Oprah Winfrey almost turned down her first TV job, this is how a college professor persuaded her otherwise

Oprah Winfrey has a distinguished media career, having received 20 Emmy Awards, a Tony Award, and a Peabody Award, among many others. These accomplishments might not have occurred if it hadn’t been for a reality check from a college lecturer.

Winfrey, 69, began her sophomore year planning a career in education, she told 2023 graduates at her alma mater, Tennessee State University, during her commencement speech on Saturday.

“I was majoring in speech communication and drama. 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.”

Winfrey’s Scenic Design professor had different ideas. During his session, she received a phone call from a lead news anchor at Nashville’s WLAC-TV offering her a job. He’d heard her on the radio, where she’d worked since high school, and wanted to offer her a job as an anchor — but Winfrey first declined.

“I said no sir … My father says I have to finish school and school is just too important,” she recalled. “And I doubt that my dad would even let me do something like that.”

When Winfrey told her professor, and he gave her a strange look. “as if I didn’t have a brain that God gave lettuce,” she said. according to her.

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“He said, ‘this is what you get an education for. So that CBS Channel Five will call you. You and your father ought to know that,’” she mentioned to the students. “He rolled his eyes and he’s walking away. He said, ‘I’ll tell him myself,’ and he did.”

By the second semester of her sophomore year, she had rearranged her whole academic schedule to be completed by 2 p.m. — from 2:30 to 10:30 p.m., she worked at the news station, with enough time to go home before her father’s “ironclad 11:00 curfew,” according to Winfrey.

Winfrey’s career was already on the rise before graduation, so she opted to forego her degree in order to focus on her business.

By 1988, 13 years after her intended graduation year, Winfrey had her own talk show, was nominated for her third Emmy, and was in the early phases of starting Harpo Studios, her production firm.

Winfrey currently wears multiple hats, from journalist and host to actor, novelist, and businesswoman, all of which have contributed to her being the richest Black woman in America and the first Black woman billionaire in the United States, according to Forbes.

She claims she could not have achieved such heights if she had not trusted in her religion and herself.

“At no time did I ever feel out of place or not enough or inadequate or an imposter,” she stated. “Why? Because I knew who I was.”

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