Oprah Winfrey Biography: Life Story and Success

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11 Who is Oprah?

Oprah has become a household name mainly because of her daytime talk show, but also because of her perseverance and success. As one of the wealthiest women in the world, Oprah has also acted and even owns her own television network. Although she is wealthy and successful now, her life didn't start out privileged as one might think.

10 Oprah's Childhood

Oprah was born in Kosciusko, Mississippi, although her name was meant to be Orpah originally. The misspelling on her birth certificate made her name Oprah, which became her name as we know it now. Vernita Lee, a housemaid who was not married, is Oprah's mother and her father is unknown. She and her mother lived with her grandmother Hattie Mae Lee in poverty for six years.

After this, her mother moved her to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where she continued to work exhausting hours as a low-income maid. During the time they lived in Milwaukee, Oprah became a half-sister to Patricia, who later died in 2003 because of cocaine-related causes. Raising two daughters became difficult for her mother, so in 1962 she sent Oprah to go live with a man named Vernon, who she believed to be Oprah's biological father, in Nashville, Tennessee.

Soon after Oprah moved to Nashville, her mother had another daughter, but she had to give her up for adoption because she could not afford the cost. Oprah only found out about her second half-sister in 2010. When she moved back in with her mother, Oprah found out that she had a half-brother named Jeffrey, who her mother had given birth to without telling her. Jeffrey passed away in 1989 due to AIDS.

Starting at 9 years old, Oprah was molested by several members of her family, including her: uncle, cousin and family friend. She did not share this with her family until she turned 24, but they did not believe what she had to say. At the young age of 13 Oprah ran away from home due to the abuse she was experiencing. A year later, at age 14, she became pregnant and gave birth to a son, but he died shortly after.

Oprah then attended Lincoln High School, where she was successful with the Upward Bound Program. This led to acceptance at the Nicolet High School, which was a wealthy school in the suburbs. She was teased and ridiculed by classmates because of her poverty, which prompted her to steal from her mother. She used the money to go out with classmates and appear as though she wasn't as poor as she actually was.

Soon after this, her mother sent her back to Nashville to live with Vernon. Because Oprah's mother would not take her back, Vernon became the only parent in her life. He made sure she went to school and pushed her to become an honors student and part of the speech team at East Nashville High School. The accomplishments she received during high school led to her being given a paid scholarship for Tennessee State University. While studying communications she worked at a grocery store, won beauty pageants and eventually worked for a radio station.

9 Oprah's Career

After working for years at the radio station, Oprah eventually got into media and became the first black female news anchor at a local television station. Soon after that, she anchored the evening news and was invited to be a co-host on People Are Talking, which was a local talk show. After she decided to move to Chicago in 1983, Winfrey was offered to host a morning talk show named AM Chicago. She ended up turning this from a barely watched show to the most watched show on the network. Oprah's career exploded after this and she was soon offered The Oprah Winfrey Show, which aired the first episode on September 6, 1986.

In 1989, while still filming her talk show, Oprah produced and starred in The Women of Brewster Place, which was a drama miniseries. Years after this, she co-founded the Oxygen television network and also purchased her own channel named OWN. Oprah's talk show was wildly successful and lasted until May 25, 2011, when her final episode aired. Oprah said she was ready to leave her show so she could focus on her network, as lack of ratings was not the cause of her quitting.

Although Oprah is mainly known for her talk show, she has also starred and made appearances in several films. In The Color Purple she played Sofia and in Beloved she played Sethe. She also owns Harpo Films, which has released many different movies and documentaries, including Their Eyes Were Watching God. Oprah has several best-selling books, a successful magazine, a popular website and a book club.

8 Oprah's Income

Oprah's annual salary is around $223 million dollars. She ears money from her various businesses as well as television appearances.

7 Oprah's Worth

Oprah's net worth is an astounding $2.7 billion dollars. She one of the wealthiest African-American women in the world and was one of the first African-American billionaires.

6 Oprah's Homes

Winfrey lives in Montecito, California, where she owns a 42-acre estate. She also has homes in: Chicago, Lavallette, New Jersey, Fisher Island, Florida, Douglasville, Georgia, Telluride, Colorado, Maui, Antigua and Hawaii.

5 Oprah's Relationships

In the 70's Oprah dated John Tesh, who was her first adult relationship after breaking up with William Taylor from her university. She also dated Lloyd Kramer, but cheated on him with a married man. She also dated Randolph Cook, who was a drug addict, and the film critic Roger Ebert. In 1985 she dated Reginald Chevalier, who was a filmmaker. She ended things with him when she met her current boyfriend, Stedman Graham. They have been together since 1986 and have been engaged since 1992.

4 Oprah's Spending Preferences

Oprah spends her money like anyone else and isn't known for extremely extravagant spending, although she did buy her best friend a $7.1 million dollar penthouse.

3 Oprah's Cars

Oprah generally does not drive herself and has a driver that takes her everywhere. Several years ago she auctioned off classic cars, including: 1954 Mercedes-Benz, 1997 Aston Martin DB7 and a 1988 Rolls-Royce Corniche II. The money went to The Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls in South Africa.

2 Oprah's Kids

Oprah does not have any children. She spends much of her time helping kids around the world.

1 Oprah's Future

Oprah will continue to be an icon and household name into the future. Her many different businesses will increase her wealth and overall net worth. She's a huge advocate for education and help for women, especially in countries where there is poverty. She has a lot of charities that she will continue spending millions of dollars on into the future.


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