When discussing the timeline of successful talk shows, it’s impossible not to mention Oprah Winfrey.
In September 1986, Winfrey launched “The Oprah Winfrey Show.” On the trailblazing syndicated daytime show, she interviewed some of the biggest public figures, as well as everyday people.
After running for 25 seasons, it remains the highest-rated daytime talk show in American television history, according to the Television Academy Foundation.
Winfrey is forever stamped in history as one of the most influential figures in entertainment. However, the legend’s work wasn’t always valued at such a high level.
In 1979, while working as a TV journalist in Baltimore, MD, on the show “People Are Talking,” Winfrey discovered that her co-anchor was making more money than her, according to TIME. In another previous interview, she disclosed just how much. She shared that she was making $22,000 a year while he was making $50,000.
Winfrey made the move to address the pay gap to her boss.
“I said, ‘Richard makes more money than I, and we’re doing the same job. And so I feel that I should get a raise,'” Winfrey recalled to the outlet. “And my boss said, ‘Why?’ And I said, ‘Again, sir, we’re sitting in chairs opposite each other, we’re doing the same job. I ask as many questions as he does. Then I do the news, and he does the news.'”
She continued explaining, “And my boss said, ‘But he has children. He has three sons. Do you have kids?’ And I said, ‘No, I don’t have kids.’ He said, ‘And he owns his own home. Do you own your own house?’ ‘I, uh, well, no. Well, I’m going to be buying a house.’ ‘But do you own your own house?’ he said. ‘And so, tell me again why you need more money?’ I said, ‘Thank you very much.’ And that is when I vowed that I was going to be leaving Baltimore.”
Winfrey left Baltimore for Chicago, IL, to host “AM Chicago.” Then, she became the host of her own show, which took the world by storm. After seeing just how much money she was earning, Winfrey realized that her producers needed a raise.
“I went to my then boss and said, ‘Everybody needs a raise.’ He said, ‘Why?’ I said, ‘Because we’re now a national show, and I’m making money.’ And he actually said to me, ‘They’re only girls. They’re a bunch of girls. What do they need more money for?'”
Winfrey’s boss’ response lit a fire in her the same way it did when she spoke to her first boss in Baltimore. In the same way she once vouched for herself, she stood her ground for the young women.
“I go, ‘Well, either my producers are going to get raises or I’m going to sit down. I just won’t work. I will not work unless they get paid more money,'” Winfrey said. “And so they did. And while I was waiting for the bosses to pay them, I paid them myself in the interim.”
After betting on herself and those in her work circle, Winfrey went from struggling as a local journalist to building a massive media empire that brings her net worth to over $2 billion — making her the richest Black woman in the world — as previously shared by AfroTech.