Oprah’s 6 Most Influential Women

By Nikki Addison

oprah winfrey helen mirren
Who does Oprah look up to?

Most of us have role models throughout our lives, but what about the celebrities we look up to? Who are they inspired by? We take a look at one of our favourite, inspirational woman, Oprah, and her own role models.

Michelle Obama

Oprah and Michelle Obama have been friends for years, and Oprah has made it clear that she admires the former first lady. Oprah first hosted the Obamas back in 2006 when Barack was still a senator in Illinois, and in 2014, Michelle spent her birthday at Oprah’s property on Maui. Finally, when the Obamas exited the White House to make way for Donald Trump, Michelle gave Oprah an exclusive interview where they discussed the change in government and the joy that the Obamas had brought to the White House.

oprah winfrey michele obama

Helen Mirren

Oprah and Dame Helen Mirren have met several times over the years, with Oprah declaring her “a woman comfortable being exactly who she is”. Oprah has expressed her respect for “la Dame”, as she refers to her on Instagram, writing on her website that: “Dame Helen simply radiates warmth—in her presence, you feel an instant connection.” She praises Mirren for her boldness, stating: “When I think about women who refuse to be defined by their age—or by the so-called rules of public life—Helen tops the list.” She also adds: “Helen’s sincerity, depth and uncompromising individuality have made her a Hollywood legend.” And the friendship’s mutual. Of Oprah, Mirren told ET Canada: “The reason Oprah is the Oprah that we all know is simply because she’s so easy to talk to. There’s an utter simplicity and sort of humanity about her, in spite of her being Oprah.”

oprah winfrey helen mirren

 Ava Duvernay

Oprah stars in esteemed director Ava DuVernay’s film, A Wrinkle in Time, and the pair have only good things to say about each other. When DuVernay won two awards at the 2017 Emmys for her documentary 13th, Oprah took to Instagram to congratulate her. “So well deserved. With every win the message gets stronger,” she wrote. DuVernay, who is best known for the critically acclaimed 2014 historical drama Selma, likewise adores Oprah. At the final screening of her television show Queen Sugar, the director posted a photo on Instagram of Oprah tearing up with the caption: “Yeah, that’s just Oprah with my Mom and Gramma crying over the Season Finale episode of #QUEENSUGAR… No big deal. Whatever. *silent fist pump*”

oprah winfrey ava duvernay

Ellen DeGeneres

Oprah has previously said on Instagram that it’s “always a good time with Ellen”, and the two talk show hosts have had plenty of laughs over their years of friendship. The pair also happen to be neighbours when staying at their Montecito homes. Ellen joked that she sometimes walks over to Oprah’s mansion to “borrow a cup of money”. Oprah, who is passionate about gardening, has sent fresh vegetables down the lane to Ellen on more than one occasion – and was gifted an apple seedling in thanks. After the horrific mudslides that swept California, Ellen face-timed Oprah on her show and the pair shared an emotional conversation about the ruin the natural disaster had wrought on their community.

oprah winfrey ellen degeneres

Maya Angelou

Perhaps Oprah’s biggest role model is poet and civil rights activist Maya Angelou. When Angelou passed away in 2014, Oprah penned a moving message about the inspirational leader. “I’ve been blessed to have Maya Angelou as my mentor, mother/sister, and friend since my 20s. She was there for me always, guiding me through some of the most important years of my life. The world knows her as a poet but at the heart of her, she was a teacher. ‘When you learn, teach. When you get, give’ is one of my best lessons from her,” she wrote.

“She won three Grammys, spoke six languages and was the second poet in history to recite a poem at a presidential inauguration. But what stands out to me most about Maya Angelou is not what she has done or written or spoken, it’s how she lived her life. She moved through the world with unshakeable calm, confidence and a fierce grace. I loved her and I know she loved me. I will profoundly miss her. She will always be the rainbow in my clouds.”

oprah winfrey maya angelou

Recy Taylor

During her impassioned speech at the 2018 Golden Globe Awards, Oprah Winfrey spoke of Recy Taylor, an African American woman who was raped by six white men in 1944 when she was just 24 years old. Taylor reported the incident despite being warned not to, and her case was handled by the NAACP’s Rosa Parks – who would later go on to instigate the Montgomery Bus Boycott. The rapists were never prosecuted and in 2011 – nearly 67 years after the attack – the mayor of the town issued a formal apology for failing to prosecute. Taylor passed away just last month, aged 97.

During her acceptance speech for the Cecile B. DeMille Award, Oprah praised Taylor’s bravery in reporting the attack while speaking about the #MeToo movement. “And I just hope — I just hope that Recy Taylor died knowing that her truth, like the truth of so many other women who were tormented in those years, and even now tormented, goes marching on,” she said. Just this week, Oprah paid her respects to Taylor’s grave, sharing a photo on Instagram. “I don’t believe in coincidences, but if I did this would be a powerful one,” she wrote. “To be able to visit her grave so soon after ‘speaking her name ‘sharing her story, a woman I never knew.”

oprah winfrey recy taylor

Betty White

Oprah has expressed admiration for Betty White’s lengthy career and refusal to bow to Hollywood’s pressure to lie about age and pour millions into appearances. Appearing on Oprah’s show, the 96-year-old actress responded to Oprah’s comment that she is a  “national treasure” with: “oh my dear, hearing that from you is something else.” Later, Oprah shared a photo of the two on Instagram with the caption: “Hangin with a Legend.”

oprah winfrey betty white

All imagery supplied by Oprah official Instagram. 


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