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Oprah Winfrey - Success and InfluenceOprah Winfrey - Success and Influence


Oprah Winfrey (1954- )

African American chat show host (pictured right), America’s richest woman, and highly influential worldwide.

Supporter of Barack Obama (pictured right below together with Obama's wife, Michelle).


Oprah Winfrey - Success and Influence

Why is she successful and influential?


1. Rags to riches

Born in a poor ghetto in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, she became a superstar through

  • talent (see point 2).
  • hard work (see point 3). Oprah Winfrey - Success and Influence
  • a good education (despite running away from home as a teenager).

Her one hour national chat show (started in 1986) was extremely popular, and her interview with Michael Jackson (pictured right) in 1993 had an audience of 100 million.


2. Talent

Winfrey is an:Oprah Winfrey - Success and Influence

  • eloquent, empathetic and persuasive interviewer.
  • astute businesswoman (for example, she is the publisher of her magazine, O).
  • Oscar nominated actress (for The Colour Purple, pictured right as Sofia).
  • author (her weight loss book was a best seller)


3. Hard work and self-help

She believes in:Oprah Winfrey - Success and Influence

  • self-help (being totally responsible for her success).
  • self-knowledge (knowing your strengths and weaknesses).
  • being true to your beliefs.

 “The ability to triumph begins with you”, she says,

 Pictured right is her first TV chat show in 1986.


4. Purpose

Her advice is:


a) live your dreams

She aims to achieve her dream of excellence at work and love for other people.

 Oprah Winfrey - Success and Influence

b) change

She lives by the advice of someone she greatly admires, Mahatma Gandhi :

“Become the change you want to see”. 


c) achieve something worthwhile by seizing your opportunities.

Live your life to fulfil your potential, not please other people.

 Oprah Winfrey - Success and Influence

5. Love

Love is the driving force of her life.

She has set up a school for poor girls in South Africa, which kept a promise to her hero, Nelson Mandela (pictured right together at the school opening in 2007).


6. Determination

She has battled through:

  • desertion (by her mother as a six-year-old).
  • sexual abuse (by her cousin, uncle and a family friend from the age of nine).
  • drug abuse (in her 20’s).
  • near suicide (in 1981).

She has learned from her problems and used them to strengthen her character.

“Turn your wounds into wisdom”, she says.

 Oprah Winfrey - Success and Influence

7. Influence

From the mid-90s, Winfrey (pictured right in 2004) discussed and publicized serious issues like

  • AIDS, cancer and drugs.
  • weight loss (her weight problems made fatness sexy)
  • spirituality (she has been called the icon of church-free spirituality).


Key quotes on success

Failure is another stepping stone to greatness.

It is not failure if you enjoyed the process.

Excellence is the best deterrent to racism or sexism.

Luck is preparation meeting opportunity.


Key quote on careers and success

You are not your circumstances. You are your possibilities.


Key quote on management

Surround yourself with only people who are going to lift you higher.


Key quote on corporate culture

You become what you believe.


Key quote on change

A person can change his future by merely changing his attitude.


Key quote on stress and pain

Turn your wounds into wisdom.


Key quote on love

My constant prayer for myself is to be used in service for the greater good.


Key quote on learning and wisdom

Inner wisdom is more precious than wealth.

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