LTI Profile: Oprah Winfrey

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Google ‘Oprah’ and you will come up with over 23 million hits in 0.09 seconds. She is a woman of immense wealth and influence, but she is also one of the world’s greatest philanthropists. Many also consider her to be a notable spiritual leader. From her tumultuous upbringing to now, Oprah has overcome many obstacles to become the success she is today. She is a true inspiration for following one’s dream, and not letting anyone stand in the way.

Oprah: The Person
“Where there is no struggle, there is no strength.”

Oprah was born on January 29th, 1954 in Kosciusko, Mississippi to a teenage mother. It is said that she had so little during her childhood that she had to wear a potato sack as a dress. However, she was a good student growing up and became an honours student in high school. Her dedication to her education and participation in clubs later earned her a full scholarship to Tennessee State University.

Oprah’s life has been filled with many hardships, including sexual abuse, weight fluctuations, and more than one abusive relationship. However, she has now found stability with her partner, Stedman Graham, and her best friend Gayle King.

Oprah: Media Mogul
“For everyone of us that succeeds, it’s because there’s somebody there to show you the way out.”

Oprah got her start in radio, doing the news part-time for a Tennessee radio station during the last year of high school and first two years of university. She eventually moved on to become a television news anchor for stations located in Nashville, Baltimore, and eventually to Chicago to host her first talk-show, AM Chicago. The ratings soared within months of Oprah becoming host, and within two years the show was renamed The Oprah Winfrey Show. That was 1986, but it wasn’t until the 1990’s that Oprah changed the focus of her show to become more about literature, self-improvement, and spirituality, rather than celebrity gossip. This is the time when she really started to challenge the taboo subjects historically avoided by daytime talk-shows, such as HIV and AIDS. Today, The Oprah Winfrey Show can be viewed in 140 countries around the world. Her last show is set to air in September 2011, after 25 years of being on air.

Oprah: Wealth and Influence
“Lots of people want to ride with you in the limo, but what you want is someone who will take the bus with you when the limo breaks down.”

Even though she was born into what many may call poverty, Oprah has found a way to become one of the richest self-made Americans of all time. She first reached the millionaire mark by the age of 32, and as of September 2009, Oprah’s net worth was over $2.3 billion. She has also been named to many different lists as one of the most influential people in the world, including Time Magazine.

Oprah: Generosity
“I don’t think you ever stop giving. I really don’t. I think it’s an on-going process. And it’s not just about being able to write a check. It’s being able to touch somebody’s life.”

For someone who has been named as one of America’s top 50 most generous philanthropists and who won the first ever Bob Hope Humanitarian Award in 2002, it is hard to summarize in few words what Oprah has given to the international community. It is said that she has given over $303 million dollars to different charities and development initiatives around the world. The Oprah Angel Network alone has raised over $51 million. One hundred percent of which goes directly into charitable projects, as Oprah pays all administrative costs herself. The goal of the Angel Network is to make a difference in the lives of those less fortunate, and provide inspiration for living a better life. In 2007, Oprah also opened the doors to the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls in South Africa. Through education, the goal of this academy is to build the confidence and leadership skills of women in Africa.

Oprah: “Live Your Best Life”
“The whole point of being alive is to evolve into the complete person you were intended to be.”

Oprah has provided the world with many resources for self-improvement. She has co-authored five books and has introduced the world to a variety of subjects through the Oprah Book Club. She also publishes two magazines focused on better living – ‘O, The Oprah Magazine’ and ‘O at Home’. For online content, you have to look no further than Oprah.com, which offers writing and media on such topics as health, spirit, relationships, and more. If you’re looking for iPod content, all you have to do is go to the iTunes store, search ‘Oprah’, click on podcasts, and choose your channel of interest. Your options will include Oprah’s Book Club Channel, Spirit Channel, Money Channel, Health and Wellness Channel, and her Relationships Channel. All of these podcasts are free.

As you can see, what Oprah has accomplished in her life, as well as what possibilities lie ahead of her are endless. What we have presented here is only the tip of the iceberg to what she has contributed to this world. As biographer Kitty Kelley says, “As a woman, she has wielded an unprecedented amount of influence over the American culture and psyche,…There has been no other person in the 20th Century whose convictions and values have impacted the American public in such a significant way… I see her as probably the most powerful woman in our society. I think Oprah has influenced every medium that she’s touched.”

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