Winfrey's career choice in media would not have surprised her grandmother, who once said that ever since Winfrey could talk, she was on stage.As a child, she played games interviewing her corncob doll and the crows on the fence of her family's property.She began attending Lincoln High School, Milwaukee; but after early success in the Upward Bound program, was transferred to the affluent suburban Nicolet High School, where she says her poverty was constantly rubbed in her face as she rode the bus to school with fellow African-Americans, some of whom were servants of her classmates' families.She began to steal money from her mother in an effort to keep up with her free-spending peers, to lie to and argue with her mother, and to go out with older boys.Her first job as a teenager was working at a local grocery store.She worked there during her senior year of high school, and again while in her first two years of college.Ebert predicted that she would generate 40 times as much revenue as his television show, At the Movies.Winfrey's syndicated show brought in double Donahue's national audience, displacing Donahue as the number-one daytime talk show in America.
In 1977, she was removed as co-anchor and worked lower profile positions at the station.
In 1983, Winfrey relocated to Chicago to host WLS-TV's low-rated half-hour morning talk show, AM Chicago. Within months after Winfrey took over, the show went from last place in the ratings to overtaking Donahue as the highest-rated talk show in Chicago.
The movie critic Roger Ebert persuaded her to sign a syndication deal with King World.
Though criticized for unleashing a confession culture, promoting controversial self-help ideas, Her mother, Vernita Lee (born c. Winfrey's biological father is usually noted as Vernon Winfrey (born c.
1933), a coal miner turned barber turned city councilman who had been in the Armed Forces when she was born.
Winfrey later acknowledged her grandmother's influence, saying it was Hattie Mae who had encouraged her to speak in public and "gave me a positive sense of myself".