From Struggle to Success: Oprah Gail Winfrey

Oprah Winfrey was not born one of the wealthiest women in America, or with her own TV show or even with millions of fans just waiting for her arrival. In fact, she was born with nothing on a farm in Mississippi where her parents separated and she was tossed from one family member to the next. When Oprah was six, her mother took her to live with her in a “ghetto, and extremely poor and dangerous neighborhood” in Milwaukee. At twelve years old, Oprah was then “sent to live with her father in Nashville, Tennessee. Feeling secure and happy for a brief period she began making speeches at social gatherings and churches, and one time earned five hundred dollars for a speech.” That’s when Oprah realized what she wanted to do, and that was to get “paid to talk.” As good as her life seemed right then, it wouldn’t last long. Oprah was taken back to live with her mother once again where things would be much more brutal and treacherous. Oprah would experience what seemed like the worst of the worst. Living in the unsafe neighborhood with her mother who was never around caused Oprah to have a significant amount of negative feedback on her young life as a child and through her teenage years. Oprah would be repeatedly sexual abused “starting at the age of nine by men that others in her family trusted.” The sexual abuse could not end soon enough, but finally did in her early teenage years. This was due to her mother sending Oprah back once again to her father. This would be the last and final trade her parents would make, tossing her back and forth.


Once Oprah was able to escape the long tormented years of living with her mother, she soon realized what all life had to offer her and what she had to offer herself. Oprah may not have been born with anything at all, but she became everything she never thought she would by having this unique drive, motivation and selflessness within her. Oprah was free at last and had the world right in front of her with thanks to her father who she says “saved her life.” While living with her father, Oprah was able to gain much more than what she ever imagined. Oprah’s father was so strict that he “required his daughter to complete weekly book reports, and she would go without dinner until she learned five new vocabulary words each day.” As crazy as this sounds, it is exactly what molded Oprah into the woman she is today. Oprah’s father provided her with the following necessities that she would need to be one of the most successful and sought out women in America for years to come; “guidance, structure, rules, and books.”


Oprah went on to receive a full ride scholarship to Tennessee State University where she would excel heavily in not only her academics but as well as in many clubs that she participated in. These clubs included drama club, debate club, student council and Elks Club (which is where she spoke in a speaking contest and won her full ride scholarship). She stayed very involved at Tennessee State University and ended up being a huge icon for her school due to her excellent leadership skills throughout each club that she was in while being an extraordinary student all at once. Oprah was voted and became Miss Black Nashville and Miss Tennessee her very first year at Tennessee State University as a freshmen. She received these two honors for her outstanding leadership skills, her compassion for helping others, and her motivation for the success of young women like herself. Oprah then accepted a job from Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) where she would be “Nashville’s first African American female co-anchor of the evening news.” Oprah was only nineteen years old when she accepted this position and she of course was continuing her academic success and still attending college. After she graduated from Tennessee State University, Oprah worked for a few broadcasting shows (where she was the main talk show host) with Good Morning America and Baltimore Is Talking before American Broadcasting Company’s (ABC) renamed this specific show Baltimore Is Talking to the Oprah Winfrey Show. As we all know, this is where Oprah’s life really started to increase rapidly as she was able to provide specifically for young women around the world opportunities that seemed as impossible as hers.



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