She may not be as well-known in Asia as the likes of Angelina Jolie, Kylie Jenner, or Jennifer Aniston. Oprah Winfrey is, however, a personality to be looked upon, a force to reckon with, and a solid inspiration for anyone. An African American, who did not have a privileged and happy childhood, Winfrey truly defines the term ‘self-made billionaire.’ But is she a movie star like Jolie or a television heartthrob like Aniston? No, she is none. Winfrey is much more than that. She hosted the highest-rated TV talk show ever, the critically and commercially successful, The Oprah Winfrey Show, for more than two decades now.
What she achieved through modest (read ‘no’) means is nothing short of a miracle. Here we take note of her early days. Born to a single mother, who herself was in her teens and had virtually no money to raise an unexpected child, Winfrey could have ended up being nobody as a grown-up. The extent of poverty was such that she had no clothing and had to manage in dresses developed from potato sacks. It has also been noted that Winfrey endured a troubled childhood with an often-abusive maternal grandmother. Add to this her pregnancy when she was barely 14 and the premature birth of her child who could not survive for long.
Despite all the hurdles and obstacles of poverty and a troubled upbringing, Winfrey emerged as an eventual winner and a successful person. And this can be attributed to her talent of conversing with people in a manner that was both intimate as well as emotional. She was a gifted orator, and this talent fetched her scholarship to a state university where Winfrey pursued communication. On the sidelines, Winfrey had also won a beauty pageant. In all this development, what needs to be noticed is her inherent aptitude for engaging in talks and never shying away from taking center stage. It is a compelling reason why many motivators argue on relying on innate abilities to make it big in life.
During Oprah’s visit to Stanford Graduate School of Business she advised to students –
The way through the challenge is to get still and ask yourself, ‘What is the next right move?’ and then, from that space, make the next right move and then the next right move.
The actual rise to stardom, unprecedented fame, and wealth started when Oprah Winfrey began her stint as a host with a morning talk show, then called AM Chicago. At the time she took over as a host, the show wasn’t popular. However, Oprah Winfrey’s trademark way of expressing herself improved the ratings of the show, and soon it propelled to being the top-rated program. In 1986, it was rechristened as ‘The Oprah Winfrey Show’ and given a one-hour slot with nation-wide broadcast. Her wit, charm, and down-to-earth way of communicating made her the highest-rated and biggest crowd-puller host on a day-time show in the whole of the United States.
Oprah would soon rule over the television, and in 1993 she interviewed the ‘King of Pop’ Michael Jackson. Although it wasn’t the first time that the pop star was interviewed, the conversation between him and Oprah became the most-watched interview in the history of America. It was Winfrey’s ease of talking and art of making her celebrity guests so comfortable that they poured their hearts out on her show that was the main driver of her never-seen-before success. During this time in the 20th century America wasn’t as encouraging of its Afro-American population as it is today. It was for the same reason that Oprah Winfrey’s influence coined terms that included ‘Oprahfication,’ loosely meaning confessing in public as a therapeutic exercise and ‘The Oprah Effect,’ referring to how Winfrey could shape the public opinion on any subject matter.
All this combined to make Winfrey one of the most influential persons of the preceding century. It also contributed to her financial well-being. She got noted as the wealthiest African-American of the 20th century. It is said that her estimated annual earnings at the time of her peak in the 2000s was more than USD 200 million. Today, she is a multi-billionaire.
Oprah Winfrey is not any regular success story by any means. She’s a big brand in herself, symbolizing how channeling inner strengths can pave the way for fame, wealth, and a successful life. It wasn’t even modest beginning for Winfrey; in fact, she rose to such heights from abject poverty. She has also talked about how she was sexually abused as a child and how she was mocked by other children. But all this did not deter her from pursuing a seemingly impossible goal of being a talk show host interviewing the greatest in their field of work. Oprah is indeed more than an inspiration; she’s the embodiment of sheer will a lesson/inspiration for many.