Black History Month: Oprah Winfrey: Meet an American icon

Our latest blog to mark UK Black History Month comes from Sherifa at  U.S. Embassy, London:

One of the most influential African American women in my life has been Oprah Gail Winfrey. She is a remarkable woman who inspired me through her actions and words. Oprah Winfrey was born in Mississippi on January 29, 1954 to Vernon Winfrey, a coal miner and Vernita Lee, a housemaid. From her humble beginnings to climbing the corporate media ladder, Oprah Winfrey proved that despite any obstacles with some hard work, faith, and perseverance you can accomplish your dreams. As a young girl growing up in the projects on the island of St. Croix, she inspired me to dream big, work hard, and be a better person with her unfailing charitable work, words of wisdom, and big heart. Oprah transformed daytime television by shining a light on topics and issues others shied away from, which won her several Emmy awards.

Oprah survived not only growing up in the inner city ghetto in Mississippi, but also sexual abuse at the hands of her Uncle and cousin while living with her Grandmother. She later moved to Nashville to live with her father where she was able to turn her life around. She became an honor student and attended Tennessee State University on an academic scholarship.  Upon graduation from college, she began working in telecommunications and became the first black news anchor for WTVF-TV. Later she moved to Chicago where she obtained her first day-time talk show, which had extremely high ratings. She went on to star in Steven Spielberg movie “The Color Purple” from which she received a nomination for an Academy Award for best Supporting Actress.  Winfrey would go on to star in, produce, and direct several movies such Beloved, The Women of Brewster Place, and the Broadway adaptation of the “The Color Purple”.  She became the first woman and the only African American to be on the Forbes list of 400 richest Americans. She is currently the only African American billionaire and was later named by Time magazine as one of the most influential people in the world.  Oprah would go on to pen several successfully novels, win several accolades, and start several successful companies such as Harpo, Oxygen media, OWN network, and O Magazine.

Oprah never let where she started from define who she was or where she could go. Through her career she broke the ceiling glass for not just blacks but women.  She exemplifies grace, intelligence, and kindness. She has been an inspiration for both men and women throughout the world crossing races, countries, and genders.