Oprah Winfrey - Biography

From a hopeless life of poverty to a media mogul. Oprah Winfrey has devoted her life to improving the lives of others and urges her fans to do the same.

Oprah Winfrey was born in a small town in Mississippi in 1954. Her father was in the service and her mother moved to Milwaukee, Wisconsin in search of a new start. Oprah was left to be raised by her paternal Grandmother on a small farm. Oprah's Grandmother taught her to read before most children are ready for pre-school. Oprah's Grandmother was a strong Christian and due to her influence Oprah was very active in the church. By the time she was 3 she had traveled through the south reciting sermons and biblical verses.

At the age of six, Oprah moved into her mother's home, which was a far cry from the supportive, safe environment she was used to. Oprah's childhood took a drastic turn to a life of repeated sexual abuse from which reading was her only escape. At age 14 she was impregnated by one of her abusers. The baby was born premature and died shortly after birth. Oprah's mother could not handle having a developing woman in the house so she declared her "incorrigible" and sent her to live with her father. Oprah's new home in Tennessee was a far cry from the wild, "party house" atmosphere of her mother's home. Oprah's father demanded good study habits and high moral standards. He was a strict disciplinarian and allowed Oprah to adopt a new standard of living.

In High School Oprah began to refine her natural public speaking talent by participating in the production of a regular radio show. She was also encouraged to compete in pageants where she awed judges and mesmerized crowds with her public speaking talent. Oprah's father was supportive of her success. Under his guidance she landed a full scholarship to Tennessee State University.

Oprah knew that she was in a unique position. In 1971 not many impoverished, abused black girls were given the opportunity to attend any university. Oprah's father had instilled in her a powerful work ethic, which complimented the high moral beliefs of her grandmother.

By the time she was in her sophomore year her career was well on its way, as she had become the youngest person, the first African American and the first woman to anchor a newscast in Nashville at WTVF-TV. In 1976 she moved to Baltimore where she worked as a reporter and co-anchor for WJZ-TV. A year later she won the coveted position of co-host on the major morning news/talk show "People are talking." 8 years in Baltimore and she was invited to Illinois to host A.M. Chicago. She accepted the opportunity and was pitted against Phil Donohue, who had been #1 in that time slot for quite a while. Her talk show has been the highest rating talk show for the past 16 years.

Producers recognized her power and appeal immediately and within a few months the show was renamed "The Oprah Winfrey Show." She formed Harpo Productions and gained ownership of her show. The following year her talk show was syndicated and she began her film career. A smart businesswoman, Oprah soon owned Harpo Productions, Harpo, Inc., Harpo Films, Harpo Studios and Harpo Video. Not content just to star in a Speilberg film, She monopolized the technical production as well!

Oprah's love of reading has inspired her to be a major advocate for literacy and reading for pleasure. Her book club has spawned a worldwide "cult" of book lovers. Every title she has recommended has instantly hit the bestseller list. Authors who were never even heard of before were suddenly in the spotlight.

Oprah's conversational interview style and friendly, empathetic nature have been a major part of her success. An hour watching the Oprah show is as vital to many women as the hour spent sipping coffee with a friend. Her personal tragedies and successes have motivated her and driven her to success. She speaks openly and freely of the events in her life and challenges many women to better themselves.

At the Dawn of the new millennium, Oprah launched a cable network for women; "Oxygen" followed by "O," her magazine. Now a media giant, Oprah has unprecedented presence in the homes of her viewers thereby increasing the "coziness" so prevalent in her speaking style. Oprah's self-improvement successes have been the inspiration for much of her recent success. She urges viewers to better themselves through education, service to others and responsible consumerism.

Not one to forget where she came from, Oprah is a strong advocate for children's rights. She addressed congress regarding the "National Child Protection Act," a bill she proposed to create a nationwide database of convicted child abusers. She told the story of her childhood and that of so many other children who were unnecessarily endangered. President Clinton signed the bill and Oprah is monitoring its progress.

In 1997 Oprah began the "Angel Network" as a fundraiser to help those in need. Her efforts have built over 200 Habitat for Humanity homes and sent hundreds of disadvantaged youth to college. Every Monday on her show Oprah urges her viewers to "Use your life" by awarding $100,000 to people who use their lives to improve the lives of others.

In spite of tabloid efforts, Oprah's private life has not been ruined by her success. She maintains a long-term relationship with Steadman Graham, a former pro basketball player and Public Relations Executive. The two shared a position at Northwestern University in 1999 teaching a leadership course. They developed the curriculum and plan to return each year.

Oprah's empire grows every year. She has signed contracts to continue producing the Oprah Winfrey show through the 2004 television season. She is in the process of completing yet another film for Disney. Her Cable television station gains more and more viewers each day and her magazine inspires and encourages women of all ages. Oprah Winfrey is a legend in her own time and well on her way to being the first female and first African American Billionaire.

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