Oprah Winfrey (1954 – ) Influential talk show host, author, philanthropist, actress and media personality. Oprah Winfrey has played a key role in modern American life, shaping cultural trends and promoting various liberal causes. Through her talk shows and books, she has focused on many issues facing American women. She has been an important role model for black American women, breaking down many invisible barriers.
“The biggest adventure you can ever take is to live the life of your dreams.”
– Oprah Winfrey
Oprah Winfrey was born in Kosciusko, Mississippi. Her parents were unmarried and separated soon after conception. Oprah had a difficult childhood. She lived in great poverty and often had to dress in potato sacks for which she was mocked at school. She was also sexually abused at an early age.
“Turn your wounds into wisdom.”
– Oprah Winfrey
From the age of 14, she went to live with her father. Oprah says he was strict, but she was in the mood to be disobedient during her teenage years. After working her way through college, she became interested in journalism and media and got her first job as a news anchor for a local TV station.
Her emotional style did not go down well for a news programme, so she was transferred to an ailing daytime chat programme. After Oprah had taken over, the daily chat show took off, and this later led to her own programme – The Oprah Winfrey Show.
The Oprah Winfrey show has proved to be one of the most successful and highly watched TV show of all time. It has broken many social and cultural barriers such as gay and lesbian issues. Oprah has also remained a powerful role model for women and black American women in particular. She is credited with promoting an intimate confessional form of media communication, which has been imitated across the globe.
In recent years, the Oprah Winfrey show has focused on issues of self-improvement, spirituality and self-help. Diet has also been a big issue with Oprah once successfully losing a lot of weight. Her subsequent diet book sold millions of copies.
Oprah Winfrey has promoted many spiritual books, which have focused on the aspect of taking responsibility for your life – not changing your circumstances, but changing the way you look at your life.
“What I learned at a very early age was that I was responsible for my life. And as I became more spiritually conscious, I learned that we all are responsible for ourselves, that you create your own reality by the way you think and therefore act. You cannot blame apartheid, your parents, your circumstances, because you are not your circumstances. You are your possibilities. If you know that, you can do anything.”
– O Magazine (January 2007), pages 160 & 217
Her range of media enterprises have made Oprah one of the richest self-made women. The Forbes’ international rich list has listed Winfrey as the world’s only black billionaire from 2004 to 2006 and as the first black woman billionaire in world history.In 2014 Winfrey has a net worth of more than 2.9 billion dollars.
The Oprah Winfrey book club has become the most influential book clubs in the world. A recommendation from Oprah Winfrey frequently sends books to the top of the best-seller lists. Many commentators agree that Oprah Winfrey exerts enormous influence. Some estimated her support for Barack Obama helped him gain one million votes in the 2008 election.
As Vanity Fair said of Oprah Winfrey:
“Oprah Winfrey arguably has more influence on the culture than any university president, politician, or religious leader, except perhaps the Pope”
Oprah Winfrey was also nominated for an Oscar in the film – A Color Purple. Produced by Steven Spielberg, the epic Color Purple told of segregation in America’s deep south. Oprah was widely admired for her role as Sofia.
Support for Obama
From 2006 to 2008, she lent her support to the Presidential campaign of Barack Obama. Her influence and personal following played a key role in helping Obama to become the first African-American to become president.
In 2013, Oprah gained a unique interview with the professional cyclist, Lance Armstrong. It was on Oprah that Armstrong finally made a dramatic confession that he had used performance-enhancing drugs during his cycling career.
Oprah Winfrey has been critical of the presidency of Donald Trump and on various occasions has hinted she would be interested in the possibility of running as a Democrat for president. However, she later clarified her view and says a presidential bid is unlikely because
“I’ve always felt very secure and confident with myself in knowing what I could do and what I could not,” she told the magazine. “And so it’s not something that interests me. I don’t have the DNA for it.” CNN
Religious and spiritual views
Oprah Winfrey was brought up in the Baptist church and after being baptized aged 8 she became evangelical about the religion. However, as she grew up she accepted a wider definition of spirituality – a spirituality which embraces the truth in all religions and different spiritual paths. Speaking during Oprah’s Lifeclass: The Tour she said:
“I am a Christian, that is my faith. I’m not asking you to be a Christian. If you want to be one I can show you how. But it is not required. I have respect for all faiths. All faiths. But what I’m talking about is not faith or religion. I’m talking about spirituality.”
Speaking on her own beliefs she retains great love for the church and its contribution to black culture, but she doesn’t want to limit herself to the confines of a particular religion, she says:
“I can’t define “God,” so to be open to the mystical and mystery of God is a natural part of myself. So people criticize me for not being what they are, and I say, it’s working for me and has worked for me and continues to work for me, in a way that fills me with a sense of peace and contentment about what God means to me.” – Oprah Winfrey (AARP)
Winfrey has enthusiastically supported new age writers such as Eckart Tolle’s books, The Power Now and Stillness Speaks and Marianne Williamson’s contributions to “A Course in Miracles.”
Oprah Winfrey at Amazon
The Wisdom of Sundays: Life-Changing Insights from Super Soul Conversations by Oprah Winfrey at Amazon
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Famous Americans – Great Americans from the Founding Fathers to modern civil rights activists. Including presidents, authors, musicians, entrepreneurs and businessmen. Featuring Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Madonna, Oprah Winfrey.
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