Oprah Winfrey is the embodiment of American spirit and entrepreneurial success and hers is a rags-to-riches story come to life.
Oprah means ?instant cognisance?. This biography written by author of Tom Clancy: A Critical Companion, takes the reader past the hype and hyperbole to present a candid portrait of the Black entertainer of world fame; one of the richest women not only in America but also the planet and a woman awarded honours of every kind for her own works and also for her philanthropic educational and social activities.
Born on January 29, 1954 as an illegitimate child of Vernita Lee and Vernon Winfrey, Oprah lived with her grandparents, i.e. Vernita'sparents until the age of six in Mississippi. The grandfather had little to do with his grandchild. He was a fearsome presence, threatening the child with his cane and throwing various things at her. Whippings were part of Oprah'supbringing, in accordance with the old credo ?spare the rod and spoil the child?. Referring to her whippings, she had once observed that if White girls had to be punished, they got ?spanked? whereas Black children got ?whipped?. Her mother took her away to live with her where she suffered from a complex due to her dark colour. She became conscious particularly in the all-Black college she attended ?of subtle and unsubtle patterns among those who had varying shades of blackness?.
Oprah'sundeniable interest in Black history in the last two decades has taken many forms in books, movies and artifacts. Her reading and acting interest meshed when she was asked to play a role in 1985 in the movie The Colour Purple that became a controversial but popular success. This was followed with another African American movie Native Son, which turned out to be a loser both with critics and audience.
The movie Before Women had Wings which Oprah'sHarpo Productions made for the ABC network in 1997, was one of her most successful film ventures. A year later, under the listing ?Oprah Winfrey Presents? she produced a four-hour mini series called The Wedding, starring Halle Berry who won an Oscar at the 2002 Academy Awards. Then as if to redeem her judgement Oprah'smost popular television movie, also under the label ?Oprah Winfrey Presents? was made in 1999 from Mitch Ahom'sphenomenally successful book Tuesdays with Morries. The film drew 22.5 million viewers, unmatched in numbers by any other television show for the entire week.
Oprah'smother Vernita had to struggle constantly but it was her daughter Oprah'ssuccess and generosity years later as an entertainer that improved Vernita'slife. The less favoured child gave money to both siblings and her mother, as well as homes to her mother, sister and father.
In 1992, she introduced a documentary titled Scared Silent and appealed to the audience to watch the documentary, talk about the issues and seek help. Her commitment to the life-transforming values of education is seen in many areas. She continues to give large sums of money to colleges and universities. Could anyone knowing her early life have imagined the heights to which she would rise, that in 1968 she could receive the most notable honour in broadcasting?the George Foster Peabody Individual Achievement Award and a few years later in 2002, she would be the first recipient of the Bob Hope Humanitarian Award?
She hosted AM Chicago, which gained the highest talk-show ratings and her show was syndicated. In 1987, she was awarded the Emmy. In her magazine in a column entitled ?What I Know for Sure? she wrote of sadness and joy, of deprivation and fulfilment, of achievements and miracles, of soup and sunsets. All of these she declared were part of life'sjourney and surely of hers, but then each life creates its own path.
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