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

This billionaire started with nothing, but she made it anyway
This billionaire started with nothing, but she made it anyway

Self-made billionaire Oprah Winfrey has sparked speculation she could consider a presidential run in 2020 following her widely shared Golden Globes speech on Sunday evening.

The 63-year-old media mogul became the first black woman to win the Golden Globes' Cecil B. DeMille Award for lifetime achievement. In her acceptance speech, Winfrey reflected on her own life and career and addressed changes she says need to be made in the media industry.

"What I know for sure is that speaking your truth is the most powerful tool we all have. And I'm especially proud and inspired by all the women who have felt strong enough and empowered enough to speak up and share their personal stories," Winfrey said, referring to Hollywood's ongoing conversation against sexual harassment.

The inspirational speech led many to believe Winfrey could run for president: Golden Globes host Seth Meyers joked about the possibility while Meryl Streep and civil rights activist Reverend Jesse Louis Jackson, Sr. chimed in with their own endorsements.

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.

Oprah Winfrey, 1978
Afro American Newspapers | Gado | Getty Images

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 program 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 $2.8 billion. And she shows no signs of slowing down.

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This is an updated version of a previously published story.

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