Oprah lived for her
first six years in grinding poverty with her grandmother, Hattie Mae Lee,
who nevertheless was a better parent to her than her mother would later
be, according to Oprah she encouraged her love of learning and
her belief in herself. When she was six, Oprah and her mother moved to
an inner-city neighborhood in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. They lived with family
members, and this was a very difficult time for her, as she was molested
by her cousin, her uncle, and a family friend.
Oprah became an honors
student at East Nashville High School, and participated in many school
activities. When she was 17, she won the Miss Black Tennessee beauty pageant.
A local black radio station, WVOL, hired her as a news reader. She worked
there during her senior year of high school, and again while in her first
two years of college Tennessee State University.
In 1983, at age 29, Oprah moved to Chicago. There she became the host of a half-hour morning talk show, AM Chicago, produced by WLS-TV's. A low-rated show before she took it over, within months, it became the highest ranked talk show in Chicago.
Two years later, it was expanded to an hour, renamed The Oprah Winfrey Show, and broadcast nationally. Oprah became the chief rival of Phil Donahue, who had been the number one daytime talk show host in the US. The publicity between their ratings race helped them both.
As a reviewer stated, In a field dominated by white males, she is a black female of ample bulk. As interviewers go, she is no match for, say, Phil Donahue... What she lacks in journalistic toughness, she makes up for in plainspoken curiosity, robust humor and, above all empathy. Guests with sad stories to tell are apt to rouse a tear in Oprah's eye ... They, in turn, often find themselves revealing things they would not imagine telling anyone, much less a national TV audience. It is the talk show as a group therapy session."
The success of her
TV show turned Oprah into a millionaire at age 32.
Oprah began dating
Stedman Graham in 1986. Prior to this time, she had had relationships
with many men. They didnt last, for a variety of reasons. The emotional
roller-coaster of these relationships affected her weight throughout these
years. Also until her late 20s she experimented with drugs, but never
became addicted and quickly gave up the destructive practice.
In 1998, Oprah began
Oprah's Angel Network, a charity that attempts to encourage people around
the world to make a difference in the lives of underprivileged others.
Oprah herself pays for all administrative costs associated with the charity,
so 100% of all funds raised go to charity programs. (Indeed, Oprah is
one of the worlds most philanthropic celebrities: In 2005 she became
the first black person listed by Business Week as one of America's top
50 most generous philanthropists, having given an estimated $303 million.
Winfrey was the 32nd most philanthropic. She has also been repeatedly
ranked as the most philanthropic celebrity.
In January 2007, Oprah
opened the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls near Johannesburg,
South Africa. Nelson Mandela praised Winfrey for overcoming her own disadvantaged
youth to become a benefactor for others and for investing in the future
of South Africa.
To begin with, she was perhaps the most instrumental person in electing Barack Obama president. She is a larger-than-life figure in America and around the world. She has a huge bully pulpit and tremendous support across America... She has a voice larger than all 100 senators combined. And if she was a U.S. Senator, she would be a voice for the Obama program, which she supports, and she would be in a position to be able to use an unbelievable bully pulpit to be able to get it done. She obviously can't be bought. And she's actually a very, obviously, in my judgment, a very impressive and a very nice person. On the other hand, how likely is it she'd give up what she's doing for that? I mean, being a senator's a big deal, but it ain't Oprah.
Although Oprah broadcasts
from Chicago, her main residence is an estate in Montecito, California.
She also owns houses in New Jersey, Chicago, Fisher Island off the coast
of Miami, Douglasville, Georgia, Telluride, Colorado, and Maui, Hawaii.