20 Surprising Facts About Oprah Winfrey And Her Family

Oprah Winfrey's life story can only be described as a true rags to riches tale. From impoverished beginnings and a childhood riddled with family problems and abuse to becoming one of the most powerful and influential women in the world - Oprah has broken through every barrier placed in front of her and offered hope to millions through her talk show and its positive messages.

As we'll see today Oprah has faced plenty of difficult situations in her life, from dealing with a teenage pregnancy to being fired from her first job but these never stopped her from pursuing her dreams. And once she achieved her goals she set out to help others find theirs.

Today we know Oprah as a talk show host, actress, and media mogul but let's find out a little more about her childhood, her family, and how she got to be where she is today!

20 She's A Former Pageant Queen

This one might be a little tough to believe but back in 1971, before she began her rise to TV fame, Oprah was a beauty pageant queen. She walked away with two titles that year; Miss Fire Prevention and Miss Black Tennessee, and went on to compete in the Miss Black America pageant.

19 She's The First Woman To Own And Produce Her Own Show

Oprah's list of achievements is unparalleled. She's broken every barrier and completely reinvented the way we see talk show hosts. She was the first woman to own and produce her own talk show and is considered by many to be one of the most influential women in the world.

18 Her First Splurge Was Fancy Towels

In an article written by Oprah in O magazine, she explains how she aspired not to be rich, but to be surrounded by beautiful things. She also reveals that when she finally had the money one of the first items she splurged on was towels, and not just any towels either. Her choice was luxury Ralph Lauren towels.

17 She Connected With Her BFF During A Blizzard

Oprah met her BFF Gayle King when they were both in their 20s and working for a Baltimore TV station. At that time Oprah was the anchor and Gayle the production assistant. One night a blizzard prevented Gayle from getting home so she crashed at Oprah's place and the two bonded.

16 She Was Born To A Teen Mom

Oprah's mother, Vernita Lee, was just 18 years old when she gave birth for the first time. Her relationship with Oprah's father ended soon afterward and mother and daughter had a difficult relationship but managed to reconnect later in life. Vernita passed away on Thanksgiving day 2018 at the age of 83.

15 Her Grandmother Taught Her To Read By Age 3

We all know that Oprah loves to read, and to encourage others to read too! In her book What I Know For Sure, she says, “What I love most about reading: It gives you the ability to reach higher ground. And keep climbing.” She was taught to read by her grandmother before the age of 3 - wow!

14 She Was Raised In Poverty

After Oprah was born she was left in the care of her grandmother and spent the first six years of her life in desperate poverty. Her grandmother was so poor that she often resorted to making dresses for Oprah from potato sacks - something the other children would mock her for.

13 She Was 51 When She First Had Her Ears Pierced

In a 2005 episode of her talk show, Oprah decided to do something she had never dared to do before - get her ears pierced. So, at the age of 51, she finally faced her fear and had it done (by a plastic surgeon) live on the show, with the audience clapping along to encourage her!

12 She Was Abused As A Child

Oprah first opened up about her childhood abuse during a 1986 episode of her show, where the topic was sexual abuse. She told the audience that she had been molested by two family members and a family friend at the age of 9. She added that at 24 she had attempted to discuss the matter with her family but they refused to believe her.

11 Oprah Is Afraid Of Balloons (And Hates Gum)

Celebs really are just like us - crazy phobias and all! Oprah suffers from globophobia or fear of balloons. The talk show queen revealed details about her irrational fear in O Magazine, adding that the balloons bursting drove her phobia. “It reminds me of gunfire... really freaks me out,” she said. And her pet peeve? People chewing gum.

10 She Was Fired From Her First TV Job

Oprah was never one to let failure (or other people's opinions of her) stand in her way. She was fired from her first television job as an anchor in Baltimore and accused of being "unfit for TV". It makes you wonder what her former bosses have to say for themselves now!

9 She Received The Presidential Medal Of Freedom

In 2013 Oprah Winfrey was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest U.S. civilian award, by President Obama. Gushing about her many contributions to society he said, "Oprah's greatest strength has always been her ability to help us discover the best in ourselves." We couldn't have said it any better!

8 She Had A Half-Sister She Never Knew

In 2011 Oprah learned a shocking family secret – she had a half-sister that she had never been told about. Patricia, who was put up for adoption while Oprah was living with her father, eventually traced her family which led her to Oprah. The pair were finally reunited on an emotional episode of the show.

7 Maya Angelou Was Her Mentor

Oprah was very close to the late poet Maya Angelou and regarded her both as a mother figure and mentor in her life. Shortly after Maya passed away Oprah wrote about how her guidance changed her life saying, “She was there for me always, guiding me through some of the most important years of my life."

6 She's Crazy About Avocados

Although she has enough money to buy anything she wants Oprah hates forking out for fresh produce - especially when she can grow it herself. The media mogul even has a dedicated avocado orchard so that she can always have a fresh supply of avos, one of her all-time favorites.

5 She Ran Away From Home At 13

When Oprah returned to live with her mother as a teenager she was rebellious and out of control. Being encouraged to lie and steal by her mother didn't help matters and eventually, at the age of 14, Oprah ran away from home. She then gave birth to a baby who passed away shortly after birth.

4 As A Child She Would Interview Her Dolls

As a small girl, Oprah lived with her grandmother in very impoverished conditions meaning there was barely enough money for food and clothes, never mind toys. But Oprah did have hand-made corn dolls which she would line up and "interview". Surely a sign of things to come for this incredible lady!

3 She Loves To Cook For Her Man

Oprah Winfrey and Stedman Graham began dating in 1986 and have been together ever since. Although the pair have always kept their relationship private Oprah has revealed that she loves to cook black-eyed peas and cornbread as a special date night surprise for him. Mmm, now that sounds yummy!

2 Her Middle Name Is Gail

When Oprah was born the name on her birth certificate was Oprah Gail Winfrey. But because so many people struggled to pronounce her name correctly it eventually became Oprah to make things easier. She decided to stick with Oprah and keep her middle name (which is the same as her BFF's name – just with a different spelling).

1 Her Father Helped Her Get Back On Track

Oprah has spoken openly about her upbringing even revealing that she has no desire to be a mother because she was never cared for well by her own mother. But she has high praise for her father, who helped her get back on track as a teenager and concentrate on her education.

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