Oprah Winfrey: Life & Lessons from Oprah

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Oprah Winfrey; the world’s most famous and influential media host, broadcaster and producer of all time and one of the most successful entrepreneurs in the US.

Troubled Beginnings

Oprah Winfrey as a child - Oprah Winfrey Bio

Oprah Winfrey was born in the rural US farming town of Kosciusko, Mississippi, on January 29th, 1954. After a hard time growing up in the small farm town community where she was sexually abused by various male family friends and relatives, she moved to Nashville, Tennessee to live with her Father, Vernon. She gave birth to a premature baby boy shortly after; but he was not to live any longer then a few weeks.

In 1971 she joined the State University of Tennessee and began working in radio and television broadcasting. After winning the Miss Black Tennessee Beauty pageant, Oprah was offered and took up a part time news position at a local all black radio station.

But in 1976 she was on the move again, this time to Baltimore, Maryland, where she hosted a soon to be hit TV chat show called ‘People Are Talking’. She stayed with the show for eight years until she was recruited by a Chicago TV station to host her own morning show, A.M. Chicago.

A.M. Chicago became a huge success and she took it from last to first place in the ratings. This lead to national fame for Oprah and gained her a role in the Steven Spielberg film ‘The Colour Purple’ in 1985. Following the films release, she received a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress.

The Oprah Winfrey Show

In 1986 Oprah launched the nationally syndicated ‘Oprah Winfrey Show’. The show was broadcast on 120 channels and received an audience of 10 million people in its first year. It grossed at $125 million, of which Oprah Winfrey received $30 million.

Before long, Oprah had gained ownership of the program from ABC. She brought it under the control of her new production company, Harpo Productions, and was to keep the show on air for decades to come.

In 2000 Oprah debuted her new monthly magazine ‘O: The Oprah Magazine’, which soon became a huge success. In 2004 after nearly 2 decades of production, Oprah signed a new contract to continue the Oprah Winfrey Show through the 2010-2011 season. It was now being seen on nearly 212 U.S Stations and in more then 100 countries worldwide.

But in 2009, Oprah was to announce that she would be ending the show when her contract with ABC ended.

The Oprah Winfrey Network

Oprah Winfrey Bio - Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN)On the 1st January 2011, she went on to create ‘The Oprah Winfrey Network’ also known as OWN. And after a slightly unstable beginning with the new network, she made headlines again in January 2013 after her interview with Lance Armstrong was aired on OWN and presented on news channels around the world.

Lance Armstrong is an American cyclist and seven times Tour De France winner who was stripped of all of his tiles in 2012 due to charges of doping. The interview was reported to of brought in millions of dollars in needed revenue for the Oprah Winfrey Network.

Charity & Recognition

It’s easy to get wound up in Oprah and her career, but it’s also important not to forget her amazing work for charity and philanthropic actions around the globe.

Named by Business Week in 2005, the greatest Black philanthropist in American history, Oprah’s Angel Network has raised more than $51 Million for charitable causes around the globe. These include relief for the victims of Hurricane Katrina, which hit the US in August 2005, and education for girls in South Africa.

Oprah Winfrey has done great things in her life and has gained many astounding awards and achievements. Titled by Forbes magazine as the richest African American of the 20th century and the only Black billionaire for three years running, and named the most influential woman of her generation by ‘Life’, we can see how far she has come.

And with so many achievements and accolades, there are sure to be many lessons we can take away from Oprah and her life, but I have just two.

Oprah’s Life Lessons: What Can We Learn?

Lesson 1: Anybody Can Do Anything – Regardless of Background


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.

–      Oprah Winfrey

As we know, Oprah went through a rough time as a child being raped and abused by several family members and friends, and conceiving a teenage pregnancy at the age of 14. But regardless of the hard times she injured, Oprah was soon to set her sail into the wind and swiftly moved towards her dreams and success.

Within just 10 years of moving to her fathers, Oprah was far on her way to media success hosting the show ‘People are Talking’ and later going on to grasp her success with the Oprah Winfrey Show and Oprah Winfrey Network to follow.

The journey and success Oprah has made in her life would be amazing for even a person of means to achieve, but for the farm town girl of Mississippi with a childhood of less then average, its extraordinary, and to me simply shows, just how anybody from anywhere can do just about anything.

Lesson 2: Create Your Own Story

Oprah’s bound to of become a great story reader in her life, but not only can she read and talk about other peoples stories, but also create her own. It’s no lie to say the story of Oprah Winfrey, the one you’ve read today, it an awesome one. But I’ll always remember the message she spoke about at her Commencement Address of the Harvard University this year (in 2013).

She spoke about her career and it’s beginnings. And how she came to learn not to try and follow or reflect the life of someone else she aspired to be, but instead to learn from them and create her own story based upon it.

She later went on to say the following in her speech.

The challenge of life, I have found, is to build a resume that doesn’t tell a story about what you to be, but it’s a story about who you want to be. It doesn’t tell a story about what you want to be but why. A story that’s not just a collection of titles, and positions, but that’s really about your purpose. When you inevitably stumble and find yourself stuck in a hole, that is the story that will get you out. What is your true calling, what is your dharma, your true purpose.

-      Oprah Winfrey

This shows the lesson that I to have always tried to follow in my life. To forget the norm and forget the titles, headers and planned lives of other people; but instead to create your own story and be your own person, because only then can you present it others and really reap the results of their impress and amazement.

A Conclusion

The Oprah Magazine - Live Your Best LifeOprah Winfrey has not only conquered the US but also the rest of the world; both through her career in media and through her incredible charity work and philanthropy. She’s played parts in films, presented shows and influenced and inspired people world wide to succeed like she has herself. Her life is one that can teach us all many lessons, but the two we have picked up on today are I feel most important.

Create your own story, strive for your success and do so relentlessly regardless of age, background, gender, race or circumstances. Oprah did it, and look where she is now!

What do you think of Oprah? What about her life? And what has she taught you? Let us know in the comments below!

Wrote by Joe Brown