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If you like Oprah Winfrey's story, you might also like:
Maya Angelou,
Benjamin Carson,
Michael Dell,
Michael Eisner,
Ernest J. Gaines,
Bill Gates,
Whoopi Goldberg,
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James Earl Jones,
Naomi Judd,
Frank M. Johnson,
Quincy Jones,
B.B. King,
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Oprah Winfrey's
recommended reading: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

Oprah Winfrey also appears in the video:
You Can Do Anything

Teachers can find prepared lesson plans featuring Oprah Winfrey in the Achievement Curriculum section:
Talent and Vision

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Oprah Winfrey
Oprah Winfrey
Profile of Oprah Winfrey Biography of Oprah Winfrey Interview with Oprah Winfrey Oprah Winfrey Photo Gallery

Oprah Winfrey Interview (page: 6 / 8)

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  Oprah Winfrey

What characteristics do you think are most important for having a fulfilling life?

Oprah Winfrey: I think the most important thing to get ahead falls back to what I truly believe in, and that is the ability to seek truth in your life. That's on all forms. You have to be honest with yourself. You can be pursuing a profession because your parents say it's the best thing. You can be pursuing a profession because you think you will make a lot of money. You can be pursuing a profession because you think you are going to get a lot of attention. None of that will do you any good if you are not being honest with yourself.

Oprah Winfrey Interview Photo
Honesty comes from your natural instinct telling you when you are doing something, whether or not this feels right. You feel a sense of accomplishment and fulfillment and worthiness to the world, in such a way that you know that you are doing the right thing. You don't have to ask anybody. When you are doing the right thing, you don't have to say, "Do you think this is OK?" It works on every level. Whether or not you are going to a party, or choosing a dress, or choosing a friend, if you ever have to say, "Do you think this is OK?" Chances are it is not because that's your instinct trying to get you to ask yourself that question: "Maybe this isn't OK?" From the very first day I did my very first talk show, I knew it. I knew it was the right thing to do. I felt the same thing about acting too. Only I was so terrified that it was a little bit more difficult for me.

What's the turn-on for you in acting?

Oprah Winfrey: For me the turn-on is the ability to express another person's life. If you can internalize, and then manifest externally the essence of another being, that is the ultimate in understanding -- what it takes to take somebody else's life, make it your own, and put it out there. The ultimate. You understand things about people that you just could never imagine. It's almost like getting to live somebody else's life for a while, without having to experience all of the "experience" that comes with creating another life.

Didn't Quincy Jones have an important role in your acting career?

Oprah Winfrey: I would not even say an important role; I would say the role in my acting career.

Quincy Jones discovered me. And it's so interesting to me because when I was working as a television newswoman in Baltimore and really, all I wanted to do was be an actress, but I was doing television, and I felt at the time, I can't quit this job because this is what everybody else wants to do. And if I quit this job, what am I doing to do? And I was going to a speech coach at the time that the station had sent me to, the broadcasting school. They sent everybody to the same woman. And I was telling her, "I really don't want to do this. What I want to do is act." And she says, "My dear, you don't want to act because if you wanted to act, you would be doing it. What you want to be, my dear, is a star. Because if you wanted to act, you'd be waiting tables in New York." And I thought, "Now why am I going to wait tables if I'm already working in TV?" So I said, "Well, what I think is going to happen is I will be discovered because I want it so badly. Somebody is going to have to discover me." And she said, "You just dream. You are a dreamer." So when it happened I called her up. I said, "You will not believe this! I got discovered!" And it really was a discovery. It's like one of those Lana Turner stories, only it wasn't a drug store. He was in his hotel room and saw me on TV. It was unbelievable.

I truly believe that thoughts are the greatest vehicle to change power and success in the world. Everything begins with thoughts. The chair that we are sitting in, the room that we are in, all started because somebody thought it. So...

I thought of The Color Purple for myself. I know this is going to sound strange to you. I read the book. I got so many copies of that book. I passed the book around the everybody I knew. If I was on the bus, I'd pass it out to people. And when I heard that there was going to be a movie, I started talking it up for myself. I didn't know Quincy Jones or Steven Spielberg, or how on earth I would get in this movie. I'd never acted in my life. But I felt it so intensely that I had to be a part of that movie. I really do believe that I created it for myself. I wanted it more than anything in the world, and would have done anything to do it, anything to do it.

[ Key to Success ] Passion

It was an incredibly moving performance, especially for your first film.

Oprah Winfrey: Scared to death, too. Scared to death. But yeah, I think I did create it for myself. I talked it up. I made people sick talking about it.

There was a particular, incredibly powerful scene. And I want you to tell us how that came about, and what you went through.

Oprah Winfrey: Well, the most powerful scene in The Color Purple for me was the scene where Sofia walks through the cornfield, and proclaims herself to Celia, defines and proclaims herself. Where she says, "All my life I had to fight. I had to fight my cousins. I had to fight my brothers. I had to fight my uncles. But I ain't never thought I had to fight in my own house." I did that scene in one take because it was the essence, I thought, of my life, and very liberating to live it through Sofia. Because, at the time that I spoke it, I wasn't there yet. Because, what she is saying is "I fought people all my life, and I'm not going to fight in my own house anymore, in my own space anymore. I'm going to have what I deserve." And it's taken me a while to get to where Sofia was. But it was so liberating. It was all, I think, a part of the process of growth for me, to recognize it can be done.

[ Key to Success ] Perseverance

How has luck affected your career?

Oprah Winfrey: I feel that luck is preparation meeting opportunity. The reason I feel so strongly about that, and it's not just a saying for me. I was hired in television in 1973, right after the riots of '71, '72, and other blacks and female people were hired at the same time. People accused me of being a token at the time. It didn't really bother me because I realized that I was going to stay there. Once I got there, I realized, nobody is getting me out of here. This is not just a phase for me. I sort of began to create my own luck. I said I knew how to edit when I didn't. I said I knew how to report on stories. I went to my first city council meeting, I wasn't quite sure of what to do, but I had told the news director that I did. So, then what you have to do is, be willing to admit that you know nothing. So I walked into the city council meeting and announced to everybody there, "This is my first day on the job, and I don't know anything. Please help me because I have told the news director at Channel 5 that I know what I'm doing. Pleeeeze help me." And they did. And from that point on all those councilmen became my friends, and I'd come in the council meeting, and they helped me out. And I realize now it was because of my willingness to say, "I don't know it, but if you will just, you know, help me." So that's how I learned.

[ Key to Success ] Perseverance

Oprah Winfrey Interview Photo
One of the biggest lessons I've learned recently is that when you don't know what to do, you should do nothing until you figure out what to do because a lot of times you feel like you are pressed against the wall, and you've got to make a decision. You never have to do anything. Don't know what to do? Do nothing. I wait. And that has been a big lesson: to be willing, to be still with myself, and trust myself and my higher power to help me make the right decision. And to not feel pressured. We create stress for ourselves because you feel like you have to do it. You have to. I don't feel that anymore.

You literally bend yourself out of shape, just to try.

Oprah Winfrey: Most all the mistakes I've made in my life, I've made because I was trying to please other people. Every one of them. There is not one that I've made because I did something because I really wanted to do this for myself. Every mistake I've ever made was because I went outside of myself to do something for somebody else that I should not have. Not good. It's a woman's disease.

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This page last revised on Jul 13, 2012 19:32 EDT
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