Whenever Oprah Winfrey speaks, we listen. The self-made billionaire and media powerhouse is arguably one of the most powerful voices in the world. She understands the weight of her words. Beyond awards and titles, Oprah wants to leave a legacy that “caused no harm, did a lot of good.”
In an interview with the Hollywood Reporter, the mogul talks about how she’s used her voice to advocate for woman and black people. She is also intentional in who she lends her support to in the upcoming 2020 Presidential election.
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If Oprah seems cool, calm and collected, it can be attributed to her spirituality. She’s led by the belief that “everything is happening just as it’s supposed to be happening.” Leaning on this belief helped the mogul navigate her early career when she was often the only black woman in the room. She felt empowered as often the only woman and the only black person in powerful rooms.
“Why do they need more money? They are a bunch of girls.” Oprah was met with sexist logic when she approached the WLS-TV (the ABC-owned station in Chicago) about pay raises when the Oprah show first went national. The then-talk show host gave her staff bonuses out of her personal salary. Oprah continued to raise the issue. She even threatened to stop working if the staff were not given raises. It was through this experience that she knew that she’d pay her employees well if she one day had her own business.
The confidence to boldly assert herself didn’t happen overnight. As a young reporter in the 1970s, Oprah remembers asking her boss for a raise after she learned that she was being paid less than her male counterpart. She recalls a pivotal moment in her life after being told no. She decided to leave because her value would never be recognized. Early on, she knew that her purpose was far more than “chasing ambulances….on the street holding a microphone in front of people’s faces…looking for the worst thing that has happened to someone to report on…”
Following her epic 2018 Golden Globes speech, the twitterverse held its breath as #Oprah2020 started trending. Oprah quickly shut down rumors of a presidential bid, however, she’s no stranger to politics. In fact, Winfrey’s support of a then fairly unknown Barack Obama, in the 2008 U.S. presidential election is credited as helping him win. Aware of her cultural power, Oprah is researching the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates and is “quietly figuring out” where she’s going to use her celebrity to support.
When asked about the state of American politics today, Winfrey shared how she would have used the Oprah show to facilitate conversations between people of all belief systems. In hindsight, she states she would have used those conversations to develop programming around issues people were talking about. She believes she could have presented such information to the public in a way that polls or political television cannot. Even when armed with new information and the desire to impact positive change, Oprah cautions,”…when everybody gets woke, they want things to happen immediately, but the evolution of our species does not happen in a linear fashion. Sometimes you make huge strides forward and have to take some steps backward.”
Oprah has positioned herself to leave a legacy that will reach many generations to come. In the meantime, her words can be used to guide each of us in creating our own legacies. “Get what you want. Get exactly what you want because now’s the time. And if you don’t get what you want, then make the next right move.”