Haneefah Muhammad Manning English-10/Period: 1 16 May 2011 The Secret to One Of America’s Biggest Icons Success Everyone knows Oprah Winfrey, and there might be a lot of controversy about how Oprah became who she is today, and what all it took for her to become a billionaire. Oprah, one of America’s top icons went through many obstacles and struggles to become what she is today. Although, Oprah is very famous, and on the T. V. screen it appears like her life is easy, this essay can give you a look behind the scenes to see what she really had to overcome to get where she is today.
Do you think that Oprah just luckily became one of America’s Icons, or that she had to work hard for it? There are probably many questions that can be asked about how Oprah became who she is. But, I’ll just say that Oprah’s childhood, social class, and her career aspirations are key to her success. When Oprah was born, the voyage to her success started which was January 29th, 1954. Oprah Gail Winfrey was born to Vernita Lee at age eighteen, and Vernon Winfrey who was the age of twenty. After Oprah’s birth, Vernita, Oprah’s mother had to find a job, so she moved to Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Oprah then had to live with her grandmother, Hattie Mae Lee on her farm in Mississippi (Elizabeth). Vernita had the intentions of moving Oprah with her when she got a stable job. Meanwhile, Oprah’s grandmother encouraged her love for books and learning, and taught her how to read at the age of 3 and write by the age of 5. Oprah then began to preach at the church that she attended and read the Bible. Oprah lived her whole childhood in poverty, and did not have much of anything, but she always got the best of it. At one point Oprah even had pet roaces named Melinda and Sandy.
One thing that Oprah says that probably made her stong and contributes to who she is today is to “Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough. ” Later on, at age 6, Oprah moved with her mother, Vernita to Milwaukee, because her grandmother became ill. In the midst of Oprah living with her grandmother, Vernita had another girl named Patricia, which was Oprah’s half-sister. Oprah’s mother would spend most of her time with Patricia and didn’t really pay much attention to Oprah.
A year later, Oprah moved with her father, Vernon, and her step-mother, Zelma in Nashville Tennessee. Vernon and Zelma were unable to have children, and loved for Oprah to stay with them. Oprah then went to Wharton Elementary School, and skipped a grade for the second time and was placed in third grade. She then began to preach again, and started speaking at the church that she currently attended in Nashville. After Oprah completed third grade she went back to Milwaukee to visit her mother, and her mother had another child, a boy named Jeffrey.
In the fall, Vernon came to take Oprah back to Nashville, but she decided that she would stay with Vernita, and start the fourth grade there. Oprah was forced to share a room with her siblings, and did not care for her mother’s living. In Vernita’s absence, Oprah would resort to watching the television for companionship, and had her first thought to becoming well-known one day. This then marked the idea of Oprah becoming great, like she is today. At age 9, Oprah experienced sexual abuse, while her and her siblings were being watched by their older cousin, who was nineteen.
She was molested, and then taken to go get ice-cream, so that she wouldn’t tell, which she didn’t. Later on Oprah was raped at her house by a family friend. Two years later, Oprah was molested again by her Uncle. Knowing, that sexual abuse really has an effect on people’s lives, and can traumatize them for life, Oprah kept her experiences with sexual abuse as an untold secret. Ms. Winfrey then attended Lincoln Middle School in downtown Milwaukee, and a teacher named Gene Abrams realized Oprah’s compassion and interest in books. Ms.
Abrams then assisted Oprah in getting her into Nicolet High School, which was an all white school, in Glendale, Wisconsin. At Nicolet High School, Ms. Winfrey was the only African-American student, and Oprah is quoted saying, “In 1968 it was real hip to know a black person, so I was very popular. ” Oprah was then getting a good education, and was on the road to being successful. Unfortunately, Vernita’s house Oprah was not receiving much guidance and aid, and was not able to talk to her mother about being sexually abused. So, Oprah resorted to acting out and not behaving well. Ms.
Winfrey then began to start dating, skipping school, running away, being sexually active, and stealing from her mother. Vernita did not know how to cope and deal with this bad behavior, so she sent her back to Nashville to live with her father, and step-mother. At age 14, Oprah found out that she was pregnant, and would wear big clothes so that her parents would not find out about her pregnancy (Oprah Winfrey). She was able to hide the fact that she was pregnant until the seventh month. On the day that she told her father that she was pregnant, she went into labor, and delivered the baby (The Oprah Winfrey Biography).
Oprah Winfrey gave girth to a baby boy, who was born early, and died two weeks after his birth. At age 16, Oprah started reading the autobiography of Maya Angelou, called I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. Oprah said, and I quote, “I read it over and over, I had never read a book that validated my own existence. ” Maya Angelou’s autobiography really related to Oprah Winfrey, and she started looking up to Maya Angelou, whom she got to meet later on in life, and became one of Oprah’s close friends (Metcalf). Ms. Winfrey then started to get her life back on track, and began concentrating on her education, and started to speak publicly again.
In 1970, she won a college scholarship, from the Elk’s Club speaking competition, that would send her to school for four years for her hard work and talent. In 1971, Oprah was selected to be present at The White House Conference on Youth in Colorado, so that she and one other student could represent Tennessee and its education. When she returned to Nashville, she was interviewed by WVOL Radio Station. The radio station later asked Oprah to represent their station, and participate in a beauty pageant, called the Miss Fire Prevention.
She then won the competition, and was the first African American to ever win this contest (Cassandra). After winning this contest, WVOL presented her with a chance to hear her voice on tape. Oprah’s talent then got her a part-time position in being a newsreader. At the age of 17, Oprah completed her senior year, and continued speaking on the radio. In 1988, Oprah established her own talk show called the Oprah Winfrey Show, and has her own magazine (Vernita). In conclusion, today, Oprah continues to work diligently in her work. Ms.
Winfrey is a talk show host, producer, narrator, and one of the few African American billionaires. Ms. Winfrey is also a very charitable person. Oprah has starred in movies, donated to the community, and even established a girl’s school in South Africa. On January 1, 2011, Oprah aired her first shows on the OWN network, Oprah’s own cable channel. Oprah Winfrey’s last show will be aired on May 25th, 2011. Oprah Gail Winfrey is truly a shining example of someone who can become so great and accomplished so many goals, not to have anything as a child, and to go through so much.
As we can see, Oprah’s childhood, social class, and career aspirations are key to her success today. Works Cited “Oprah Winfrey Biography”, 2011. Web. 15 Apr. 2011. “Oprah Winfrey. ” Academy of Achievement, 21 Oct. 2010. Web. 13 Apr. 2011. Fry, Elizabeth. “A Childhood Biography of Oprah Winfrey. ” About. com, 2011. Web. 12 Apr. 2011. Lane, Vernetta. “Oprah Winfrey”, 2010. Web. 15 Apr. 2011. Metcalf, Stephen. “Oprah’s Biography. ” Slate Magazines, 20 May 2010. Web. 13 Apr. 2011. Nelson, Cassandra. “Oprah Winfrey’s official biography”, Jan. 2011. Web. 14 Apr. 2011.