Roger Ebert persuaded her to leave the show and sign a syndication deal with King World. His TV show “At the Movies” was eventually renamed “The Oprah Winfrey Show” and that in turn was expanded to a full hour and was broadcast not just in Chicago, but pretty much all over the nation beginning September 8, 1986.

The show went head to head with Donahue and in fact displaced the latter as the number one daytime talk show. Their much publicized contest was played by the media and many networks all over the world. They were even sometimes run them concurrently or one after the other.

“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

o   Her “Angel Network”

Winfrey created the Oprah’s Angel Network In 1998. This was a charity that actively supported charitable projects and also provided large grants to nonprofit organizations around the world.

As a matter of fact, Oprah’s Angel Network raised more than $80,000 since its inception. Oprah Winfrey has always personally covered all of administrative costs that are associated with running the charity, so that 100 percent of all funds raised, will end up in charity programs. In May 2010, when the Oprah’s show ended, the charity also stopped accepting donations and was subsequently shut down.

After Hurricane Katrina, Oprah almost immediately created the Oprah Angel Network Katrina registry to help put with the relief efforts and actually ended up raising more than $11 million.  In fact, Oprah herself personally gave $10 million to the cause. Both as a philanthropist and as a talk show host, Oprah is certainly second to none.

You don’t become what you want, you become what you believe.”
― Oprah Winfrey

by Bobby J Davidson

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