OWNing Your Success - Five Lessons from Oprah Winfrey

Photo credit: O, The Oprah Magazine

Photo credit: O, The Oprah Magazine


When we think of Oprah Winfrey, we tend to think of her successful media empire, which includes her long-running and award-winning talk show, inspiring movies and Broadway shows, and her eponymous magazine. She's a legend for all entrepreneurs, but especially for women and minorities. 

But in 2011, when she launched her TV network, OWN, it was a notorious dud. It was the first time since her meteoric rise to fame that Oprah didn't seem to have the golden touch. She admittedly wanted to quit. Maybe you're in that same boat right now after launching your own business, church, or meaningful enterprise. Before you quit, here are five things you should know about "OWNing" your success, the first in our series on women-owned startups. 


On launching the OWN Network, Oprah Winfrey confessed to major regrets.

“Had I known that it was this difficult, I might have done something else," she said. "I didn't think it was going to be easy, but if I knew then what I know now, I might have made different choices.”

Why she didn't quit. 

“I'm a very driven person,” she said. “I believe that I am here to fulfill a calling. That because I am a female who is African American, who has been so blessed in the world, there's never going to be a time to quit. I will die in the midst of doing what I love to do. And that is using my voice and using my life to try to inspire other people to live the best of theirs.”

What makes a true leader. 

"Because that’s what true leadership is – to be able to put whatever you’re doing, whether it’s your cupcake company or a network –in a position that it can sustain itself without you having to be the prominent force every day," says Oprah. "You want to create an opportunity for other people. I love being behind the scenes and creating opportunities for other people to shine." 

How she found her audience:

After a failed start, OWN has found its way as a personality-driven network steered by Winfrey’s taste – and her desire to cater to her core audience of black viewers, particularly black women. Having spent three decades as an “audience whisperer,” someone capable of cultivating a dedicated viewership by evolving with fans and paying special attention to what they like most – She is the viewer. And that’s why she’s as successful as she is. 

Does she still have regrets?

"Not deep ones," says Oprah. "I learned so much about myself, about sticking with it, and not giving up. I learned so much about putting your ego aside and leaving the room for other opportunities and other people’s insights. For that reason, I 'wouldn’t take nothing' for the journey."


Read more about Oprah's OWN story by clicking the links below: 





Are We Too Obsessed With Women Having 'It All?'

Photo credit:  The Every Girl

Photo credit: The Every Girl

by Tasha Levi

Recently, I had the opportunity to participate in a fascinating social experiment about women sponsored by Lean Cuisine. Early on, I was asked to complete a survey about what the ideal life looked like to me – income, family, travel – and true to who I am, I wanted it all!

Later, I was asked to come in and meet with a social psychologist to further discuss the experiment. I was joined by my sister, Jennifer, and friend, Kayon. They led us into a little boutique marked "It All." I didn't know what was going on, but the cameras were rolling.

Emily Balcetis, a social psychologist, TED speaker, and Associate Professor at New York University, introduced herself and explained that we were going on a shopping spree. Cameras surrounded us, and microphones hovered just over our heads as I hung on every word Emily said, hoping the merchandise on the shelves were somehow real and very expensive.

They weren't.

But, the entire experience was eye-opening.

The participants walked within the walls of "It All," selecting the "ideal life" off the shelves, and adding it to our baskets.

According to their final results, 89% of us made more ambitious choices when surrounded and supported by key women in our lives. What's even more incredible, 77% made those choices in the areas we said mattered most in the earlier survey.

“We’re pushing each other to try to take on more, especially in those areas that we’ve articulated as being really key to what we think is our ideal life,” Emily said of the study results. 

I learned a lot about myself, and I left the experience asking why I wanted half the things I wanted. Why is the conventional idea of success so alluring, as much as it can be anxiety-provoking? What sort of sacrifices will I have to make in order to have "it all?" 

How can I better position myself to reach these goals?

When the campaign launched on social media with the hashtag #ItAll, it sparked a lot of debate about gender roles, diet culture, and what it really means to empower women. 

Check out this clip to learn more about the experiment.

Check out some of the reaction below and by searching #ItAll on Twitter. 


Comment below to tell us your thoughts on the campaign and what "having it all" means to you.

Lil Mama Helps Empower High School Students In Brooklyn

Photo: Antwon Maxwell

Photo: Antwon Maxwell

by Julissa Soriano

“We are from Brooklyn, we come from the same place. If I realized my dreams, you can do it, too,” said Niatia Kirkland, better known as Lil Mama, in a one-hour surprise visit to Progress High School for Professional Careers in Brooklyn, NY.

In an effort to inspire and encourage students, Lil Mama shared her success story and urged young men and women to finish their education. Born in Harlem and raised in Brooklyn, Lil Mama felt a personal connection to the more than 40 students,  primarily Latino and African-American, gathered to hear her message.

“Please be aware of the naysayers and non-believers. They will hold you back.”

Best known for her roles in TV movies such as CrazySexyCool: The TLC Story, with Keke Palmer and Drew Sidora and When Love Kills, with Lance Gross and Tami Roman, Lil Mama’s first break was in 2007 with her hit single Lip Gloss. She then went on to star on America’s Best Dance Crew, alongside fellow judge JC Chasez and host Mario Lopez for seven seasons. 

Lil Mama offered the following advice to students from her career as a singer, rapper, songwriter, actress, and dancer:

"Often times, the closest people to us discouraged us from pursuing what might seem abstract or unrealistic career interests. Please be aware of the naysayers and non-believers. They will hold you back."

“Take a look at the big picture, be sure to obtain the skills required to set you up for success in the working world. By that, I mean, get an education!”

Lil Mama’s visit was more than just charity work or good publicity; it was an example of one way she is using her celebrity status to help empower young men and women.  By sharing her story, we hope to inspire to do the same and providing them with a success story from someone real and relatable. So let’s help build and encourage future champions because you just might be the first person in their lives who has ever told them they can do it!

Photo: Antwon Maxwell

Photo: Antwon Maxwell

Julissa Soriano earned a B.A in Journalism and has a passion for arts, fashion, beauty, travel, humanitarian work, women empowerment, and animal rights. She is currently a Blogger and Associate Editor for Wit + Grace Magazine.