On Oprah Winfrey
Billionaire. Talk Show Host. Television Producer. Actress. Philanthropist.
This week's post is about the incomparable Oprah Winfrey! Random, I know, but over the past week I have been listening to and been inspired by the Making Oprah podcast which covers her journey to becoming a media giant. Plus, it is still Women's History Month and Auntie Oprah is a living legend. Winfrey was born in a rural town in Mississippi in 1954 and at the age of 22, moved to Baltimore to host a hit television show. In 1985, Winfrey gained national attention and an Academy Award nomination for her role in the film classic, The Color Purple. She was then recruited to host what would become The Oprah Winfrey Show. The show grossed $125 million by the end of its first year of which she received $30 million, and she soon gained greater control (and money) when her company took over production. By the end of her time with the show, it was being aired in more than 100 countries worldwide.
During her career, Oprah started a production company, HARPO productions (Oprah spelled backward), co-founded the Oxygen Media company, launched a monthly magazine, O: The Oprah Magazine, acted in several films and shows, and produced a Broadway production. She remains the chief executive of the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) which she launched the year in 2011, and stars regularly on the TV show, Greenleaf. Most recently, she starred in A Wrinkle in Time directed by Ava DuVernay.
As if she couldn't get any better, she is also a major philanthropist. Oprah's Angel Network has raised more than $50 million for charitable programs including girls' education in South Africa. In 2002, she was named the first recipient of the Bob Hope Humanitarian award by the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. She also received the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama in 2013.
According to Forbes magazine, Oprah was the richest African American of the 20th century and the process of her success is more than inspiring. She faced much resistance and even doubted her own success when she began her show because she was black, overweight and a woman. 25 seasons later, she was a billionaire and known around the world.
Here are three things that Auntie Oprah can teach us:
I. Confidence: In 1986, when asked in an interview about the success of her new show, Oprah answered that regardless of the show's success, she would be successful. She emphasized that she was not defined by her show and that is proved by her career. Though doubting herself at first for the things that made her "unmarketable", she put herself out there with confidence, and this energy is what brought viewers back again and again. By being authentically herself and believing in her capabilities, she was able to run a successful show and become an icon.
II. Support System: While this self-confidence was important, she also had a strong and loyal team around her that advocated on her behalf and pushed her to be her best. I have already talked about the importance of supporting friends and with a bestie like Gayle King, a partner like Stedman (talk about loyal), and multiple employees at her side, there was nothing stopping Oprah from becoming a household name.
III. Leveling Up: Instead of staying a Talk Show Host and retiring with her millions, Oprah's journey is one of leveling up. She is a jack-of-all-trades. She didn't just succeed in one lane, but chose many lanes to conquer. She took her influence and money and created legacies through her production company and television network.
The biggest lesson Oprah can teach us is one of humility. I aspire to one day build a career doing what I love and building a lasting legacy as she has done.