Oprah Winfrey (1954 – ) was born poor and black in Mississippi when “poor” and “black” meant no flush toilets, no shoes, and no real chance to get ahead in the world. She learned to read at home and skipped kindergarten to go straight into first grade. She skipped second grade too.
After suffering years of abuse, Winfrey ran away from home at age 13. One year later, she became pregnant with a boy who died shortly after birth. Her mother sent her to live with her father, and in his care Winfrey learned discipline and focused on her academics. At 17, she was working as a reporter for a local radio station. At 18, Winfrey won the Miss Black Tennessee beauty pageant. At 19, she was anchoring a newscast on Nashville’s WTVF-TV.
Winfrey later co-anchored the nightly newscast at WJZ-TV in Baltimore, and co-hosted a local talk-show called People Are Talking, before jumping to Chicago’s WLS-TV. Her morning talk-show there debuted in 1984 and rose to number one in the ratings within a month. Winfrey’s talk-show went national in 1986, and as it had in Chicago, Oprah took the top spot almost immediately. It’s been the top-rated daytime talk-show ever since. Oprah aired through the 2010-2011 season, which was its 25th. OWN–the Oprah Winfrey Network–began months prior to the final episode of the talk-show. Among a full schedule of programs, Super Soul Sunday airs weekly, showcasing many of the profound thinkers of our time, some of whom Oprah introduced over the years. .
Winfrey has spoken publicly of being sexually abused as a child. She testified before Congress in support of “The Oprah Bill”, which was signed into law in 1993, establishing a national database of convicted child abusers. The database includes persons with indictments and convictions on child abuse and sex offense charges as well as other violent crimes.
Beyond the daily talk-show, Winfrey drew national attention in her film debut, The Color Purple, for which she earned an Oscar-nomination as Best Supporting Actress. In addition, she produced and co-starred in the 1989 drama miniseries The Women of Brewster Place. In October 1998, she produced and starred in the film Beloved. Her monthly publication, O, The Oprah Magazine, extends the “Live Your Best Life” message and enjoys international circulation. Given all her enterprising, Winfrey is the first black American woman billionaire!