Oprah Winfrey: A Self-Made Woman by Andrea Morales

Oprah Winfrey was born Orpah Gail Winfrey to a single mother in Kosciusko, Mississippi. During her childhood in the deep south, she faced dire living conditions in extreme poverty. After being left with her grandmother by her mother, Oprah often wore potato sacks as clothes due to their unfortunate economic situation. This did not deter Oprah, for she learned how to read before the age of three and would often recite bible verses in their entirety in church. Despite her impoverished upbringing, Oprah turned out to be the world’s first female African-American billionaire and a critically acclaimed talk show host, actress, producer, and director. Oprah encompasses the “American dream” in the way that she came from abject poverty but by sheer will and determination, accompanied by grueling hard work, she became one of the world’s leading women.

Being born into a disadvantaged position certainly provided Oprah a set of austere challenges from the beginning. Her first challenge was being an African-American woman in the rural south during the Jim Crow era. She later moved to Milwaukee, Wisconsin with her single mother who worked as a maid. Her mother proved to be a physically abusive presence in her life and less supportive than her grandmother whom she had previously lived with. While living with her mother, she was transferred to a high school in the suburbs because of her academic success. She was later sent to Tennessee to complete her education. Oprah acquired a scholarship which allowed her to attend Tennessee State University. However, I believe it is important to note that not many African-American children were allowed this opportunity at the time. Most were enrolled in schools where the education was lacking due to government funding or they had to drop out to support their families. So I think in this sense, Oprah was privileged in the way that she was granted a scholarship to continue her post-secondary studies and study communication. It is possible that if she had not been able to study in the affluent suburbs for the period of time that she did, she would not have been able to attain the scholarship which allowed her to earn her degree. A recurring theme from the reading┬áby Swansburg is the discussion of the prevailing myth that everyone, despite their background, can become a self-made person. Yet, everyone in that article was white and most of them were male. There is the factor that minorities in America lack resources and opportunities those mentioned to be self-made may have been offered. That is why I think that Oprah is not only a self-made woman, but an icon. She prevailed over the limitations which were built off of hundreds of years of oppression and discrimination and became one of the world’s wealthiest and most influential women.

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