She is often called ‘Queen of all media’ and has been ranked as the richest African-American of 20th century, Oprah Winfrey is one great example of people who defy all adversities in their journey from rags to riches. As she famously said,
“Turn your wounds into wisdom”
Oprah was born on January 29, 1954 in Mississippi, US. to an unmarried teenage mother who worked as a housemaid. As per her own admission, she was sexually abused for years by a number of male relatives. To be free from all this, she ran away from home and became pregnant at 14. Her son died in infancy. Later she went to live with her father who was a barber in Tennessee, where she discovered her knack for public speaking and debate and landed a job in radio while still at high school. Starting from co-anchoring evening news there, she slowly moved to daytime talk show.
In 1983 she shifted to Chicago and started doing television where she boosted a low rated local Chicago talk show AM Chicago to top slot. Later this was renamed as The Oprah Winfrey Show and by 1986 was being broadcasted nationally. Initially classified as a tabloid talk show, it soon evolved into a talk show which was classy and all the celebrities wanted to appear on it. In 1993 she hosted an interview with Michael Jackson which became the most watched interview ever with an audience of 36.5 million. The show was aired for 25 seasons from 1986 to 2011. The show was so successful that within the first year of it’s launch, at the age of 32 Oprah became millionaire.
Winfrey also appeared in films and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her performance. In 1998 she produced and starred in the film Beloved. Winfrey has been well known for her weight loss efforts. She lost estimated 90 pounds to achieve her ideal weight. Winfrey has co-authored 5 books including one weight loss book. She also published magazines: O, The Oprah Magazine and O at Home which remained quite successful.
Winfrey created the website Oprah.com providing online interactive content related to her shows, magazines and charity. More than six million users visit the site per month. She also has her presence on radio with her Oprah Radio channel.
In 2011 Winfrey started Oprah Winfrey Network, a joint venture with Discovery Communications. The network faced financial hurdles in the beginning but later started doing well. It made headlines early in 2013 when Lance Armstrong appeared on air for interview with her.
Winfrey by her own admission had been a victim of sexual abuse and gave birth to a boy at the age of 14. Her son died shortly after. She has been allegedly involved in few serious and non serious and even drug related affairs. Since 1986 she has been together with her boyfriend Stedman Graham. They were engaged and were scheduled to be married in November 1992, but the ceremony never took place.
Winfrey became a millionaire at the age of 32 and ever since then she has grown to multi millionaire and then multi billionaire. She was listed as the only black billionaire from 2004 to 2006 by the Forbes international rich list. As per forbes her net worth rose to 3 billion USD by 2017. She has been awarded by CNN, Times.com, The American Spectator, USA Today, Entertainment Weekly and host of others with various titles ranging from one of the most influential person of the 20th century to the most powerful celebrity woman. In 2005 she ranked number 9 on the list of greatest Americans in a public poll. In November 1993, Winfrey received highest civilian honor of US, the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Winfrey has contributed great deal to philanthropic causes. She has been acknowledged as one among the top 50 generous Americans. In 1998 she created Oprah Angel Network, a charity that supported various charitable causes all around the world. A true example of rags to riches story, her inspiring message to the world:
“Think like a queen. A queen is not afraid to fail. Failure is another stepping stone to greatness”
Related article: Rags To Riches – Dhirubhai Ambani