How Oprah Winfrey almost turned down the TV job that blossomed into an iconic media career

Abu Mubarik May 17, 2023
Oprah Winfrey, Philanthropist and Global Media Leader, at The 2019 Women In The World Summit in New York City. Image via YouTube/Women in the World

Oprah Winfrey has had a very stellar career as a media mogul, she has 20 Emmy awards to her credit – in addition to other awards. However, the undisputed Queen of Talkshows’ journey has been quite a roller-coaster journey. Nonetheless, she overcame challenges and trauma to reach a height where she became a global idol, icon, and entrepreneur with a net worth of over a billion dollars. 

At age 19, she landed a radio job as a co-anchor for the local evening news while in high school. She was re-assigned to the daytime talk show, which exposed her to a world of opportunities. As a talk show host, she popularized and revolutionized modern-day TV. Today, Winfrey is one of the richest women in the world.

However, her success as a Talkshow host and all that she has achieved would probably not have happened without the intervention of her college professor. The 69-year-old told the 2023 graduates at her alma mater, Tennessee State University, that she started her sophomore year with a career in education in mind.

“I was majoring in speech communication and drama,” she said during her commencement speech. “I wanted to be an actress, but my father had proclaimed that no daughter of mine is going to be on somebody’s casting couch,” she said. “And so I decided, all right, I will teach.”

She recalled getting a call from a lead news anchor at Nashville’s WLAC-TV with a job opportunity. WLAC-TV had heard her on the radio and thought she would be a great talent to add to their team.

However, she was reluctant about the offer, she told the students, because her dad wanted her to finish school. “And I doubt that my dad would even let me do something like that,” she added.

When she sought the opinion of her professor about the proposal, he advised her to accept the offer because that was what she was getting an education for.

“So that CBS Channel Five will call you,” she quoted her professor as saying. “You and your father ought to know that,’” she told the students. “He rolled his eyes and he’s walking away. He said, ‘I’ll tell him myself,’ and he did.”

She eventually agreed to accept the offer and in the second semester of her sophomore year, she rescheduled her entire class to finish by 2 pm to get enough time to work at the news station and close early before her dad’s “ironclad 11:00 curfew.”

Before graduating in 1988, Winfrey had her own talk show and was on her way to getting her third Emmy award.

She famously became known for her eponymous TV show, which at a certain point in time was the highest-rated nationally syndicated television show in the US. 

Last Edited by:Editor Updated: June 11, 2023


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