Oprah Winfrey is perhaps one of the biggest media moguls of our generation. Her talk show “The Oprah Winfrey Show” is the highest-rated program of its kind in history and she’s been dubbed as the “Queen of all media.” But it didn’t start out like that for her.
Born in poverty in rural Mississippi to a teenage single mother, Winfrey suffered a ton of hardships growing up.
For the first six years of her life, Winfrey was raised by her strict grandmother in poverty. Back then, they were so poor that Winfrey often wore dresses made of potato sacks. Her peers would make fun of her for it. She was also beaten regularly for misbehaving by her grandmother.
“She whipped me so badly that I had welts on my back and the welts would bleed,” she said, which then stained her good Sunday dress. “So then I got another whipping for getting blood on the dress.”
From ages 9 to 13, she was sexually abused by her cousin, uncle, and a family friend. The abuse got so bad that she she ran away from home when she was 13.
At 14, Winfrey became pregnant. She tried to hide her pregnancy because she felt so much “pain” and “shame.” Unfortunately, the baby was born prematurely and died in the hospital a weeks later.
During high school, Winfrey got a part-time job at a local black radio station. At 19, she began co-anchoring the local evening news. At the time, she was both the youngest news anchor and the first black female news anchor for Nashville’s WLAC-TV.
In 1983, Oprah Winfrey’s big break came in when she started hosting Chicago’s WLS-TV low-rated half-hour morning talk show, AM Chicago. Within months, the show became the highest rated talk show in Chicago after Winfrey took over.
Three years later, her show was expanded to a full hour, renamed The Oprah Winfrey Show and went national making Winfrey a millionaire.
She also has loved ones who have supported her along the way, including entrepreneur Stedman Graham, her long-time partner of almost 30 years.
From 2004 to 2006, Forbes listed Winfrey as the world’s only black billionaire. Today, Oprah Winfrey has a net worth of $3.1 billion and is said to be the richest self-made woman in America.
“The key to realizing a dream is to focus not on success but on significance–and then even the small steps and little victories along your path will take on greater meaning.”
While one can argue Oprah’s success was a result of being lucky or being at the right place at the right time, she had taught her self to learn how to recognize and take advantage of opportunities whenever possible.
Winfrey’s story is a prefect example of what’s possible regardless of where you were born and how you were raised.