Oprah Winfrey must have gotten tired of counting how many publications and how many times she was recognized as the most influential TV presenter, African American, philanthropist, business woman, and just a woman (emphasize it) in the world. However, most likely, she never started: at least, by her own admission to Edward Enninful, once typing her name into Google, she learned a lot about herself. “I was so impressed with myself,” Oprah jokes. “I didn't even know that I was the first black billionaire in history, or that I donated more to charity in the 20th century than any African American. It's not bad."
In any case, to understand why Mrs. Winfrey is put on a par with such persons as Barack Obama, Queen Victoria, Confucius and even Jesus Christ (all of them, at least, were included in the list of people who changed the world, according to Life), not difficult. As soon as Oprah recommended a book as part of her show, the next day sales of the work jumped by several tens of thousands of copies. It cost her in 1998, during an broadcast devoted to mad cow disease, to mention that she would not soon want to eat a burger, as beef sales in the United States fell, and prices fell sharply - for which some American farmers even sued the TV presenter (case, however, they did not win). Economists at the University of Maryland estimated that Winfrey's support provided presidential candidate Barack Obama between $ 400,000 and $ 1.6 million votes in the 2008 primaries alone. And all of this is just the tip of the iceberg called the Oprah Winfrey Phenomenon.
The voice of the humiliated
Was it really a surprise for Oprah that she was the first African American woman to make her first billion on her own (today, a woman's fortune is estimated at $ 2.6 billion, according to Forbes)? Perhaps so, but before the Golden Globes in 2018, at which Ms. Winfrey was supposed to receive the Cecil B. de Mille award, she still inquired about her own records. Clutching the precious statuette, the TV personality declared from the stage of the award: "… at the moment many little girls are looking at me and see me becoming the first black woman to receive this award." That speech, by the way, created a real sensation: the audience jumped up from their seats in applause in the middle of the performance, and a good half of the audience had tears in their eyes.
Oprah herself had eyes on the wet spot - however, such a manner is not new to her. Emotion has always been the main feature of her public speaking.
That evening, many were in tune with high-flown words. The 75th Golden Globe ceremony was held under the auspices of the then growing anti-harassment movement Time's Up, so many women attending the event needed an inspiring speech as if they were doing the right thing. Oprah gave them this speech. The effect of her speech was so hypnotic that the media mogul was immediately nominated for presidency. Excerpts of her speech were circulating on social networks under the hashtag # Oprah2020, and some celebrities have publicly admitted that they consider the TV presenter the ideal nominee for the highest government post (also read: “Oprah 2020: America Welcomes Its New President (Woman)”).
Oprah herself, teasing the media with hints and insider statements that, supposedly, "everything is possible", in the end, admitted that politics is not for her. “There are so many lies, filth, hidden currents in politics that I certainly could not exist in it for a long time,” Winfrey said in an interview with writer Decca Aitkenhead for British Vogue. - I am not capable of doing this. This is not a clean affair. It would have killed me. " And here, one must think, the TV presenter is not dissembling.
Most likely, if Oprah had not gone to the media, she would have become not a politician, but a preacher. At least, this is the nickname she was given when she was three years old, when, being raised by a strict and very religious grandmother, she went to church every Sunday and read the Bible aloud in a very emotional manner. Some parishioners seriously believed that at this moment the Holy Spirit descended on a crumb, while the little girl herself was simply practicing her ability to speak in public, of which she was sincerely proud from an early age.
The upbringing of Hattie's grandmother did bear fruit, albeit through strict conversations and beating with a stick for wrongdoing, especially in comparison with living in the company of her mother, who simply did not have the time or proper experience (she gave birth to a daughter when she was not yet and 20), no money to look after the child. So while my mother worked as a maid in the city, and my father served in the army, little Oprah spent the first years of her life with her grandmother, who taught her to read, write and think a lot.
By the way, the TV presenter's parents were never scheduled. In a sense, Oprah will follow their example: Winfrey has not yet married her longtime partner Steadman Graham.
And perhaps it could be a story about how beggars, but kind parents, grudgingly, gave their beloved daughter to the support of an evil grandmother, if the childhood spent in the village were not one of the happiest periods in the girl's life. In fact, American realities in those years were much more severe: racial discrimination reigning throughout the country and anger of the black population towards their disadvantaged position, a total lack of sexual education and culture, illiteracy and crime. So, when Oprah finally had to return to her mother, she actually moved from the village to the real ghetto, where her, the child, was regularly harassed by her mother's relatives and friends. Subsequently, Oprah admitted on the air of her own show that at the age of nine she was raped by her own cousin, after which, whether as an apology,or in gratitude - I bought her ice cream.
This happened long before Hollywood actresses came together against harassment in the workplace. This is probably another reason why Oprah's speech at the Golden Globes sounded so sincere.
Downplaying the hardships of a future celebrity's childhood would be at least incorrect. And, perhaps, the more respect the child deserves, who several times fled from the ghetto to his father in Nashville (the girl's parents had already dispersed by that time) in search of a normal life, even for this and stealing mother's money. She got pregnant at 14 and lost her baby. She ended up in a shelter for difficult teenagers (another punishment of her mother for disobedience) and faced constant harassment and assault. Still, she found the moral strength in herself so as not to get bogged down in the chaos that surrounded her every day.
Of course, she did not succeed alone: the girl's father, Vernon Winfrey, raised her in the same rigor as her grandmother. “My father turned my life around, encouraging me to be better than I am, and believing that I can do everything,” Oprah admitted many years later. Mr. Winfrey taught his daughter discipline and self-control - for example, he made her learn five words a day to get lunch. As a result, the already naturally talented and capable of learning, Oprah became a real school star, preferring optional extracurricular activities like a drama club or a debate club to lazy shopping with her girlfriends.
Her father's efforts were not in vain: it seemed that since Oprah settled in Nashville, her success only went uphill. She was the head of the student council, tried herself as a local TV presenter, participated in contests and quizzes, and even received an invitation from President Nixon to visit the White House. Winning another public speaking competition will bring her a scholarship to the University of Tennessee, where Oprah will continue to study communication at a non-theoretical level. However, the practice will not stop either - already in the first year she will be offered a job on a local TV channel, and Winfrey will begin her ascent to world fame.
Broadcasting a dream
Oprah Winfrey's career path is no secret to anyone - the TV presenter willingly broadcasts her story to anyone who asks her about it. So, the local TV channel WLAC-TV (CBS) made her the first black female news presenter, Baltimore's WJZ-TV glorified her as a reporter, entrusting her after leading a separate show People Are Talking, which beat all the ratings. Then move to Chicago and the morning show AM Chicago, which ousted the cult The Phil Donahue Show from the local market. Finally, "The Oprah Winfrey Show", which is widely recognized as the best television program of our time. The woman opened her publications and channels, filmed and filmed herself, founded book clubs and published her own works,received the most prestigious awards (including the Presidential Medal of Freedom) and interviewed world celebrities - and in everything she was (and still is) successful. So what's the secret? Perhaps the answer to this question is much more interesting than listing Winfrey's other achievements and beyond.
Her titanic hard work and natural charisma have certainly helped Oprah through life, but perhaps there is a much more important component in her success story - emotionality. Suffice it to start with the fact that Winfrey did not work out, for example, with a career as a news presenter - she lacked impartiality, neutrality in storytelling, professionalism. A case is widely broadcast when a young Oprah burst into tears on the air, informing viewers about one of the hurricanes that took place in California. The management of the TV channel, naturally, did not tolerate such a manner of presenting news. However, empathy, natural sensitivity, emotionality and unsurpassed oratorical talent opened Winfrey the way to another format - talk shows.
These were the 70s. The feminist movement was gaining special strength, advocating the complete social equality of men and women. One of its effects, as the writer and researcher of American capitalism Nicole Ashoff writes in a column for the Guardian, was the popularization of “female” themes in society: those of home, personal life, and, of course, personal tragedies. Oprah, whose story of childhood and adolescence was a real quintessence of a wide variety of social problems, was ideally suited to the role of the new national preacher. A dark-skinned woman struggling (at first, at least) with excess weight, who broke through the infamous "glass ceiling", sincerely wanted to trust. In addition, Oprah really took every story of the guests of her show as her own.
The TV presenter easily, without any shame, raised on the air such controversial topics at that time as divorce, depression, alcoholism, violence, homosexuality and even incest. “When I first went on the air, I said to myself, 'This is what I want to do. It's like breathing, " Oprah later recalled. It was then that Winfrey won her most important and most loyal audience - housewives, who clung to the screens, abandoning all their affairs, just to plunge into the next story of someone's life and listen to how Oprah sympathized with all this.
Teacher, orator, preacher, psychologist - all the professions to which in different years Oprah dreamed of devoting her life, have come together.
It was the talk show format that made Oprah Winfrey famous throughout the country, bringing her the first serious money. The Wall Street Journal coined the term "Opratification", referring to the trend set by Oprah for the most sincere and honest communication with viewers. Time, meanwhile, wrote: “Winfrey was the first to recognize the power of television to connect the private and the public. TV connects strangers, spreads stories and broadcasts them directly to our living rooms. Like a family member, television sits down with us to dinner and talks to us when we are completely alone. Having caught this paradox, Oprah makes us worry because she is. This is her genius, and this will be her legacy, because the changes that she brought to our usual talk show format will continue to penetrate our culture and change our lives."
And so it happened: very soon, Oprah's trick will be used on every second television show, which Winfrey, as the generally recognized queen of television at that time, could not help but notice. However, she knew where she should move on. By the mid-90s, when other shows will only just adopt Oprah's style, the TV presenter will decide to radically change her format. Or rather, not even the format, but the presentation. In interviews that she gave herself, Winfrey admitted that she regretted that modern talk shows have reached a state of outright chaos. But, fortunately, she knows what to do: “It's time to stop thinking about 'how unhappy we are' and start asking the question: 'How can we solve our problems?'”.
So in Oprah's career, and with her in the lives of millions of Americans, a new era began - an era of total self-development, responsibility for one's life and control of one's own destiny. In an interview with Larry King in 1995, Winfrey admitted that from now on she wants to "raise" people and will "use her life and her show to broadcast the idea of virtue."
Increasingly, instead of ordinary Americans eager to share their tragic story with Oprah, celebrities with inspiring success stories, coaches and gurus began to appear on her show - in short, those whom everyone would like to be equal to. Any activity of Oprah - be it her show or her publication - still boils down to the fact that the media queen tells the nation how to be successful. The recipe, in her opinion, is very simple: dream, surround yourself with inspiring people, work hard, take responsibility only for yourself, think positively and follow other truths that the "American Dream" has. And she is still believed, because she herself is a living example of how a free America gives a chance to everyone who is willing to work hard. And she is still loved - after all, she herself is an example of a successful person that absolutely anyone can become. Americans take Oprahas a member of her own family, dear, inseparable - it is no coincidence that when Winfrey decided to close The Show, people did not even try to hide their tears.
Oprah teaches that anyone can be successful regardless of economic and political factors. The main thing is one's own "I", will, determination, craving for knowledge. In other words, everything that depends only on the person. Years go by, presidents change, society develops - and Oprah is still relevant and loved. For this, one of the researchers of the success of Winfrey Janice Pack very accurately called the business woman "a cultural icon of the neoliberal era." Probably, had Oprah been born in some other country, her story would have been much more modest. But fortunately for her, America continues to live the American Dream - and, apparently, it will definitely continue to live it further. At least as long as Oprah Winfrey is alive and well - an example of a modern self-made woman.
Photo: Legion-Media, Getty Images
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