Although it is assumed Oprah Winfrey lived a great life; she was faced with many obstacles before and during the course of her success. Prior to Oprah Winfrey wonderful career, she was faced with poverty. She was born in the rural area of Mississippi, to a single teenage mother. Ms. Winfrey went through a long history of neglect and abuses, as she was shuffled back and forth between her mother and grandmother’s house. While living with her mother, she became a victim of rape by nine-year-old. She was raped repeatedly by her nineteen-year-old cousin, who was suppose to care for her while her mother worked long hours as a maid (Street, 2015). Oprah Winfrey was sexually abused until the age of thirteen, she was continuously raped by her mother boyfriend and several other family members.
While living with her grandmother, she was severely beaten and punished for the simplest things. Oprah Winfrey grandmother was very strict. According to Overcoming Obstacles article, Ms. Winfrey remembered a time when she was “whipped” so badly, she was left with bloody welts on her back. Her grandmother was upset with her because she put her finger in a bucket of fresh well water that was just collected (Street, 2015). Because of this, more than half of the time, Ms. Winfrey felt a sense of loneliness which forced her to turn to books. She was taught how to read a very young age. She read and recited bible verses at church. Ms. Winfrey enjoyed the positive feedback and sense of worthiness from reading in church. Doing so gave her a sense of approval and acceptance from other which helped influence her career choice (Street, 2015).
At the age of fourteen, Oprah Winfrey became pregnant as a result of being raped. She gave birth to a premature baby boy named “Canaan” (Corinthois, 2015). A week later, Ms. Winfrey baby boy passed away in the hospital from health complications. During an interview with People Magazine, Ms. Winfrey stated she tried hiding her pregnancy from the world because she felt so much “shame and pain” (Corinthois, 2015). She was worried her career would be over if people found out about her pregnancy. She was worried that everyone would point the finger at her or look at her in a different light, but instead everyone felt empathy for her. The death of Oprah Winfrey son broke her down to her lowest. She was extremely devastated and felted wounded and betrayed by everyone who played a role (Corinthois, 2015).
Everything that lead up to Oprah Winfrey son passing away made her have suicidal thoughts, however, she also looked at the death of her son as a second chance at life (Jagaanthan, 2015). Back then, Oprah Winfrey thought if the world knew about her son, she would not have been able to hold her position as head of the student council in high school or would not have been selected to attend a White House conference as a youth.
The birth and death of Oprah Winfrey son was one of her biggest secret. No one knew about her pregnancy beside close friend and family. As a teenager, she hid her pregnancy from the world until she no longer could hide her swollen feet and pregnant belly. In 1990, a close relative sold an article to the tabloids that revealed Oprah Winfrey pregnancy to the world (Steindler, 2007). She was so devastated of her relative actions, as she cried day and night. Ms. Winfrey felt betrayed by her family member actions, as she was never given the opportunity to reveal her own secret. The death of her son was a secret she carried into her future career. She was always afraid of the negative reaction she would get from the world.
After Oprah Winfrey secret was exposed, she started to slowly talk about her past on her talk show. she though back to a time when her father said to her “what you have done is in the past and you alone get to determine what your future will be” (Steindler, 2007). She used her humiliating experience as a platform to inspire teenage guests on her show with similar stories. She gave advice and shared how she felt when she went through her experiences as a teenager and as an adult. Oprah Winfrey later realized her secret was liberating to the world, as it did more good than bad to her career.
Ms. Winfrey started building relationships with her fans. She became more opened about her life experiences during her talk show as different topics arise. While taping a program on her show, Oprah Winfrey opened up about her drug usage. According to Washington Post article, a guest on the Oprah Winfrey Show spoke about her drug addiction (Edwards, 1995). As the show guest told her story about using cocaine, Ms. Winfrey began crying and stated, “I understand your situation, I did your drugs” (Edwards, 1995). That day, during her television show, she revealed another one of her darkest secrets. She admitted to using drugs while being in a corrupt relationship with a man (Edwards, 1995). That relationship was no good for Ms. Winfrey as her life changed as soon as their relationship began. Once the relationship was over, she immediately stops using drugs as it was no longer apart of her life (Edwards, 1995).
Many fans who admire Oprah Winfrey thought of her having much courage to reveal her drug addiction on national television. Other thought the media would butcher her name and label her as they do with most drug addicts (Edwards, 1995). According to Washington Post magazine, most fans were shocked that Ms. Winfrey openly admitted to her negative experience. They thought the world would publicly tarnish her character, but instead her drug addiction platform was used to encourage other to speak about their addict (Edwards, 1995).
Furthermore, Oprah Winfrey career started at the age of 17-year-old, immediately after college, in Nashville. She held a position as the youngest African American new anchor (Jones, 2018). Ms. Winfrey hated her job as she dislikes interviewing people in time of tragedy because she struggled with controlling her emotions. She was able to relate so closely with people in crisis because of her past experiences (Umoh, 2018). A few years later, Ms. Winfrey was blamed for low television rating and fired from her position. She was demoted to a writing job in which she disliked as well (Jones, 2018).
Her writing position was no better than her new anchor position as she was a slow writing and extremely uninterested in her work. Ms. Winfrey begin brainstorming on what she wanted her career to be like. She knew she loved hosting, television, and preferred human-interest stories over hard core news (Jones, 2018). Eventually all her souls searching paid off, when she landed a job, co-hosting a show called “People are Talking” (Jones, 2018). Many people though Oprah Winfrey decision to co-host the talk show was a bad idea because her co-hosting position was a step down from her writing job (Jones, 2018). However, she succeeded in her co-hosting position for several years until she was recruited to a morning talk show in Chicago. The morning talk show helped Oprah Winfrey career blossom. The show became a house hold name as it brought attention to her career (Jones, 2018) the morning talk show was one of the highest-ranking television shows in Chicago and was later renamed the Oprah Winfrey Show (Street, 2015).
In 1998, Ms. Winfrey decided to produce her own movie called Beloved. Beloved is a drama film in which Ms. Winfrey played the leading role. Once the film hit theaters, the box office number failed promptly (Cammeron, 2011). Oprah Winfrey did not react positively to her movie box office numbers as she failed victim to some form of depression. The Queen of daytime television ate massively. She ate 30 pounds of macaroni and cheese as time passed her by (Cammeron, 2011).
During Beloved premiere week, a movie called “Bride of Chucky” also came out. Bride of Chucky beat Beloved box office numbers which caused the drama film to do poorly (Cammeron, 2011). According to Daily News magazine, Oprah Winfrey called her reaction a form of “deep depression”. She also recognized her reaction to be a major issue and if she did not snap out of the depression, she would have probably sought professional help (Cammeron, 2011). Ms. Winfrey overcame her movie failure through prayer. She prayed and prayed and over time became humble again. According to Fortune, Ms. Winfrey learned to never put all her hopes and expectations on one project and allow whatever happens, happen (Zillman, 2017).
In 2011, Ms. Winfrey announced her plans to end the Oprah Winfrey Show. At the time, the television show had been on air for 25 years and was being viewed by approximately 42 million viewers each week in the United States (The Oprah Winfrey Show to End September 2011, 2009). Prior to her announcement, Oprah Winfrey talk show rating failed by nearly 7 percent in 2007. “yearly average viewership was down to 7.3 million from 7.8 million in 2005” (Cockcroft, 2008). Ms. Winfrey ratings downturn was a result to her outspoken support for President Barack Obama. Oprah Magazine company had fallen more than 10 percent within the last 3 years and the editor in Chief decided to retire due to Ms. Winfrey Outspoken support (Cockcroft, 2008).
Prior to Oprah Winfrey Outspoken support for President Obama, “Oprah Big Give” reality show was second to American Idol on ABC program channel, however, after her presidential opinion was out, the show ratings shed nearly one-third of its viewers (Cockcroft, 2008). Although President Obama had a major support group, majority of Ms. Winfrey’s audience were white middle-age women who support Hillary Clinton in the presidential candidate election or republican voters (Cockcroft, 2008).
Additionally, in 2015, Oprah Winfrey announced the closing of Harpo production studio (Zipin, 2015). In 1988, Harpo production took over the ownership and production responsibility of Oprah Winfrey talk show (Zipin, 2015). This historically move made Ms. Winfrey the first woman in history to own and produce her own talk show and first African American to own her own production company (Zipin, 2015). Around the time Oprah Winfrey announced ending her talk show, she also announced her new venture Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN). OWN was equally produced by Discovery Communication Inc and Harpo production in a 50/50 split (Zipin, 2015). However, as OWN become more successful, Ms. Winfrey decided it was time to move on from Harpo production. All Ms. Winfrey productions moved to Own headquarters and approximately 200 employees were laid off (Zipin, 2015).
Oprah Winfrey was faced with many obstacles throughout her career. After many career failures, she is more successful than ever before. Ms. Winfrey rose from her biggest failure by believing in herself and never given up on what she believed in. During an interview, Oprah Winfrey revealed three traits that helped her rise above most people and help her through her biggest failure in her career (Brown, 2017). She first spoke about practicing gratitude because it is hard to remain sad if she is focus on what she has instead of what she does not have (Brown, 2017). There is scientific evidence showing that if someone has gratitude for what they currently have can lead them to getting more of what they want (Brown, 2017).
Practicing service helped Ms. Winfrey to never put all her eggs in one basket. She believed her job was to create something that the world need (Brown, 2017). Ms. Winfrey believed if she gives, than her consumers would choose to give their financial, emotional, and mental support in return (Brown, 2017). Lastly, practicing presence because every human being wants to feel like they matter. Any issue can be resolved if you know what it is the consumer want or want to hear (Brown, 2017).
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