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Restarting life at fourteen.

Born to a single teenage woman who worked as a housemaid. So poor she had to wear clothes made of potato sacks as a child. Raped at age nine by her relatives. A runaway at age thirteen. Pregnant by age fourteen, losing her child in infancy. 

Rather than give up, this girl decided to restart her life. She joined back in school, choosing education over all else. She became a Honors student and eventually moved on from her part-time job as a grocery girl to doing what she enjoyed most: talking. She talked her heart out as a radio-anchor and her positive energy soon garnered her a small fan-base and a spot on a low rated morning show on television.

Oprah Gail Winfrey has never looked back since then. Few would have bet on her succeeding in the media industry when she started out. She was an African-American in a prejudiced time, overweight and suffering from severe self-esteem issues. What noone counted on was her big heart. The Oprah Winfrey show differed from others because she preferred to empathize with her audience and guests rather than judge or grill them. 

Her show consistently broke network records for decades, challenging stereotypes when necessary while also allowing her audience to smile and have fun. She was sassy, funny and loud, yet could be tender and forgiving when required. She was the friend you wanted to have, the one you knew you could trust not to judge you for your follies. People listened to her and believed in her opinions and it was a responsibility she took seriously.   

By the time Oprah played out her final show to a tearful audience, she had been termed the 'most powerful woman in the world' by CNN and 'One of 100 people who influenced the 20th century' by Time. In Life magazines '100 people who changed the world', she was the only living person to make the list. In a career spanning three decades, she has hosted everyone from Presidents to hurricane victims, sharing jokes with the former while surprising the latter by rebuilding their homes and paying for their children's education. The first African-American billionaire, she has donated over 400 million dollars to educate the poor, often stressing how education was the key to her own success and willing them to do the same.

She should have been just another statistic of lower class livelihood. After all, we in India see so many similar young children falling victims to poverty in our country every day. The difference is that this girl who was raped, homeless and a mother by age fourteen did not give up on life. She aspired to be more. And she knew to learn from her past mistakes and give to others that which she yearned for most as a child - a non-judgemental heart, an open ear, a kind word and a warm hug to remind everyone that somebody still cared about them. 

This is my entry for Tanishq's "As Beautiful as Your Work" contest.

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