As a child, Oprah Winfrey wore potato sacks because clothing did not always fit into the budget of her poverty-stricken family.
Today, Forbes estimates Winfrey’s net worth at $3 billion, and she is the only black woman on the publication’s list of the 400 richest people in America.
Before she became a media mogul and the queen of daytime TV, Winfrey suffered a tumultuous childhood.
She was shuffled between family members, spending her first few years on her grandmother’s farm in rural Mississippi while her unwed teenage mom looked for work, according to the Academy of Achievement.
When her grandmother fell ill, 6-year-old Winfrey was sent to live with her mother in a Milwaukee boarding house, where she would not only grow up around extreme poverty, but also endure years of sexual and physical abuse.
She was raped for the first time at age 9 by her 19-year-old cousin, writes Oscar Bamwebaze Bamuhigire in his book “The Healing Power of Self Love.” It would be the first of several episodes.
At age 14, Winfrey broke free and went to live with her dad in Nashville, Tennessee, where her success would start to take course.
Her dad provided direction, discipline, and a sense of structure that Winfrey had never known, according to the Academy of Achievement. The stable and education-centered environment he created allowed her to thrive academically and socially at East Nashville High School, where she became an honor roll student and was voted the most popular girl in her class.
It was at East Nashville High where she would discover her passion for media. She joined the speech team and worked for a local black radio station after school.
By her senior year she had secured a full scholarship to Tennessee State University. She left college early, however, at age 19 to pursue a career in media.
Her gamble paid off.
She became the first black female news anchor before the age of 20 in Nashville, starting with a few gigs as a local anchor before landing a co-anchor position in Baltimore. She was sexually harassed and humiliated at her job in Baltimore, according to DailyWorth, but didn’t need to quit — she was fired seven and a half months after joining.
Winfrey didn’t stay down for long. She landed a gig hosting the then-stagnant morning talk show, “AM Chicago.”
Within a few months, Winfrey turned “AM Chicago” from the lowest-rated talk show in Chicago to the highest-rated one, writes the Academy of Achievement. Three years later the show would be renamed “The Oprah Winfrey Show.”