Oprah Winfrey: The Queen of the Talk Show

(Author of The Book of Awesome Women) Becca Anderson presents Oprah Winfrey- actress, producer, magazine publisher, entrepreneur, CEO, and philanthropist.

Although most people think of The Oprah Winfrey Show when they think of Oprah, besides ruling the media world as a television and talk show host, her curriculum vitae also includes being an actress, producer, magazine publisher, entrepreneur, CEO, and philanthropist. None of this was handed to her – she was born to a teenaged mother on a farm in Mississippi in 1954, and her unmarried parents soon separated and left her there in her grandmother’s care. She was exceptionally bright; her grandmother taught her to read at the tender age of two and a half, and she was skipped through kindergarten and second grade. At age six, Oprah was sent to live with her mother and three half-siblings in a very rough Milwaukee ghetto. She has said that she was molested as a child starting at age nine and in her early teens by men her family trusted.

At twelve, she was again uprooted and sent to live with her father, a barber, in Nashville. This was however a relatively positive time for the young Oprah, who started being called on to make speeches at churches and social gatherings. After being paid $500 for a speech on one occasion, she knew she wanted to be “paid to talk”. She was further bounced back and forth between both her parents’ homes, compounding the trauma of the abuse she had suffered. Her mother worked long and variable hours and was not around much of the time. At 14, Oprah became pregnant with a son; he did not survive early infancy. After some years of acting out including running away once, she was sent to her father to stay, this time; she credits her father with saving her with his strictness and devotion, his rules, guidance, structure, and books. It was mandatory that she write a book report every week, and she went without dinner unless she learned five new vocabulary words every day.

Things completely turned around for Oprah. She did well in school and then managed to land a job in radio while still in high school. After winning an oratory contest, she was able to study communication on a scholarship at Tennessee State University, a historically black college. She was a co-anchor of the local evening news at age 19, and before long her emotional verve when ad-libbing took her into the world of Baltimore’s daytime talk shows. After seven years on Baltimore Is Talking, she had better local ratings than those of famed national talk show host Phil Donahue. She then took a local Chicago talk show from third place to first, and then she was on her way with the launch of her own production company. In 1985, a year after taking on A.M. Chicago, producer Quincy Jones spotted Oprah on air and decided to cast her in a film he was planning based on Alice Walker’s novel The Color Purple. Her acting in this extremely well-received film had a meteoric effect on the popularity of her talk show, which was by now The Oprah Winfrey Show, and the show gained wide syndication. She had taken a local show and changed its focus from traditional women’s concerns and tabloid fodder to issues including cancer, charity work, substance abuse, self-improvement, geopolitics, literature, and spirituality.

Oprah launched O: The Oprah Magazine in 2000; it continues to be popular. She has spearheaded other publications as well, from four years of O At Home magazine to co-authoring five books. She is currently soon to release a memoir, The Life You Want. In 2008, Oprah created a new channel called OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network and put her self-branded talk show to bed.

She has earned the sobriquet of “Queen of All Media” and is accounted as the richest African-American and the most pre-eminent black philanthropist in American history. She is at present North America’s first and only black multi-billionaire and is considered to be one the most influential women in the world, despite the many setbacks and hardships she endured in early life. She has been awarded honorary doctorates from Duke and Harvard universities, and in 2013, Oprah received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama.

This excerpt is from The Book of Awesome Women by Becca Anderson, which is available now through Amazon and Mango Media.

The Book of Awesome Women

Boundary Breakers, Freedom Fighters, Sheroes & Female Firsts

Super women as female role models. From the foremothers who blazed trails and broke barriers, to today’s women warriors from sports, science, cyberspace, city hall, the lecture hall, and the silver screen, The Book of Awesome Women paints 200 portraits of powerful and inspiring role models for women and girls poised to become super women of the future. Discover some of the most awesome women known to history while celebrating the greatness of females all over!

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