The incredible rags-to-riches rise of self-made billionaire Oprah Winfrey

The incredible rags-to-riches rise of self-made billionaire Oprah Winfrey
PHOTO: Reuters

At an age when many people are getting ready to retire, 63-year-old billionaire Oprah Winfrey is, instead, launching a new venture.

Last month, the entrepreneur, TV host, actress and mogul teamed up with Kraft to develop a line of refrigerated ready-to-eat food products called Mealtime Stories.

Winfrey's media empire made her a billionaire in 2003 at age 49, but she began life at the other extreme. Born in rural Mississippi to an unmarried teen mother, she grew up in poverty and endured years of sexual abuse.

She was shuffled between family members until a more permanent living situation surfaced: Her dad's place in Nashville, Tennessee, where she went to live at age 14. The move changed the course of Winfrey's life. She thrived in high school, earning honors and a full ride to Tennessee State University.

Winfrey took a risk when she dropped out of college to pursue a career in media. But the gamble paid off.

She became the first black female news anchor before the age of 20, starting with a few gigs as a local anchor in Nashville before landing a co-anchor position in Baltimore. She was sexually harassed and humiliated at her job there and then was fired eight months after joining.

Instead of panicking, Winfrey pivoted. She landed a gig hosting the then-stagnant morning talk show, "AM Chicago" and turned it into the number one local talk show within months.

A year later, in 1986, the programme was renamed, "The Oprah Winfrey Show." It went on to become the highest-rated talk show in television history. It put her on the map and earned Winfrey her first million, but it was still just the beginning of an incredibly diverse and lucrative career.

Since, Winfrey has been involved in films, television series, and plays. For her acting debut in the 1985 drama "The Color Purple," she was nominated for an Academy Award and Golden Globe.

She also published her own magazine, started a radio channel, partnered with Discovery Communications to launch a cable channel, the Oprah Winfrey Network, and started a private charity.

Today, Winfrey has an estimated net worth of US$2.9 billion (S$4.11 billion). And she shows no signs of slowing down.

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