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Oprah Winfrey Life Story

Updated on July 20, 2014
Oprah Winfrey
Oprah Winfrey
Oprah as a child
Oprah as a child

Oprah - The beginning

Oprah was born in Kosciusko, Mississippi in January 1954. Her mother was a housekeeper and fell pregnant as a teenager, after a one night encounter.

After her birth, Oprah and her mother, Vernita Lee spent six years with her grandmother in poverty. By the age of three Oprah could read as she was taught by her grandmother, who took her to church, where she read Bible verses.

Her grandmother would hit her with a stick if she did not do her chores and they were incredibly poor, so much so, that she was forced to wear potato sacks for dresses.

At the age of six, her and her mother moved to Milwaukee where her mother worked long hours as a maid again. Vernita had another daughter which she gave birth to and had not much time for Oprah. She was forced to go and live with her biological father Vernon in Nashville. At this time, Vernita had yet another daughter which she put up for adoption and ended up on welfare. Oprah did not know of this sister until years later. When Oprah returned to her mother, Vernita had another son, whom died of AIDS related causes in 1989 and her sister died of a cocaine related addiction in 2003.

Oprah was molested by her uncle, cousin and a family friend from the age of 9 to thirteen, when she decided to run away from home.

Winfrey became pregnant at the age of fourteen but lost the baby. She went to high school but was picked on by students as some of them were the children of parents that had employed her friends.

Oprah stole money and argued with her mother, to try to keep up with the peers at school but her mother couldn't take it and sent her back to her father, without getting her back again.

Vernon, her father was strict and ensured that Oprah did well at school, which she did graduating with a scholarship to Tennessee University.


Miss Black Tennessee, 1972
Miss Black Tennessee, 1972
Oprah Winfrey in 1984
Oprah Winfrey in 1984
Oprah as "Sofia" in the movie, "The Colour Purple."
Oprah as "Sofia" in the movie, "The Colour Purple."

The Early Years in Oprah's Career

Her first job was a grocery clerk and at the age of seventeen, was crowned the "Miss Black Tennessee."

Winfrey studied communications in University and took an interest in media after working part time for the local radio station, which had found Oprah after the pageant.

Oprah moved to Baltimore in 1976, where she co- anchored the news.

In 1983, Oprah relocated to Chicago where she hosted a low rated morning talk show, which became the highest rated talk show in Chicago, overtaking Donahue.

In 1986 Oprah was given her own talk show called "The Oprah Winfrey Talk Show," which did extremely well in ratings. It was first classified as a tabloid talk show but Winfrey changed her show to allow for all kinds of topics to be discussed.

Michael Jackson was on her show in 1993 and it became the fourth most watched event in American history.

Oprah produced and starred in a television series, as well as founded the television cable network, "Oxygen," and she is also the president of "Harpo" Productions.

The production of " The Colour Purple," was produced by Oprah and she appeared in the Letterman show to promote it. The show got huge ratings and rumours were set that the two hosts were having a feud. Later on Letterman came onto Oprah's talk show and it was a big event for television viewers everywhere.

Winfrey played the role of "Sofia" in the " Colour Purple," directed by Steven Spielberg.

In 1986 she was nominated for an Academy award for her role but lost to Angelica Houston.

Winfrey had many controversial topics discussed on her show and many celebrities which outraged viewers with their discussions on alternative medication and all sorts.


Oprah Winfrey 2013
Oprah Winfrey 2013
Oprah's school in South Africa
Oprah's school in South Africa
Oprah magazine
Oprah magazine
Oprah Winfrey Network
Oprah Winfrey Network
Oprah and Barack Obama
Oprah and Barack Obama

Oprah and Where she is Now

After her role in "The Colour Purple," Oprah continued with her talk show and won an award from the National Organisation for Women, "Women of Achievement,"award. Winfrey also starred in another movie and broadcast live from Forsyth County, Georgia, where no blacks were allowed to live since 1912.

In 1987, she won an Emmy award for the best talk show and also performed in another movie, "Throw Momma From the Train."

Oprah was named broadcaster of the year and took ownership of her show with her production company, "Harpo."

In 1987, her half brother died of AIDS and in 1991 Oprah helped create the National Child Protection Act, in front of congress.

Her biggest show with the appearance of Michael Jackson, got President Bill Clinton to sign the Protection Act and Oprah won another two Emmy's.

Winfrey co - authored a book with her friend and dietitian, who is now a popular chef.

In 1995, Oprah became the first woman and the only black to appear on the Forbes list of the richest people and has been on it every year since.

On her show, she mentioned Mad Cow Disease and was sued by farmers saying that she was destroying their business and the sales of meat but she won the case.

In 1997, Oprah funded the Angel's Network which urges people to volunteer and make donations for good causes. At this time she also wrote a book called, "The Uncommon Wisdom of Oprah."

Winfrey's production company was named the most successful in the industry and in 2002 Oprah won the Bob Hope Humanitarian award for her service in television and film.

In 2005 Oprah was named the most influential woman in the history of America.

Oprah got Barack Obama onto her show and said that she would like him to be president and also interviewed him and his wife on the show. He told America that he would be a candidate for presidency and two years later became the president of America. Oprah promoted President Obama and still does today.

Winfrey signed a deal with the discovery health network in 2008 to take over the channel as Oprah Winfrey Network, which is an entire channel run by Oprah herself.

In 2011, a big shock for viewers came as Oprah announced that her Oprah Winfrey talk show would be coming to an end and on her final episode, filled with tears and thanks to her supporters, she closes her talk show.

Oprah had many other shows that she produced and still produces, which she is now working with on her own channel.

Winfrey opened a school in Africa and had many incidents reported as she hired the headmaster of the school, which she later discovered was abusing the girls.

Oprah launched her own magazine in 2000 and it has been successful ever since.

Winfrey starred in another movie called,"The Butler,"as the wife of the White house butler and the movie went to number one on its opening weekend.



Michael Jackson on Oprah

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Oprah and Her Love Life

Oprah never had children and in 1986 began dating Stedman Graham, the executive director for athletes against drugs. They got engaged in 1992 and have been together for thirty years but not married. Winfrey said that she was married to her show and after going to Tina Turners wedding, she thought about marriage and it could possibly happen. Oprah also said that if she had married Stedman then their marriage would probably not last as he is a very conventional and traditional man and their relationship is not.

The billionaire has not wanted to have children as her career is very demanding and she did not want to neglect children. Her career would never have been as strong if children were there.


Oprah and Stedman, her partner for thirty years
Oprah and Stedman, her partner for thirty years

Comments

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    • Tashaonthetown profile imageAUTHOR

      Natasha Pelati 

      3 years ago from South Africa

      I will be updating the information on Oprah soon! Thank you for reading and I am glad that you enjoy my articles.

    • profile image

      Tika 

      3 years ago

      Hello there, Are you going to be publishing a fololw up piece? My husband and me have squandered some time browsing over your web page and surprisingly enough you touched on something we had been discussing only the other week with our accountant. We frequently notice ourselves quarrelling over the smallest of issues, isn't it childish? At any rate we wish you best wishes from the Usa.

    • profile image

      Charlene 

      3 years ago

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    • Tashaonthetown profile imageAUTHOR

      Natasha Pelati 

      4 years ago from South Africa

      Racism is a terrible thing and I agree that she does add fuel to the fire! It is a hypocrite that fights against racism only to have racist comments towards people of another colour. Celebrities like her, interfering in politics, religion and anything other than being a celebrity, should understand that the public, just want entertainment and leaving politics to those who have the right to discuss it, should be a lesson for many of them to learn.

      I think that her comments offended many people and there is no excuse to wish for death on anyone. Racism is upsetting for many people who have never thought about skin colour and difference and for Oprah to have fought for a democratic president, whilst having racialistic comments, really doesn't say much for what she believes in.

    • Cathi Sutton profile image

      Cathi Sutton 

      4 years ago

      I didn't see the clip of the interview. I read an article where she was discussing "old white racists" needing to die.

      As far as the sexual abuse... Yes! That is a horrible thing for any child to go through. And I have compassion for the child she was. I also have compassion for the broken child that may still dwell within her. But I do not agree with her adult views toward racism, religion, politics, or appreciate her ego.

      I am 3rd generation American on my dad's side. His family came to this country after slavery was abolished. My mother is 1/16 whiite, and 15/16 Native American. Neither side of my family's ancestors EVER owned slaves. During the days of civil unrest where I grew up, we had a black postman. On hot summer days my dad met him at the mailbox with a glass of iced tea. And to heck with what the neighbors thought. I had a black friend who I invited to my slumber party. When my white friends said they wouldn't come if she was going to be there, I told them to stay at home.

      Where I went to high school, white kids were the minority, with Native Americans being the majority, blacks second in numbers, and whites the least represented. For the most part we all got along. There were exceptions, like with my slumber party. (Me and my brown friends and my black friend had a blast without the white girls there by the way. Oh, and I look 100% white to the naked eye.)

      My point is this: We didn't need Oprah then to tell us what was right and what was wrong. And we don't need her to tell us that now. It seems she has become so self-rightous, and so self-important, she disreguards the common sense, and morality of the everyday American.

      I understand there will always be some level of trouble between races. All over the globe. But it wouldn't hurt my feelings if Oprah would take a look in the mirror, and admit her own racism toward white people.

      My dad is one of the "old white people" she wishes dead. Well... he is dead. And he was a strong believer in equality. My mother who is still living is one of the old white people who she wishes dead. A woman who never judged another person by their color. I just take it very personally that someone with the platform Oprah has does so much more harm than good toward solving the problem. To me... she feeds the fire.

    • Jean Bakula profile image

      Jean Bakula 

      4 years ago from New Jersey

      Good point.

    • Tashaonthetown profile imageAUTHOR

      Natasha Pelati 

      4 years ago from South Africa

      Yes that must definitely question your faith! Freedom of religion is a right for every human being and whatever the religion is up to the individual, however I do not think that they should go around saying that they are god.

    • Jean Bakula profile image

      Jean Bakula 

      4 years ago from New Jersey

      We do have freedom of religion in America. Oprah is free to worship what she chooses. I can understand when you get raped by a family member as a little girl, and have to bear the child, it may cross your mind to question why a loving God would allow such atrocities.

    • Tashaonthetown profile imageAUTHOR

      Natasha Pelati 

      4 years ago from South Africa

      Yes, she said that in an interview for her new movie called "the Butler," I am not sure if it was taken out of context but the clip says "Old racists must die."

      She also had Christians on her show where she showed a lack of faith and has also been heard saying that you do not need Christ, heaven or hell and that we are all god.

      Shocking and another story for the fall of celebrity!!

    • Cathi Sutton profile image

      Cathi Sutton 

      4 years ago

      Oprah also said a person doesn't need the Christ to be saved. (Years ago.) She and some guy started a religion. A non Christ based religion.

      Recently she said a whole generation of old white people need to DIE to end racial problems.

      She is a mega-ego manic with ONLY her picture on the cover of her magazine.

      She says Obama is disrespected because he is black. But he's NOT black. He is bi-racial, with a white mother who raised him, and an African father he was rarely in contact with.

      I personally think she has done way more to harm society than to help it.

    • Tashaonthetown profile imageAUTHOR

      Natasha Pelati 

      4 years ago from South Africa

      Yes she did say that her family denied some of her stories but for someone to come out and say that they were abused takes courage, in saying that the world of celebrity is a crazy one!

    • Jean Bakula profile image

      Jean Bakula 

      4 years ago from New Jersey

      Oprah overcame so much adversity to become who she is today. She has detractors, some in her own family, who say she makes up a lot of her story. But if not for her, a lot of conversations that needed to take place probably would not have. I respect and like her.

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