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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".
Working in local media, she was both the youngest news anchor and the first black female news anchor at Nashville's WLAC-TV.
Sent to live with the man she calls her father, Vernon Winfrey, a barber in Tennessee, she landed a job in radio while still in high school and began co-anchoring the local evening news at the age of 19.
She has stated that she was molested during her childhood and early teens and became pregnant at 14; her son died in infancy.
However, the East Asian markers may, given the imprecision of genetic testing, actually be Native American.
After Winfrey's birth, her mother traveled north and Winfrey spent her first six years living in rural poverty with her maternal grandmother, Hattie Mae (Presley) Lee (April 15, 1900 – February 27, 1963), who was so poor that Winfrey often wore dresses made of potato sacks, for which the local children made fun of her.
Winfrey became an honors student, was voted Most Popular Girl, and joined her high school speech team at East Nashville High School, placing second in the nation in dramatic interpretation.
She won an oratory contest, which secured her a full scholarship to Tennessee State University, a historically black institution, where she studied communication.
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.