Oprah Winfrey - actress, talk show host, television producer and philanthropist is an inspirational icon in the world today. Born on the 29th of January 1954 to Vernita Lee and Vernon Winfrey as Orpah Gail Winfrey, she changed her name to Oprah as people found it difficult to pronounce Orpah, the Biblical character she was named after. Oprah spent her early years in the economically disadvantaged rural town of Kosciusko, Mississippi. She had a tumultuous childhood, but worked hard to overcome and achieve. At this point her name is synonymous with inspiration, strength and woman power.
Oprah learned how to read and write by the time she was three years old, thanks to her grandmother’s values and religious orientation. She could recite bible verses, poems, and soon became known as the “Little Speaker” in the neighborhood. In school, Oprah’s exceptional intelligence caused her to be promoted often, several grades beyond her age. But things were not easy at home. When she was six years old she went to live with her mother who worked as a maid. She was sexually abused from the age of 9 by multiple family members. When she was 13 she ran away from home, and became pregnant at 14, only to lose her son in a premature birth. From there, she battled poverty and fellow high school students making fun of her because she wore dresses made of burlap sacks. Through all this, Oprah found her voice and a way to rise above. She ended up being voted Most Popular Girl in high school and even won the Miss Black Tennessee Beauty Pageant at the age of 17.
Oprah Winfrey became the first black female host of a nationally syndicated daily talk show, The Oprah Winfrey Show, an internationally popular talk show from 1986 to 2011. She then launched OWN, her own television network. Her Angel Network has raised more than $50 million for charitable programs, including girls' education in South Africa and relief to the victims of Hurricane Katrina. According to Forbes magazine, Oprah was the richest African American of the 20th century and the world's only black billionaire for three years running. Life magazine hailed her as the most influential woman of her generation.
She has starred in films like Selma, Lee Daniels' The Butler, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks and The Color Purple.
Oprah founded the Family for Better Lives foundation and also contributes to Tennessee State University, her alma mater. Oprah believes strongly in female empowerment to give girls a chance at a better life. This is why she also founded the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls in South Africa.
In 2013, Oprah was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor in the United States, by President Barack Obama. In January 2018, Oprah became the first African-American woman to be honored with the Golden Globes' Cecil B. DeMille Award, for lifetime achievement. In a moving speech, she said " I want all the girls watching here and now to know that a new day is on the horizon, and when that new day finally dawns, it will be because of a lot of magnificent women, many of whom are right here in this room tonight, and some pretty phenomenal men, fighting hard to make sure that they become the leaders who take us to the time when nobody ever has to say, 'Me too' again."
Oprah continues to use her celebrity to better the world and spread knowledge, love, beauty, soul and empowerment across the globe.
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