From Nix to Rich: Self-Made Women


Women are often lost in the scuffle in the male-dominated world of business and financial success.

By Penny Juarez

However, the following wealthy women are turning the tables. Before earning ludicrous amounts of money, these women were ordinary gals like the rest of us that often relied on the helping hand of welfare, a bad credit auto loan and a dash of serendipity to realize the American Dream. From a world-renowned talk show host to the wealthiest author who used her initials to disguise her female identity, these five women made the miraculous journey from rags to riches.

Oprah Winfrey

Hardship and tragedy were the hallmarks of Winfrey’s childhood in rural Mississippi. She was born to an unwed and impoverished teenage mother. Winfrey conquered a relentless deluge of hurdles including sexual abuse and a tragic pregnancy that ended in miscarriage, according to Her adamant determination and work ethic fueled her ascension from unassuming Mississippi girl to one of the most influential women on the planet. Oprah’s influence matches her diverse range: she’s CEO of her own TV network, talk show host and a renowned media mogul among other positions of power. This billionaire has earned every cent.

JK Rowling

The muggle famous for her world-wide Harry Potter phenomenon, Joanne Rowling encountered many hardships on her way to bring her literary sensation to publication. In the early 90s, Rowling moved to Edinburgh with her toddler after divorcing from her journalist husband. Most of the first Harry Potter was written in a cafe with her daughter because Rowling couldn’t afford to heat her home. Despite repeated rejections, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was finally sold. By 2000, the first three Harry Potter books raked in about $480 million in three years, according to Forbes reports JK Rowling’s net worth as approximately $1 billion, making her wealthier than the Queen.

Ursula Burns

The first African-American woman to run a Fortune 500 company, Ursula Burns grew up on the Lower East Side of New York City in the midst of drug addicts and violent gang warfare. Her single mother raised her in a housing project while running a daycare center. After attending Catholic school, her mother’s insisted that Burns and her siblings receive a college education she graduated from New York University, according to the Huffington Post. Burns achieved the largest leap up the corporate ladder – her humble beginning as an intern made way for her future as Chairman and CEO of Xerox.

Shania Twain

Born Eileen Edwards in a small mining town in Ontario, the woman who would become Shania Twain was writing lyrics and singing by the age of 10. Twain and her impoverished family struggled with relentless abuse from Jerry Twain, her abusive stepfather, according to Entertainment Weekly. In her teens, she performed on Canadian television, according to When she tragically lost her mother and stepfather in a car accident, Twain shouldered the responsibility of supporting her three younger siblings. She sang in local resorts until her siblings came of age and headed south to Nashville. Shania Twain became one of the most successful female artists in the country genre and is now worth hundreds of millions.

Liz Murray

Born to HIV-positive junkie parents in New York City, Liz Murray grew up in true squalor. She remembers wearing dirty clothing to school and exuding a foul stench, according to Eventually, Murray had enough of her home life and resorted to live on the mean streets of New York, sleeping on the subway and park benches. Through sheer will, Murray turned her life around and won a New York Times Scholarship to Harvard University, according to Liz Murray chronicles her trials and tribulations in Now Breaking Night: A Memoir of Forgiveness, Survival and My Journey from Homeless to Harvard, a New York Times Best Seller.

(Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

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