Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Oprah Winfrey: The Queen of Talk

With a relentless drive for success and an unwavering commitment to uplifting others, Oprah Winfrey has carved out a multifaceted career that spans television, film, publishing, and philanthropy.

After its initial appearance in Passions, Vol. 56, this article has been optimized for online viewing exclusively on VOICE OF ASIA.

What would you consider to be a hard life? Being born and raised by an impoverished single mother? Being so poor that you had to wear clothes made of potato sacks? Getting raped at the age of 9, when you are supposed to still be playing with Barbie dolls? Running away from home at 13 to escape sexual abuse perpetrated by your own uncle and cousin? Or, how about getting pregnant at 14 and losing the baby in infancy?

But imagine rising above all that, to become an inspiration to people worldwide, using your personal experiences constructively to motivate and encourage others in a similar situation, proving to the world that even when you think all is lost – it in fact is not. This is the story of Oprah Winfrey – not only the richest African-American of the twentieth century, but one of the philanthropist in American history and currently North America’s only billionaire of African descent.

Winfrey popularised the tabloid talk-show genre, using her affable personality to create a more intimate, confessional form of interview style. Her impact on popular culture was so deep-seated that the term “Oprahfication” was coined by the Wall Street Journal, referring to public confession as a form of therapy. But she is more than just a phrase. She had the tumultuous background and rise to stardom that enabled her to communicate with those from any walk of life. By sharing intimate details about her own life – weight issues, tribulations, and even sexual abuse – she created a new form of media communication, blurring the private with the public.

She makes other people care because she cares. She has humanised previously ‘untouchable’ celebrities, making them laugh, cry and share their innermost thoughts. Oprah made them seem like well, us, because she herself is one of us. Equipped with natural charm and empathy, she uses one of woman’s greatest traits – listening – to be a shoulder to cry on and an avenue into the deepest emotion. Watch her show, and you instantly feel better. You feel you belong to a wider community. You feel part of the conversation. Oprah is every woman.

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