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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

Related Links:

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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: 8 / 8)

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  Oprah Winfrey

You have people very close to you in this business that you trust, and they have also made a difference in your career.

Oprah Winfrey Interview Photo
Oprah Winfrey: I have people that I trust. I also try to surround myself with people who are smarter than I am. I think that the ability to be as good as you can be comes from understanding who you are, and what you can and cannot do. And what you can't do is far more important than what you can do, if what you can't do is going to keep you from flying as high as you can.

When my lawyer first came to me and said, "You can own your own show," it literally took the ceiling off my brain because I had never even thought that high before. I never even thought that was possible. And everybody needs somebody in their life to say, "Yes, you can do it!"

I have a niece who is 15. Several years ago, I told her the same thing that my father said to me. I said, "You are too smart to get Cs." I heard my father speaking. We were crossing the street one day, and she was talking about her grades. I said, "You are too smart to do that. You could be an A student." And she said, "Do you really think I can?" "Oh, of course. You are such a bright person." And she started getting As. A year later, she said, "Nobody ever told me I could." I think that one of the most important lessons to learn is that we are all responsible for our lives. But nobody gets through this life alone. Everybody needs somebody to show them a way out, or a way up. Everybody does.

I feel best in surroundings where other people are smarter than I am because I feel like I can always learn something from it. One of the other big lessons that I've learned, particularly in business, is that you have a responsibility to yourself to learn as much about your business as you can. I sign every check. Although it is now tedious because the bills that come in from running and maintaining a studio -- everything from Federal Express to Xerox, to every tape that needs to be repaired, and so forth -- it gets to be a lot.

I have stacks and piles of checks to do, and I know that there are a lot of successful people who don't do that. I still have a tenement mentality. I've been very poor in my life, and so the idea of having money and not being responsible and knowing how much money you have and keeping control of it, is not something that I personally can accept. I know that there are other people who can, but it's just not a possibility for me. I need to know where it is. There are times when I think I want to go to the bank and say, "Show it to me." Because just seeing it on a piece of paper -- anybody can print out a piece of paper. So I watch it very carefully and try to maintain responsibility for it.

When I first started being a "business woman," I worried about "How do you do this?" And I realized that you do this the same way as you do anything else. You be fair. You try to be honest with other people, and be fair.

You told us you sign all your own checks. You also work long hours. What kind of hours do you put in?

Oprah Winfrey: Thirteen-hour days, 15, 12. A 12-hour day is a short day for me. I feel like, after a 12-hour day, "What am I going to do with the rest of my day?" I get home, and I don't know what to do with myself because I have all of this time left over. I don't know what to do. So I really feel most comfortable working 14 to 16 hours because then, at least, I can go home.

Oprah Winfrey Interview Photo
Usually, I take a bubble bath. I love bubbles. Now that's the one big luxury I have given myself. Now that I have attained some material success, I will use an entire half a bottle of bubble bath at one time. Really extravagant. And I am really particular about the kind of bubbles, too. I don't want the kind that drip down off of your arm. Poor quality bubbles. I want the kind that cover your arm, and the bubbles stay. So I'll go home and take a bubble bath, and usually get in bed with a pile of books. A pile of books, papers, magazines. I have to read a lot for the show.

Most of the questions come from my own natural curiosity about a particular subject. And I find I'm best in situations where I just go right off the top of my head. Right off. I ask what I want to know. And that's what being in television for a long time -- and also getting comfortable with yourself -- allows you to do. If you make a mistake, you make a mistake. It's OK to make a mistake.

It sounds like you love your work, and so in some ways it's not really work.

Oprah Winfrey: It's not work. Steve Martin has a joke about how some people go to the drugstore, and they sell Flair pens. And he says, in a silly voice, "And I get paid for doing this!" I feel the same way. I feel like I would do this if I didn't get a dime for it, and that's why you know you are doing the right thing -- because it doesn't even feel like work.

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