Sunday, 2 November 2014

Contemporary Icons - Oprah Winfrey

Oprah Winfrey

One of the most famous and successful TV talk show hosts in the world and the only female black billionaire in North America, for the past 3 decades Oprah Winfrey has been able to "connect one on one with her studio and television audience by sharing her childhood story of abandonment and sexual abuse". Throughout her career however, Oprah Winfrey has received criticism from other African-Americans, for the perceived general "whiteness" of her studio and television audience, to the extent in which she has been dubbed the quintessential "mammy" because she often cries with her white audience. Although Winfrey has always identified herself as being black, many have argued that overtime due to her large success and wealth, that Winfrey is not black. Dwayne Mack's review of The Oprah Phenomenon by Jennifer Harris and Elwood Watson assesses the way in which each essay from which the book is made from touches upon the different aspects of Winfrey's life and racial identity.
They argue for various reasons as to why Winfrey, is still considered an icon several years after the cancellation of her popular talk show and the cancellation of the show from syndication. From the moment Oprah was born some would argue that the odds were stacked against her, a black female born into the patriarchal society of the early 1950's, the future of many African Americans at the time were very much limited. Early childhood trauma such as sexual abuse and teenage pregnancy forced Winfrey unwillingly into adulthood from a very young age. It is these experiences that Winfrey draws draws from on her TV show, so much in fact that, in popular culture the words "I was watching Oprah" is synonymous with tears and traumatic stories from various unprivileged victims.
Even now in 2014, Oprah Winfrey is name to be reckoned with "When OWN suffered a loss of nearly $143 million last year, critics proclaimed the network a failure. But Oprah Winfrey rebounded, breaking even earlier than expected". Her name alone holds so much weight in the entertainment, journalism and political industry that she is responsible for nearly a million votes on behalf of Barack Obama in 2008. 

Some would say that in a world where being female and black is the worst thing that could possibly happen to you, Winfrey has succeeded tremendously in ways that many have not, no matter which way you look at it. Especially from a feminist stand point, the fact that she has never had any biological children of her own or refuses to get married and she still proclaims to have a great sense of personal satisfaction is unheard of in a world that expects women to want these things above anything else. Therefore it does make sense that Oprah Winfrey is considered to be an icon in both African-American/Black communities and worldwide.

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