TSE Quick Take: Oprah’s Influence

Speculation is swirling that Oprah Winfrey might run for president of the United States in 2020. Whatever she decides to do, her leadership has already inspired millions — including many female entrepreneurs.

Candice Helfand-Rogers By Candice Helfand-Rogers

Oprah Winfrey

President Barack Obama awards the 2013 Presidential Medal of Freedom to Oprah Winfrey during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House, Nov. 20, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson, via Wikimedia Commons)

On Sunday, Oprah Winfrey delivered a stirring acceptance speech at the 75th Golden Globe Awards, after receiving the Cecil B. deMille Award for a lifetime of achievements in television and film.

“I want all the girls watching here and now to know that a new day is on the horizon!” she said. “And when that new day finally dawns, it will be because of a lot of magnificent women, many of whom are right here in this room tonight, and some pretty phenomenal men, fighting hard to make sure that they become the leaders who take us to the time when nobody ever has to say ‘me too’ again,” a reference to the viral #MeToo movement to eradicate sexual harassment and assault from the workplace.

Almost immediately after her address, the internet was consumed by a passionate debate about whether Oprah should to run for president in 2020 as a Democratic candidate. She has been mum about her plans so far, but whether or not she mounts a campaign her achievements — and ability to inspire others, including many of the women we have featured on our site — are already significant.

Winfrey hosted the highest-rated daytime talk show in history, and then launched her own television network and magazine. She was nominated for two Academy Awards for her performances in the films Selma and The Color Purple, and was given the academy’s Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award for her philanthropic work. She has also received the Bob Hope Humanitarian Award, and was spotlighted at the Kennedy Center Honors.

Winfrey’s charitable efforts include starting a leadership academy for girls in South Africa and donating tens of millions of dollars to various organizations that help women and children. And in addition to accolades from the entertainment industry, that work earned her the Presidential Medal of Freedom, given to her by former President Barack Obama.

Many female entrepreneurs have taken note. Take Christy Duncan, who launched and grew a consignment shop in Georgia. Winfrey “has used her fame to spread goodness, to encourage others and to showcase ordinary people doing exceptional things for others and their community,” Duncan told us. “I live my life and raise my children differently because of her, and for that she will forever be my most important role model.”

Quite a few female entrepreneurs look to high-profile women for motivation. When we analyzed the first 1,000 entries in our 1,000+ Stories campaign, we found that 22 percent of project participants found inspiration in celebrities. And Winfrey was the most commonly cited celebrity role model — by women all over the world.

Emelda Mwamanga, who launched a lifestyle magazine in Tanzania, says she was thrilled to have met Winfrey in 2009. “She inspired me, as she started her OWN magazine, TV channel, talk show, and I am following her footprints,” Mwamanga said.

Irivwegu Imade Ovi, whose venture develops nutritional programs for Nigerian children, and Minerva Mazzawi, a Palestinian marriage counselor, both gained inspiration from Winfrey’s success, despite difficult childhood experiences.

“Oprah has the ability to feel others’ pain and help those people get through their troubling times. She has reached millions and influenced millions,” Mazzawi said. “She is an inspiring woman to me, and I would like to say that she is an inspiring leader. And I would like to be the new Oprah Winfrey in my community.”

For them and many others, the debate about whether or not she should run against President Donald Trump in 2020 is immaterial — she has already changed the world for the better.

Posted: January 12, 2018

Candice Helfand-RogersTSE Quick Take: Oprah’s Influence