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Vernon was strict but encouraging, and made her education a priority.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.When Winfrey was a child, her grandmother would hit her with a stick when she did not do chores or if she misbehaved in any way.At age six, Winfrey moved to an inner-city neighborhood in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, with her mother, who was less supportive and encouraging than her grandmother had been, largely as a result of the long hours she worked as a maid.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.Her grandmother taught her to read before the age of three and took her to the local church, where she was nicknamed "The Preacher" for her ability to recite Bible verses.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 frustrated mother once again sent her to live with Vernon in Nashville, although this time she did not take her back.
She was then recruited to join Richard Sher as co-host of WJZ's local talk show People Are Talking, which premiered on August 14, 1978.
She also hosted the local version of Dialing for Dollars.
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.
She won an oratory contest, which secured her a full scholarship to Tennessee State University, a historically black institution, where she studied communication.
Her first job as a teenager was working at a local grocery store.
By 19, she was a co-anchor for the local evening news.