Oprah Winfrey, well known for her journey from a difficult poverty stricken childhood to surpassing her competition and becoming America’s wealthiest black woman, is truly an icon for the generations.
On January 29, 1954, Oprah Gail Winfrey was born on a remote farm in Kosciusko, Mississippi, to Vernita Lee and Vernon Winfrey. Her biblical name was Orpah, but due to the difficulty of spelling and pronunciation, she was known as Oprah practically since birth. Soon after her birth, Winfrey’s unmarried parents separated, leaving her in the care of her maternal grandmother. She had a very difficult childhood, full of uncertainties. She was sent to live with her mother, who worked long hours as a cleaner, where she was sexually assaulted several times by her cousins and other males. At the age of 14, she moved to Nashville to live with her father, where she finally got a stable life. She also said that her father saved her life with the guidance, structure, rules, and books.
With the turning point in her life, Winfrey’s life started to blossom. She became an excellent student and even won Miss Black Nashville and Miss Tennessee during her freshman year. She was also offered a job by the The Nashville Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS), after which she became Nashville’s first African American female coanchor of the evening news, at the young age of 19. After graduation, she started doing talk shows, and slowly reached new heights in her career. In January 1984, Winfrey moved to Chicago and joined A.M. Chicago as an anchor. With the success of the show, in September, 1985, the show was renamed as the “Oprah Winfrey Show”. She also hosted prime time interviews of famous celebrities that garnered a large audience, views reaching millions.She was also a part of a film named ‘The Color Purple’, after which her popularity skyrocketed. She has co-authored five books and even had published a magazine named O, The Oprah Magazine and from 2004 to 2008.
Winfrey was recognised Woman of Achievement by the National Organization of Women in 1986 and got a special award from the Chicago Academy for the Arts for her distinctive contributions to the city’s creative community. The Oprah Winfrey Show was nominated for seven Emmys, including Best Talk Show Host, and Winfrey was named Best Talk Show Host. According to CNN and Time.com, Winfrey is “arguably the world’s most powerful woman,” “arguably the most influential woman in the world,” “one of the 100 people who most influenced the 20th century,” and “one of the most influential people” from 2004 to 2011. In August 1986, she founded Harpo, Inc. to develop the projects she wanted to see produced, including television drama miniseries based on Gloria Naylor’s novel, The Women of Brewster Place. Winfrey and Discovery Communications announced plans to rebrand Discovery Health Channel as OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network on January 15, 2008, which was then released on 2011.
Despite being one of America’s wealthiest women and one of the most awarded black woman, Winfrey has given generously to charity organisations and institutions like Morehouse College, the Harold Washington Library, the United Negro College Fund, and Tennessee State University. Her uplifting work for the black community and her struggle to the top will continue to inspire many. She will always be remembered as a strong black woman who worked hard for her success.
Visual by: Anupal Deuri Bharali
Article by Dipakshi Goswami, The North-Eastern Chronicle