Oprah Winfrey is a media mogul who has cornered the market in helping people transform their lives. From her popular television show that aired for 25 years to running OWN, a television network, Winfrey consistently shows the power of accepting new challenges.
But as a college student Winfrey almost passed up an opportunity that changed the trajectory of her life. At the 2023 commencement at her alma mater, Tennessee State University, Winfrey shared how she reluctantly broke into broadcasting.
The Career That Almost Wasn’t
When Winfrey was a sophomore at TSU, she decided to become an educator after her father discouraged her from pursuing an acting career.
“I was majoring in speech communication and drama. I wanted to be an actress, but my father had proclaimed that no daughter of mine is going to be on somebody’s casting couch,” she said. “And so I decided, all right, I will teach.”
After a news anchor from Nashville’s WLAC-TV heard her on the radio, she was offered a position as an anchor. But Winfrey declined the position.
“I said no sir … My father says I have to finish school and school is just too important,” she told the audience. “And I doubt that my dad would even let me do something like that.”
Winfrey shared her decision with her science design professor, who encouraged her to accept the position.
“He said, ‘This is what you get an education for, so that CBS Channel 5 will call you. You and your father ought to know that,’” she told the students. “He rolled his eyes and he’s walking away. He said, ‘I’ll tell him myself,’ and he did.”
By the next semester, Winfrey was a college student early in the day and worked at the news station from 2:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. every day. And as more career opportunities arose, Winfrey stopped attending college, but she would receive her degree in 1988 just as she began to build her media empire.
Faith Leads To Fulfillment
Since making that life-changing decision as a sophomore college student, Winfrey has done it all–she’s an entrepreneur, journalist, television host, author, and actress. She’s won 20 Emmy awards, a Tony Award, and a Peabody Award as a result of endeavors in the media and entertainment industries.
And with a net worth of $3.5 billion, she is the richest Black woman in America, the first Black woman billionaire, and one of the richest celebrities in the world.
The foundation of Winfrey’s wealth is a result of the decisions she made as she shifted from a journalist to a television host. When “The Oprah Winfrey Show” shifted from a local show to becoming a nationally syndicated show, Winfrey was encouraged to focus on ownership. She launched HARPO Productions with the intention of producing the show herself.
As her empire grew, Winfrey would negotiate with ABC to produce movies and television shows while also publishing books and a magazine through HARPO Productions at HARPO studios.
“At no time did I ever feel out of place or not enough or inadequate or an imposter,” she told the graduates. “Why? Because I knew who I was.”