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Hello my sweets!

How many women can say they were born to a single teenage mother, were raised literally “dirt floor” poor and through nothing more than their own hard work, determination & dedication became the richest self-made woman billionaires and is also considered the most philanthropic celebrity? Umm, not many and I’m pretty sure there’s only one…Oprah.

Since I was about 14 I’ve had a fascination with billionaires. I study everything about them, their habits, their characteristics and most importantly what they do AFTER the have “made it”. I figure the best way for me to become a billionaire is to learn how others accomplished the feat.  Personally my absolute favorite billionaire (so far) is Sir Richard Branson, he’s AWESOME. I highly recommend reading up on him if you get a chance; I promise it’ll be worth your time. But if I had to choose which woman billionaire is my favorite, hands down, no contest it would be Oprah.

Why, you ask? Well she is completely self-made and other than being HIGHLY ambitious and ensuring she was educated she really had just about nothing working in her favor when she started her career. Her life was filled with many hurtles that she never let stop her, or even slow her down for that matter. In my opinion that’s something to be respected and hopefully something that inspires others to do the same.  For the first six years of her life she was raised by her grandmother who was so poor Oprah often wore dresses made of potato sacks, no joke that’s 100% truth… (Wow, every fashionistas worst nightmare) After the age of six, she was bounced between her mother and other relatives, due to the fact that her mother couldn’t afford to provide for her. During this time she was a victim of multiple attacks of sexual abuse, which lead to her running away from home at the age of 13. By 14 she had gotten pregnant and gave birth to a son that died in infancy.  Raising herself, she continued her high school education and eventually was accepted to the Upward Bound program that allowed her to leave her poverty stricken high school and start attending a much more affluent high school where she could get a better education but at the cost of being constantly teased about her socioeconomic status. Although she admitted it was tough to face such scrutiny she knew that her education was key to her conquering her life’s challenges and bettering her financial situation, so she preserved. Knowing money was tight and that after high school she wouldn’t be able to afford college she entered an oratory contest and won, which secured her full ride to Tennessee State University where she studied communication.

During and after college she worked for many small local news or talk shows, but didn’t get her “big break” until 1983 when she relocated to Chicago and became the host for a low budget and low rated show titled AM Chicago.  Her first episode aired on January 2, 1984. Within months it went from the lowest rated show to surpassing Donahue as the #1 show in Chicago. With the persuasion of Robert Ebert, she signed a syndication deal with King World and AM Chicago was renamed The Oprah Winfrey Show and was extended from thirty minutes to an hour. Her show quickly grew in popularity and by September 8, 1986 she was nationally broadcasted. The rest is history, with that show becoming nationally aired and remaining on the air until May 25th 2011, Oprah was able to not only secure her finances but also became one of the wealthiest people of in the world and definitely the most wealthy self-made woman billionaire.

What exactly are her rankings? Here’s a brief list of her accomplishments and views from her “peers”.  In 2005 Winfrey was named the greatest woman in American history as part of a public, she was ranked No.9 overall on the list of greatest Americans. Winfrey was called “arguably the world’s most powerful woman” by CNN & Time.com, “arguably the most influential woman in the world” by the American Spectator and “One of the 100 people who most influenced the 20th Century” and “one of the most influential people” from 2004 to 2011 by TIME. Winfrey is the only person in the world to have appeared in the latter list on all eight occasions.

In 2000 Life listed Winfrey as both the most influential woman and the most influential black person of her generation, and in a cover story profile the magazine called her “America’s most powerful woman”.In 2007 USA Today ranked Winfrey as the most influential woman and most influential black person of the previous quarter century. Ladies Home Journal also ranked Winfrey number one in their list of the most powerful women in America and President Barack Obama (while senator)  has said she “may be the most influential woman in the country”. In 1998 Winfrey became the first woman and first African-American to top Entertainment Weekly’s   list of the 101 most powerful people in the entertainment industry. Forbes named her the world’s most powerful celebrity in 2005, 2007, 2008 and 2010 In 2010 Life magazine named Winfrey one of the 100 people who changed the world, alongside such greatness as Jesus Christ, Elvis Presley, and Lady Mary Wortley Montagu. Winfrey was the only living woman to make the list.

Columnist Maureen Dowd seems to agree with such assessments: “She is the top alpha female in this country. She has more credibility than the president. Other successful women, such as Hillary Clinton and Martha Stewart, had to be publicly slapped down before they could move forward. Even Condi has had to play the protégé with Bush. None of this happened to Oprah – she is a straight ahead success story. Vanity Fair wrote: “Oprah Winfrey arguably has more influence on the culture than any university president, politician, or religious leader, except perhaps the Pope. Bill O’Reilly said: “this is a woman that came from nothing to rise up to be the most powerful woman, I think, in the world. I think Oprah Winfrey is the most powerful woman in the world, not just in America. That’s – anybody who goes on her program immediately benefits through the roof. I mean, she has a loyal following; she has credibility; she has talent; and she’s done it on her own to become fabulously wealthy and fabulously powerful.”

As I stated earlier, I’ve always been fascinated with billionaires, everything about them especially what they do AFTER they “make it”, obviously from the list above Oprah has made it. Since announcing the end of The Oprah Winfrey Show, she started many businesses. In fact she created a production company Harpo, while the show was running to ensure more control over the show. Since the announcement of the shows finale, she has started a Magazine “O”, she has created her own television channel OWN in accordance with Discovery Health Network, and she has co-authored five books. In fact her announcement of a weight loss book she co-wrote with her trainer Bob Greene had the largest book advance fee in history. Besides continuing on in the business world, Oprah has also given back more than most highly affluent people. This is the part that intrigues me most of the uber rich, once they have more money than they can spend and once they have all that time & power, what do they do with it? Oprah has coined a term “The Oprah Effect” even prior to her namesake show ending she had jump started many careers, purely off her recommendation or non-paid endorsement. Have you ever heard of Rachel Rey, Dr. Phil or Dr. Oz? Of course you have, but odds are you never would have if it wasn’t for Oprah. When she added a book to her infamous book club it would instantly turn into a number one seller. Oprah has not only made herself wealthy & successful she has brought others up along with her. All that is fine and dandy, but I’m more interested in what she gave back to the masses.

In 1998, Winfrey created the Oprah’s Angel Network, a charity that supported charitable projects and provided grants to nonprofit organizations around the world. Oprah’s Angel Network raised more than $80,000,000 . Ms. Winfrey personally covered all administrative costs associated with the charity, so 100% of all funds raised went to charity programs. The charity stopped accepting donations in May 2010 and was later dissolved. Winfrey’s show raised money through promotion of her public charity and she personally donates more of her own money to charity than any other performer in America. In 2005 she became the first black person listed by Business Week as one of America’s 50 most generous philanthropists, having given an estimated $303 million as of 2007. Winfrey was ranked  the 32nd most philanthropic. She has also been repeatedly ranked as the most philanthropic celebrity.

In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, Oprah created the Oprah Angel Network Katrina registry which raised more than $11 million for relief efforts. Winfrey personally gave $10 million to the cause. Homes were built in Texas, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Alabama before the one year anniversary of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Winfrey has also helped 250 African-American men continue or complete their education at Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia. Winfrey was the recipient of the first Bob Hope Humanitarian Award at the 2002 Emmy Awards for services to television and film. To celebrate two decades on national TV, and to thank her employees for their hard work, Winfrey took her staff and their families (1065 people in total) on vacation to Hawaii in the summer of 2006. She’s a giver, but not just domestically.  In 2004, Winfrey and her team filmed an episode of her show, Oprah’s Christmas Kindness, in which Winfrey travelled to South Africa to bring attention to the plight of young children affected by poverty and AIDS. During the 21-day trip, Winfrey and her crew visited schools and orphanages in poverty-stricken areas, and distributed Christmas presents and school supplies to 50,000 children. Throughout the show, Winfrey appealed to viewers to donate money to Oprah’s Angel Network for poor and AIDS-affected children in Africa. From that show alone, viewers around the world donated over $7,000,000. Winfrey invested $40 million and some of her time establishing the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls in Henley on Klip south of Johannesburg, South Africa. The school set over 22 acres, opened in January 2007 with an enrollment of 150 pupils (increasing to 450) and features state-of-the-art classrooms, computer and science laboratories, a library, theatre and beauty salon. Nelson Mandela praised Winfrey for overcoming her own disadvantaged youth to become a benefactor for others. A minority of critics considered the school elitist and unnecessarily luxurious.

Winfrey, who has no surviving biological children, described maternal feelings towards the girls at Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls. She even donates her most valuable resource, her time to teach a class at the school via satellite.

Now that, to me is a woman of inspiration!

Odd tidbits of info you may not have known about Oprah

  • - At 17 she won the Miss Black Tennessee Beauty Pageant
  • - She was nominated for an Academy Award for her role as Sofia in The Color Purple.
  • -She was nominated for the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actress in a motion picture for her role as Sethe in Beloved.
  • -She was awarded the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award
  • -She was awarded the Bob Hope Humanitarian Award
  • -She was awarded a Peabody Award
  • -She Co-Founded the women’s network Oxygen

Who do you think April’s Woman of Influence should be?

Thanks for reading!

Dana