The origin story of Oprah Winfrey is nothing if not a true testimony.
Born into poverty in Mississippi, Winfrey — who was raised in the inner city of Milwaukee — got her start as a local television journalist before transitioning into acting and, eventually, into her own eponymous talk show.
That talk show would, eventually, jettison Oprah Winfrey into the stratosphere — and today, her $2.6 billion brand has made her the richest Black American woman in the world. She has consistently made Forbes’ lists of the world’s richest entertainers and business people and has earned several accolades including Emmys, Tonys, and Peabody awards.
Yet, Oprah Winfrey continues to remain as humble and as graceful as she always has been.
“Don’t worry about being ‘successful,'” she said to Inc. when asked about the key to her success. “Strive for the truest, highest expression of yourself … and then use that expression in service to the world. If the paradigm for which you see the world is, ‘How can I be of service with my talent? How can I be used in service?’ then I guarantee you, no matter what your talent or offer, you will be successful.”
Such service-based gratitude has driven Oprah Winfrey to not only achieve success and money for herself but has consistently inspired others, too. Let’s take a look at just a few of the many ways that Oprah makes her money.
Editorial note: The net worth listed in this piece is a speculative estimate drawn from a variety of online sources.
“The Oprah Winfrey Show,” in all its incarnations, was one of the top talk shows of its kind for more than 20 consecutive seasons, according to Oprah’s official website. At the end of its 25-year run, the show recorded more than 4,000 episodes.
Throughout her career, Oprah Winfrey has made periodic appearances as an actress. Her best-known role, perhaps, came in 1985 when she was cast as Sofia in “The Color Purple,” for which she was nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Oscar. She also starred as Mrs. Which in “A Wrinkle in Time.”
She’s also known for her work as a producer. She’s the executive producer of such shows as “Queen Sugar” and “The Kings of Napa,” and currently has a new adaption of “The Color Purple” and more in the works, Deadline reports.
And as AfroTech reported in 2019, Oprah even teamed up with actual royalty when she and Meghan Markle’s husband, Prince Harry, joined forces to release a documentary series about mental health for Apple.
OWN — The Oprah Winfrey Network
Though it initially got off to a bit of a lumbering start, OWN (or, the Oprah Winfrey Network) eventually became a world-class moneymaker for the retired talk show host, to the point that it now has an estimated valuation of $180 million.
As AfroTech previously reported, Oprah sold 20.5 percent of her ownership of OWN to Discovery, which is also the majority owner of the network. What’s more, Oprah sold her shares of OWN in exchange for 1.34 million shares of Discovery stock — which, at the time, had a value of $36.5 million.
In 2006, The Los Angeles Times reported that Oprah Winfrey signed an exclusive XM (now SiriusXM) satellite radio deal to carry her “Oprah & Friends” channel. In 2015, our sister site Shadow & Act announced that the channel was dropped after an eight-year run.
O Magazine was first launched back in 2000 as a strictly print magazine and has since gone on to become an exclusively digital property in 2020. According to Zora, its initial run was only projected to be 850,000 copies — but later was bumped up to a million to keep up with the demand.
Oprah’s business acumen is only matched by her philanthropic efforts.
Through The Oprah Winfrey Charitable Foundation, she has established a number of charitable efforts, including (as AfroTech recently reported) a scholarship designed for high school students, or “the future leaders of tomorrow.”
In April 2021, AfroTech reported that she launched an initiative to prioritize the mental health of Black women. The initiative, called OWN Your Health, was designed to “raise awareness and also provide ‘education, resources, and a sense of community to address the unique health concerns facing Black women today, encouraging them to put their health and well-being first,'” per our report.
According to Crunchbase, Oprah Winfrey has made five personal investments into different companies as an angel investor. Though, perhaps, her most high-profile investment is in Oatly — an oat milk company — she’s also invested in The Maven Clinic, Waywire, Apeel Sciences, and True Food Kitchen.
And as AfroTech previously reported, Oatly seems to be Oprah’s biggest success when it comes to outside investments. Our report revealed that when the company (which also counts Jay-Z amongst its investors) filed to go public, it had a valuation of more than $10 billion, earning it a much-coveted unicorn status.
According to Architectural Digest, Oprah Winfrey’s main home is in Montecito, CA, where she lives with her longtime partner, Stedman Graham.
And the outlet has a laundry list of some of Oprah’s many purchases in the real estate market over the years. One of the first investments she’d made was in 1985 when she purchased a condo in Chicago, IL. Subsequently, she purchased other condos in the building that were adjacent to her initial purchase, thus expanding the condo to a massive 9000-plus-square-feet. In 2014, she listed the Chicago mega-condo for sale for $7.75 million and successfully sold it for $4.25 million in late 2015.
Oprah has also owned, or currently owns, homes in Florida, Colorado, Hawaii, Washington state, Tennessee, and Indiana.