So far this month, we have celebrated the women near and dear to us – members of our highly valued circle of family and friends. We have taken the time to recognize how vital their constant love and support is to us, and the world we live in. This week, for Women’s History Month, I want to shift gears and highlight a woman who has touched the world in unimaginable ways, and changed the course of representation for Black women in the media: my mentor and friend, Ms. Oprah Winfrey.
Since her first job at local Black radio station, WVOL, at 17, Ms. Winfrey has changed lives by focusing on positivity and love. No stranger to struggle or trauma, she has persevered by embracing her entire life, recognizing that we are defined by more than our circumstances. The Oprah Winfrey Show, which launched in 1986, remains one of the highest-ranked shows in television history, and her magazine, O, is one of the most successful start-ups in the publishing sector. She welcomed us into her life, and unabashedly shared her trials and triumphs, while inviting us to connect with the stories and people she featured. She used her platform to share her wisdom and knowledge freely, and in the process, it made us stronger, better, wiser, and helped us to acknowledge our Greater Than.
Her immeasurable love even extends beyond those in her circle. She is a virtual mentor to millions, teaching the masses how to lean in, walk in, and live in the seat of their soul. Using her immense knowledge, heart, influence and platform of wealth, she lifts us up and encourages us to pursue our dreams.
To list her accolades will take more than a few pages, but here are a few notables: Duke and Harvard awarded her honorary doctorates in 2013, and throughout her illustrious career, she's received over 18 Daytime Emmy Awards, including the Lifetime Achievement Award and the Chairman's Award, two Primetime Emmy Awards, including the Bob Hope Humanitarian Award, a Tony Award, a Peabody Award, and the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award, given by the Academy Awards. Beyond her professional achievements, Ms. Winfrey has always used her affluence to support global communities; committed to leaving the world a little better for the generations that follow. Despite the pandemic, she donated millions in COVID-19 support in places like Chicago, Nashville, Milwaukee, and Mississippi.
While she is a global superstar, one of the most influential people in the world, and North America's first Black female billionaire, to be in her presence is to be surrounded by love and power. In 2012, I was given the honor of speaking at the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls in South Africa – this was the beginning of our mentor and friend exchange. I was humbled that she saw something in me and that alone certainly bolstered what I saw in myself. Ms. Winfrey had influenced and impacted my life in so many ways, and here she was giving me the opportunity to help inspire her students to grow and shine.
I was once again reminded of her humility when I spoke at the Global Citizen Mandela 100 Festival in South Africa, in 2018. After my speech, I stepped off the stage, only to hear Ms. Winfrey's voice yell, "Great Job, Ives." I cannot express the absolute joy that filled my heart in that moment. To have your mentor recognize you in such a profound way fills your soul to the brim. It reminded me that you never know who you will one day stand beside if you have faith to believe in yourself, and continue to chase your Greater Than.
As opportunities to interact evolved, she has continued to be a constant source of wisdom and support, helping me through my Father's passing, and offering mentorship advice on life and personal advancement pursuits. As such a valued, respected and consistent light in my life, I would like to honor her this Women's History Month by sharing a bit of her wisdom and guidance.
Today, to honor her faith in me, and to continue to build upon her legacy, I will share a few beautiful lessons that Ms. Winfrey has taught me over the years:
● Are you living a life in alignment with your values? The last few years have given us this unique opportunity to reflect on who we are – our lives, and the people in it–and in turn, ask ourselves, are you happy? If not, are you doing everything you can to live a life of your choosing, in a world of your own making? The lesson here is in knowing that it is never too late to change any part of your life that doesn't quite fulfill you. You possess the ability to change and pivot, and correct your course. Start with small changes and little steps to build something beyond what you can imagine today.
● How can I serve? We live in a beautiful connected world, and it's our responsibility to create practical magic. The goal is to find within ourselves the abilities, skills, and talents that will uplift others. Remember, the universe has already given us everything we need to succeed. In our natural, and often overlooked gifts, we find our purpose. Think back to the activities that you loved doing as a child. Now close your eyes, and ask your inner knowing, your heart, “what brings it joy?”
● Align with your tribe. Those who want the best for you will never drag you down; instead, they will help you rise. Align yourself with the life you wish to lead, and the person you wish to be. Take steps to remove toxic people from your life, and remove yourself from people who drain your energy. If you are constantly using your power to combat negative vibes, how do you have any energy for your dreams? Align with people who will not only protect your energy, but feed it with love, joy and encouragement—celebrating you as you celebrate them.
● Discernment is your greatest superpower. You cannot help everyone, nor solve every problem. Start to recognize the truth about your path, work, and journey, discerning it from what society tells you it should be. Focus on what feels right to you. Look beyond the surface to find the truth that resonates within you and your heart. Remember, what we see is rarely the whole picture. Question your surroundings, and seek answers until you find your truth. Do not be afraid to break some barriers along the way.
Thank you, Oprah, for everything you have done, and continue to do. You have paved a path forward in the dark, and lit lanterns for all of us to follow. You left many guideposts to ensure we never feel lost or alone. Even at your most vulnerable, you showed us what it means to be strong, honest, and real. You are a legend whose legacy will remain in the billions of lives you have directly and indirectly touched, and it is a blessing and an absolute honor to say that I am one of them.
Thank you for all that you are. I am better, my life is brighter and my dreams are Greater Than I once imagined . . . THANK YOU FOR THE GIFT OF YOU!
Please share a COMMENT below to express how you have also been inspired by Ms. Winfrey.
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