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At 22 years old, Winfrey moved to Baltimore from Tennessee to become the news anchor at a local TV station. In an interview with The Baltimore Sun, she describes the ups and downs of her time there, saying “I had no idea what I was in for or that this was going to be the greatest growing period of my adult life.” After less than a year on the job, Winfrey was fired, but she didn’t let her setback stop her from following her purpose. Shortly thereafter, she was recruited to co-host a local talk show, which gave her just the experience she needed to eventually host her own show years later.
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After graduating cum laude from Princeton University, Obama went on to earn a degree from Harvard Law School before working at a Chicago law firm where she met her now-husband and former president Barack Obama.
In 13th, the Oscar-nominated director trained her lens on African-American history by exploring how the abolition of slavery paved the way for the prison industrial complex. As the first Black woman to direct a film with a budget of $100 million, which features an ethnically diverse cast, she cements her status as a necessary champion creating art that affirms us all.
Taraji P. Henson
Before becoming the Hollywood star she is today, Henson was a Howard University student and young mom studying theatre. To help put herself through school, she also worked as a singing waitress on a dinner cruise ship in Washington, DC and didn’t move to Los Angeles to jumpstart her acting career until she was 26.
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Before launching The Huffington Post, Arianna Huffington worked her way up the ranks as an author and journalist. After publishing her book The Female Woman at age 23, she traveled to music festivals around the world as a writer for BBC before moving to New York at 30.
Photo by Jason Carter Rinaldi
While attending Harvard University, Sandberg took a Public Sector Economics class that was taught by future Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers. After earning the highest midterm and final grade in the class, Summers eventually became Sandberg’s thesis adviser, and years later, at the age of 29, she became his chief of staff.
Photo by Michael Nagle
After graduating from Dartmouth College, Kaling moved in with two friends in Brooklyn and worked as a baby sitter and then a production assistant for a cable television psychic. She also started doing stand-up comedy at local clubs, and at age 24, she was hired as a writer for NBC’s show The Office, making her the only woman on a writing staff of eight people.
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After studying English and creative writing at Dartmouth, Rhimes landed a job working for an advertising firm before realizing that her true passion was in film. She returned to school and earned her MFA in screenwriting, and caught the attention of Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith who showed interest in producing a feature she had written called When Willows Touch. But three weeks before production was set to start, actor Omar Epps walked away from the project and the film lost major funding. Rhimes then went on to land a research gig at HBO on the 1995 documentary Hank Aaron: Chasing the Dream.