Oprah’s career before “The Oprah Winfrey Show”
“I haven’t planned one thing – ever. I have just been led by a strong instinct, and I have made choices based on what was right for me at the time.” – Oprah While most people recognize media mogul and philanthropist, Oprah Winfrey, from her days as the host of The Oprah Winfrey Show, most are unaware of the career choices which resulted in her becoming its host in the first place. A born orator and a complete natural on television as per a testimonial by her first boss, Channel 5’s Chris Clark, Oprah took some risks, and even told a few white lies in order to receive work opportunities in the media industry! She also made a few fashion faux pas while at her job as a newsreader which gave her that rare endearing ability she still possesses in the present day! Here is a glimpse into Oprah’s life and career before the start of her iconic television talk show. After facing considerable trauma as a young child, an adolescent Oprah overcame her painful past by focusing on her education. She earned a full scholarship to Tennessee State University, and went on to win two titles, Miss Fire Prevention, and Miss Black Tennessee. The latter got her noticed by the news media industry, and she soon became an on-air reporter for WVOL at the age of 17. By the time she turned 19, Oprah became the youngest and also the first African American news anchor in Nashville; she hosted the evening news for WTVF-TV, a CBS affiliate channel. In 1976, at the age of 22, Oprah moved to Baltimore where she began anchoring the 6 o’clock news. She co-hosted the show with fellow anchor Richard Sher, for 8 years, knowing all the while that she was destined for greater things. She has been quoted as stating very matter-of-factly, that she was not a particularly good anchor, given her penchant for empathizing with those affected by pain and tragedy. Her former employers have also stated that she would often be so distraught by the pain and suffering of the people she was interviewing, that she would neglect her job in lieu of finding help and resolutions for them. Although she did gain somewhat of a following, mostly due to her various fashion mistakes, the 8 year stint gave her the credibility to be roped in for a show which was to change the course of her life. On January 2nd, 1984, Oprah became the chat host of a show known as AM Chicago, which received low ratings in comparison to its rival, “The Phil Donahue Show”. Within a month, Oprah’s gift of the gab and endearing style gave the show its highest ratings in its history. It was an achievement for Oprah, who, as an African American woman, had successfully gained more popularity over her white male competitor in record time. The show led to Oprah being spotted by Executive Producer, Quincy Jones, who cast her in the 1985 film, “The Color Purple”, where she essayed the role of Sophia. The role led to an Oscar nomination and another acting role in the following year for the film, “Native Son”. September 8th, 1986, marked a turning point in Oprah’s life, as the AM Chicago show was extended to one hour, and was renamed “The Oprah Winfrey Show”. The rest, as they say, is history. Oprah became a household name, a world-renowned influencer, and is still regarded as being one of the most powerful and generous philanthropists in the world.