On January 29, 1954 Oprah Gail Winfrey was born to unwed, teenage parents in Kosciusko, Mississippi. Oprah had a mountain of obstacles already in front of her as a newborn baby... she was born to unwed teenage parents, she was female, she was black, and she was poor. Oprah mother was an eighteen-year-old housemaid named Vernita Lee. Her father was a twenty-year-old doing duty in the armed forces: his name was Vernon Winfrey.
For the first six years of her life, the young Winfrey was raised on a Mississippi farm by her grandmother. That being perhaps the first stroke of good luck for the young child. Oprah has stated that living with her grandmother probably saved her life. While in her grandmother care, she was taught to read at a very early age, instilling a love of reading in her that she retains today. She began her public speaking career at the tender age of three when she began reading aloud and reciting sermons to the congregation of her church.
Oprah has said that she heard her grandmother state on several occasions that Oprah was "gifted." While the young child did not know exactly what being "gifted" meant, she thought that it meant that she was special. And that was enough to keep her going. That bit of praise, the thought that she was "gifted" and "special" may have been what got her through the hard years that she was to spend with her mother.
At the age of six, her mother, Vernita Lee, decided that she could care for her young daughter and Oprah was sent to live with her mother in Milwaukee. From ages six to thirteen, Oprah stayed with her mother. She was raped by a cousin when she was nine years old and later molested by a male friend of her mother is and by an uncle. The young girl never told anyone about the abuse that she was suffering. Instead, she held her anger and pain inside and she rebelled. She repeatedly ran away and got into trouble.
Her mother decided to put her into a detention home. Fortunately for Oprah, she was denied admission to the home because there were no openings. So, in what may have been her second major stroke of good luck, she was sent to live with her father Vernon Winfrey in Nashville. Before she ceased her promiscuous and wild behavior, she became pregnant and gave birth to a stillborn baby boy when she was fourteen. The death of her baby devastated her and she vowed to turn her life around.
Her father helped her with her mission by strapping her with his strict rules and discipline. Vernon made sure that his daughter stuck to her curfew, maintained high grades in school and encouraged Oprah to be her best. Oprah father helped her turn her life around. Oprah has spoke of his requirement that she read a book each week and complete a book report on the book.
At the age of nineteen, Oprah landed her first job as a reporter for a radio station in Nashville. Shortly afterwards, she entered Tennessee State University to pursue a career in radio and television broadcasting. During her freshman year at TSU, Oprah won several pageants, including "Miss Black Nashville" and "Miss Tennessee."
In 1976, Oprah Winfrey moved to Baltimore, where she hosted a TV show called People Are Talking. The show was a hit and Winfrey stayed for eight years. She was then recruited by a TV station in Chicago to host her own morning show, A.M. Chicago. The show was competing against the immensely popular Phil Donahue Show. After several months, Oprah warm-hearted style had taken her to first place in the ratings. Her success led to a role in Steven Spielberg film, The Color Purple in 1985, for which she was nominated for an Academy Award.
In 1986, Oprah started the Oprah Winfrey Show. The rest is, as they say, history. Oprah has come from being a poor, black, farm girl from Mississippi to a national celebrity. To her resume she can add reporter, actress, writer, producer, activist and TV talk show host... but it does not stop there. Oprah, it seems, is unstoppable.