Linda A. Rivers

February 2005

Stories of Success

Oprah Winfrey Succeeded Against the Odds


            Think about an alcoholic, drug addict who has to steal to get that next fix or being molested as a child by someone whom you trusted.  Everyone in your immediate life keeps telling you that you will never amount to anything, your self-esteem shattered; the average person would just give up.  Your life has been filled with one disappointment after the other, yet there is one person who cares just enough to pull out of you what has become dormant due to all the abuse you have encountered.  Oprah Winfrey took all that adversity of being molested, abused, and decided to share her pain to help someone else know that it is possible to succeed against the odds.

            Oprah Winfrey was born January 29, 1954, in Kosciusko, Mississippi.  Her parents were not married and were separated soon after her birth, leaving her to be raised by her maternal grandmother until age 6.  While living with her grandmother she was molested by a teenage cousin, which led to other male family members doing the same.  At the age of six Oprah went to live with her mother of which she had a contentious (always ready to argue) relationship with.  That relationship caused her to often act out as a bid to gain attention.  Once she faked a robbery in her house, smashed glasses, feigned (faked) amnesia and stole her mother’s purse, all because she wanted newer more stylish glasses.  Oprah ran away several times resulting in her being sent to a juvenile detention home at the age of 13, only to be denied admission because all the beds were filled.  These issues later resulted in her being sent o live with her father at the age of 14 in Nashville.  Vernon Winfrey saw to it that his daughter still met her midnight curfew, and he required her to read a book followed by a book report each week.  This move was the first step to shaping an abused child into an extraordinary woman.

            Five years and hundreds of book reports later, Oprah’s broadcasting career was officially launched.  She was hired by WVOL radio in Nashville.  Two years later at the age of 19, she became the youngest and first African-American anchor at WTVF-TV.  She attended Tennessee State University, where she majored in Speech Communications and Performing Arts.  In January 1984, Oprah went to Chicago to host WLS-TV’s AM Chicago” a faltering local talk show.  In less than a year, Oprah turned “AM Chicago” into the hottest show in town.  This being because she was a seeker of truth in herself and others. In September 1985 the show was renamed “The Oprah Winfrey Show”.  Oprah Winfrey is empathetic, honest and her love for people has made her one of the most beloved women in America.  One noted cause was in 1991 when the story of a four-year old Chicago girl’s molestation and murder caught her attention.  Oprah initiated a proposal that federal child protection legislation design a bill to keep nationwide records on convicted abusers.  This was done with the help of former Illinois Governor James Thompson.  Due to her persistence, President Clinton signed the bill.  The bill now allows child care providers to check the background of prospective employee’s.

            Oprah Winfrey is not just a talk show host who has outperformed every other syndicated talk show in television history.  Her shows deal with everyday realities.  She shows how to take steps to resolve issues by going through adversity and not be ashamed, but use it to help yourself and others.

            Oprah Winfrey did and still is succeeding against the odds.  She has the number one reality talk show worldwide.  Her show informs, directs and motivates those who feel they can’t succeed, to at least take the first step in trying to get out of the situation. She decided to share her pain and encourage someone else that despite the adversity that may come, there is always a way of succeeding against the odds.