Sunday, November 18, 2012

People I Admire: Oprah Winfrey

Originally I was going to include Oprah Winfrey as one of my style icons, but as I thought about how much I truly admire Oprah Winfrey I decided to write about that and so Oprah is the first to appear on my "People I Admire" blog series. 

Oprah Gail Winfrey was born on January 29, 1954 in rural Mississippi.  Oprah's mother, Vernita Lee, was a single teenager who worked as a house maid when Oprah was born.  Oprah has always acknowledged Vernon Winfrey has her father, but supposedly he is not her biological father.

For the first six years of Oprah's life she lived in extreme poverty with her grandmother Hattie Mae Lee.  At age six Oprah was taken to live with her mother Vernita in the inner city of Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  Oprah and Vernita did not get along.  During this time is when Oprah also started being sexually abused by a cousin and other male figures.  Oprah was nine years old at the time the abuse started.  At age 14 Oprah became pregnant and gave birth to a boy who died just hours later. 

Vernita Lee sent Oprah to live with her father Vernon in Nashville Tennessee and that is when Oprah's life began to change.  Vernon Winfrey was strict and made education a priority.  Oprah did very well in school.  At age 17 Oprah won the Miss Black Tennessee Beauty Pageant  Oprah caught the attention of the local black radio station.  She was hired to work part time as a news caster.  Oprah worked at the station during her last two years of high school and first two years of college.


 Oprah Winfrey's studio office

In 1983 Oprah moved to Chicago to host a low rated half hour morning show called AM Chicago.  The show went from last place in the ratings to overtaking the Phil Donahue show has the highest rated. 

  Oprah in 1985

In 1985 Oprah made her film debut playing Sofia in the movie version of The Color Purple directed by Steven Speilberg.

Besides surpassing Phil Donahue in the ratings, Oprah's role in The Color Purple put her in the national spotlight.  AM Chicago was renamed The Oprah Winfrey Show and it went into national syndication in 1986.  

Oprah went through her struggles with weight in front of the national spotlight.   

I will never forget this particular show where Oprah reveals how she managed to lose 68 pounds. 
 Behind Oprah is a red wagon containing 68 pounds of fat representing how much weight Oprah Winfrey lost. 
Oprah Winfrey also started exercising regularly.  She really looked fantastic, however, weight continued to be a struggle for Oprah to keep off. 

In 1989 Oprah Winfrey starred as Mattie Michael in The Women of Brewster Place based on the book by Gloria Naylor.

Oprah brought Toni Morrison's best selling book Beloved to the silver screen.  Oprah starred as Sethe.  The film version was actually very good, but it did not do well at the box office.  I read the book just before the movie came out in theaters.
Beloved also starred Kimberly Elise and Thandie Newton.
Thandie, Oprah and Kimberly in Beloved.  

Everyone knows that Gayle King is Oprah's best friend.  Oprah and Gayle met more than 25 years ago while Oprah was working in Baltimore.  Gayle has always been Oprah's biggest supporter and confidant.  I met Gayle once back in the late 1970's.  Gayle and my older brother were attending the University of Maryland and Gayle was dating my brother.  I was visiting my aunt Cleo in Washington DC and my brother brought Gayle over for the family to meet.  Gayle stayed only for a short while and did not talk much.  She seemed nice enough and she was cute.  I did not see Gayle again after that but when my brother was home during school break she would call and sometimes I would pick up the phone. 

Anyway, Gayle and my brother remained friends when they broke up.  Both graduated from the University of Maryland and Gayle almost immediately got a job in her field of communications.  Gayle and my brother kept in touch for years.  Some time in the 1980's when my brother was between relationships Gayle tried introducing him to Oprah.  She had been in a very toxic relationship.   It was never really clear why Oprah and my brother never actually got together but my brother did say that he was at a wedding or something and did see Oprah there.  Shortly after that Oprah relocated to Chicago and the rest is history.  Gayle and my brother did continue to keep in touch once in a blue moon after that.  My dear brother Ricardo passed away in 2011 at age 55.

Okay, back to Oprah and our regular scheduled programming.  The picture above shows Oprah wearing my favorite out of all the hairstyles she has had over the years.  First off Oprah has such lush and thick beautiful hair.  Oprah's crowning glory is her best feature and this style fits her facial features so perfectly.

Through determination, dedication, work and listening to her inner guidance, Oprah went from living in poverty to having a net worth of 2.7 billion dollars as of 2011. 

1996 some Texas cattlemen sued Oprah Winfrey after she mad a remark on her showed that she stopped eating burgers.   The cattlemen claimed that beef prices plummeted after Oprah's remark so they sued her for damages.  Oprah won the case.  YAY!!!
Nelson Mandela and Oprah Winfrey.

Oprah started a school for girls in South Africa.  

On 2004 Oprah launched O The Oprah Magazine.  

Oprah Winfrey, Nobel Prize winner Wangari Maathi and actor Tom Cruise in Oslo Norway.
 Oprah Winfrey wax figure at Madame Tussand in New Yorkj City.

O'Hare International Airport honors Oprah Winfrey.

Oprah is the keynote speaker at graduating ceremonies, Stanford, California.

Michelle Obama and Oprah Winfrey.

Oprah was honored at the Kennedy Center in Washington DC.  Oprah is seated next to Pau; McCartney and director Bill T. Jones who were also honored.

 Oprah in Jaipur, India.

 Oprah has her own private jet to travel around the world.

Stedman Graham is Oprah Winfrey's long time boyfriend.  They started dating shortly after Oprah appeared in The Color Purpple.  In 1992 Stedman proposed to Oprah but the marriage did not take place.  Stedman and Oprah are still happily together though. 

The little girl born into poverty in rural Mississippi has certainly come a long way.  Oprah's talk show in Chicago ran very successfully for more than 25 years.  Oprah also  helped to start the Oxygen channel on cable TV and started her own cable channel OWN.  Additionally, Oprah has a channel on XM Satellite radio that broadcasts 24 hours a day. 
Oprah is a prolific philanthropist.  She has financed the entire college education of many young men and women.  As of this date Oprah has already given around 400 million dollars to educational endeavors.  Through Oprah's book club she has inspired many people around the world to read. 

There are a lot of people out there in the world who like to criticize everything that Oprah Winfrey does.  I don't pay attention to any of it.  I don't care about any of her supposed flaws.  When Oprah came into this world God had a plan for her to become greater than she ever thought she would and Oprah took that path.  Oprah is a world teacher and I understand the messages she has brought to humanity.     



Anonymous said...

That's a lovely story about your brother :) I'm very sorry to learn he has passed away. I was once in a "six degrees of separation" challenge and Oprah was one of the challenges, looks like you would win that one pretty easily! :)

collarcitybrownstone said...

Thank you Ruskindays. My older brother's passing was not expected so it was a shock. I am honored that he came here on this earth as my brother and I have fond memories of my time with him.