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Oprah Winfrey
Early life

Winfrey was born in Kosciusko, Mississippi to a Baptist family. She was originally named Orpah Gail Winfrey, after the Bible's Book of Ruth. The midwife switched the "r" and the "p" around when she was writing the birth certificate (disputed – see talk page). Her Mother, Vernita Lee, was a housemaid, and her father, Vernon Winfrey, was a coal miner and later worked as a barber before becoming a city councilperson. When Oprah was born her father was serving in the Armed Forces. When she was born her parents were teenagers and unmarried. After her birth, Oprah's mother travelled north and Winfrey spent her first six years living in rural poverty with her Grandma Anita Mae. Winfrey's 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. When Oprah was little her grandmother would take a switch (in the South, that custom meant the thin green leafless shoot from certain trees – more for psychological effect than for pain) and would hit her with it when she didn't do chores or if she misbehaved in any way.

At age six, Winfrey moved to a Milwaukee inner city ghetto with her mother, who was less supportive and encouraging than her grandmother. Winfrey has stated that she was raped by her cousin, uncle, and a family friend. Despite her dysfunctional home life, Oprah skipped grades and by the time she was thirteen received a scholarship to attend a prestigous all white high school in the suburbs. At age 14 her mother sent her to live with her father in Nashville, Tennessee. Vernon was strict but encouraging, and made her education a priority. Winfrey became an honors student. She won an oratory contest which secured her a full scholarship to Tennessee State University, a historically Black institution, where she studied communications. At age 18, Winfrey won the Miss Black Tennessee beauty pageant.

Winfrey's grandmother has said that ever since Oprah could talk, she was "on stage". In her youth she played games interviewing her corncob doll and the crows on the fence of her family's property. But her true media career began at age seventeen, working at a local radio station while attending university

Working in local media, she was both the youngest news anchor and the first black female news anchor at Nashville's WTVF-TV. She moved to Baltimore's WJZ-TV in 1976 to co-anchor the six o'clock news. 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.

Oprah Winfrey
Career and success:


Oprah on the first national broadcast of The Oprah Winfrey Show in 1986.

In 1983, Winfrey relocated to Chicago, Illinois to host WLS-TV's low-rated half-hour morning talk show, AM Chicago. The first episode aired on January 2, 1984. Within months after Winfrey took over, the show went from dead last in the ratings to overtaking Donahue as the highest rated talk show in Chicago, was renamed The Oprah Winfrey Show, expanded to a full hour and broadcast nationally beginning September 8, 1986. Having surpassed Donahue in the local market Winfrey quickly doubled his national audience, her show replacing his as the number one day-time talk show in America. Their much publicised contest was the subject of enormous scrutiny.

Time magazine wrote, "Few people would have bet on Oprah Winfrey's swift rise to host of the most popular talk show on TV. In a field dominated by white males, she is a black female of ample bulk. As interviewers go, she is no match for, say, Phil Donahue...What she lacks in journalistic toughness, she makes up for in plainspoken curiosity, robust humor and, above all empathy. Guests with sad stories to tell are apt to rouse a tear in Oprah's eye....They, in turn, often find themselves revealing things they would not imagine telling anyone, much less a national TV audience. It is the talk show as a group therapy session."

TV columnist Howard Rosenberg said "She's a roundhouse, a full course meal, big, brassy, loud, aggressive, hyper, laughable, lovable, soulful, tender, low-down, earthy and hungry. And she may know the way to Phil Donahue's jugular."

Newsday's Les Payne observed, "Oprah Winfrey is sharper than Donahue, wittier, more genuine, and far better attuned to her audience, if not the world."

Martha Bayles of the Wall Street Journal wrote, "It's a relief to see a gabmonger with a fond but realistic assessment of her own cultural and religous roots."

In the mid-1990s Winfrey adopted a much less tabloid format doing shows about heart-disease in women, geopolitics with Lisa Ling, spirituality and meditation, and gift-giving and home decorating shows. She often interviews celebrities on issues that directly involve them in some way, such as cancer, charity work, or substance abuse. In addition, she interviews ordinary people who have done extraordinary things or been involved in Show for several years before launching his own show, Dr. Phil, in 2002, which was created by Winfrey's production company, Harpo Productions in partnership with Paramount which produced the show.

Perhaps Oprah's most famous recent show was the first episode of the nineteenth season of The Oprah Winfrey Show in the fall of 2004. During the show each member of the audience received a new G6 sedan; the 276 cars were donated by Pontiac as part of a publicity stunt.

Winfrey recently made a deal to extend her show until the 2010 – 2011 season, by which time it will have been on the air for twenty-five years. She plans to host 140 episodes per season, until her final season, when it will return to its current number, 130.

The 2004 Nobel Peace Prize Concert was hosted by Oprah and Tom Cruise. There were musical performances by Cyndi Lauper, Andrea Bocelli, Joss Stone, Chris Botti, Diana Krall, Tony Bennett and others. The concert was broadcasted in the United States on Dec. 23, 2004 by E!. An unofficial Oprah fanclub, also organized a petition drive in 2005, to nominate Oprah for the Nobel Peace Prize.

As well as hosting and appearing on television shows, Winfrey co-founded the women's cable television network Oxygen. She is also the president of Harpo Productions (Oprah spelled backwards).

Oprah Winfrey

In 1985, Winfrey co-starred in Steven Spielberg's epic adaptation of Alice Walker's award-winning novel The Color Purple. She earned immediate acclaim as Sofia, the distraught housewife. The following year Winfrey was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress, but she lost to Anjelica Huston. Many believe this was due in part to the Academy's "anti-Spielberg" bias, thinking the film would have been better directed by an African-American. The Color Purple has now been made into a Broadway musical and opened late 2005, with Oprah credited as a producer.

In October 1998, Oprah produced and starred in the film Beloved, based upon Toni Morrison's Pulitzer Prize winning novel of the same name. To prepare for her role as Sethe, the protagonist and former slave, Oprah experienced a 24-hour simulation of the experience of slavery, which included being tied up and blindfolded and left alone in the woods. Critics said this would not even come close to the experience. Despite major advertising, including two episodes of her talk show dedicated solely to the film, and good critical reviews, Beloved opened to poor box-office results, losing approximately $30 million. Many have suggested that the film was too long and complex for the moviegoing public, and the subject matter too politically sensitive.

In 2005, Harpo Productions released another film adaptation of a famous American novel, Zora Neale Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937). The made-for-television film Their Eyes Were Watching God was based upon a teleplay by Suzan-Lori Parks, and starred Halle Berry in the lead female role.

Winfrey was the recipient of the first Bob Hope Humanitarian Award at the 2002 Emmy Awards for services to television and film. In 2004, Oprah and her team filmed an episode of her show entitled Oprah's Christmas Kindness, in which Oprah, her best friend Gayle, her partner Stedman Graham, and some crew members travelled to South Africa to bring attention to the plight of young children affected by poverty and AIDS. During the 21-day whirlwind trip, Oprah and her crew visited schools and orphanages in poverty-stricken areas, and at different set-up points in the areas distributed Christmas presents to 50,000 children, with dolls for the girls and soccer balls for the boys. In addition, each child was given a backpack full of school supplies and received two sets of school uniforms for their sex, in addition to two sets of socks, two sets of underwear, and a pair of shoes. Throughout the show, Oprah appealed to viewers to donate money to Oprah's Angel Network for poverty-stricken and AIDS-affected children in Africa, and pledged that she personally would oversee where that money was spent. From that show alone, viewers around the world donated over $7,000,000.

Books and magazines

Winfrey publishes two magazines:O, The Oprah Magazine and O at Home. She has co-authored five books. In 2002 Fortune Magazine called O, the Oprah Magazine the most successful startup ever in the industry.


Oprah.com is a premiere women's lifestyle website, offering advice on everything from the mind, body and spirit to food, home and relationships. It provides comprehensive resources related to The Oprah Winfrey Show and exclusive interactive content based on O, The Oprah Magazine. In addition, the website has unique original content, including Oprah's Book Club, which offers free in-depth reading guides for each book selection, online discussion groups and Q&A sessions with literary experts. In 2003, Winfrey relaunched Oprah's Book Club with an online component and it quickly became the largest book club in the world, attracting more than 670,000 members. That same year, Oprah.com also launched Live Your Best Life, an interactive multimedia workshop based on her sold-out national speaking tour that features Oprah's personal life stories and life lessons along with a workbook of thought-provoking exercises.

Since then, Winfrey has also used Oprah.com to continue her crusade to help those in need and against pedophiles by raising over 3 million dollars for Katrina victims and helping to capture 4 convicted child predators. Oprah.com averages more than 100 million page views and more than three million users per month. The book club has since grown to over 800,000 members.


On February 9, 2006 it was announced that Oprah signed a $55 million, 3-year contract with XM Satellite Radio to establish a new radio channel. The channel will be called Oprah & Friends and will feature popular contributors to The Oprah Winfrey Show and 'O' Magazine including Nate Berkus, Dr. Mehmet Oz, Bob Greene, Dr. Robin Smith and Marianne Williamson. Her contract requires her to be on air 30 minutes a week, 39 weeks a year. The 30 minute weekly show will feature Oprah with friend Gayle King. Due to large price for relatively little air time, some broadcast analysts have suggested that this was a bad deal for XM, perhaps even prompting the resignation of one of its board of directors; Howard Stern has discussed it at length from his show on competing Sirius Satellite Radio. Like Stern, Winfrey's audience is extremely loyal; the only question is whether or not 30 minutes a week will be sufficient to drive XM subscription sales. The channel will be broadcast from a new studio at Oprah's Chicago headquarters and is set to air in September 2006.

Future projects

Winfrey's latest television project will be developing and producing a new talk show for popular Food Network celebrity chef, Rachael Ray, which will begin airing sometime in 2006.

Recently, Winfrey has been interviewed several times by Anderson Cooper, with whom she has completed several side projects. This has fueled a rumour that Winfrey and Cooper are planning to make a movie together. These rumors have not been substantiated.

Oprah Winfrey
Personal life

Winfrey currently lives on "The Promised Land", her 42 acre (170,000 m²) ocean view estate in Montecito, California, outside of Santa Barbara. Rumors state that Winfrey was at a party the previous owners were throwing and so fell in love with the estate that she was reported to have purchased it by writing a personal check for $50,000,000 USD, although it was not for sale. Winfrey also owns a house in Lavalette, New Jersey.

Winfrey has never married, but it is widely assumed that she has lived with her partner Stedman Graham for almost twenty years. The relationship of Oprah and Stedman has been documented through the years with numerous romantic tabloid articles often accompanied by color spreads of the couple at home and on lavish vacations. Prior to meeting Graham Winfrey's love life was a lot less stable. A self-described promiscuous teen who was a victim of sexual abuse, Winfrey briefly became a mother at the age of 14 though her son died in infancy. A relationship with a married man lead Winfrey to contemplate suicide in her twenties and an ex-lover from that same period tried to write a tell all book in which he claimed that he and Winfrey smoked crack together.

Her celebrity status notwithstanding, the billionaire Winfrey served in 2004 on a murder-trial jury. The trial was held in Chicago, Illinois, and involved a man accused of murder after an argument over a counterfeit fifty-dollar bill. The jury voted to convict the man of murder.

In June 2005, Winfrey was denied access to the Hermes company's flagship store in Paris, France. Winfrey arrived fifteen minutes after the store's formal closing time, though high end stores routinely extend hours for VIP customers. Winfrey believed she would have been allowed in the store if she were a white celebrity. In September 2005, Hermes USA CEO Robert Chavez was a guest on The Oprah Winfrey Show and sincerely apologized for a rude employee.

On December 1, 2005, Oprah appeared on The Late Show with David Letterman to promote the new Broadway musical The Color Purple, of which she was a producer, joining the host for the first time in sixteen years. The episode was hailed by some as the "television event of the decade" and helped Letterman attract his largest audience in more than 11 years: 13.45 million viewers. Although a much-rumored feud was said to have been the cause of the rift, both Winfrey and Letterman balked at such talk. "I want you to know, it's really over, whatever you thought was happening," said Winfrey.

In 1998, Oprah began Oprah's Angel Network, a charity aimed at encouraging people around the world to make a difference in the lives of underprivileged others. Accordingly, Oprah's Angel Network supports charitable projects and provides grants to nonprofit organizations around the world that share this vision. To date, Oprah's Angel Network has raised more than $50,000,000. Oprah personally covers all administrative costs associated with the charity, so 100% of all funds raised go to charity programs. The Angel Network

Oprah's show is based in Chicago, Illinois, so she spends time there but otherwise resides in California. Reportedly, she has recently purchased several properties on Maui, Hawaii.

For the 2006 PBS program, African American Lives, Oprah had her DNA tested. This genetic genealogy test determined that her maternal line probably originated among the Kpelle ethnic group, in the area that today is Liberia. It was also determined that she is part Native American (about 8 % according to the test) and East Asian (about 5% according to the test) and South African.

Wealth & Philanthropy

Born in rural poverty, then raised by a welfare mother in the ghetto, Winfrey became a millionaire at age 32 when her talk show went national. Because of the amount of revenue the show generated, Winfrey was in a position to negotiate ownership of the show and start her own production company. By 1994 the show's ratings were still thriving and Winfrey negotiated a contract that earned her nine figures a year. Considered the richest woman in entertainment by the early 1990s, at age 41 Winfrey's wealth crossed another milestone when with a net worth of $340 million, she replaced Bill Cosby as the only African American on the Forbes 400. Although blacks are 12% of the U.S. population, Winfrey has remained the only black wealthy enough to rank among America's 400 richest people nearly every year since 1995 (BET founder Bob Johnson briefly joined her on the list from 2001-2003 before his ex-wife reportedly acquired part of his fortune).

With a 2000 net-worth of $800 million, Winfrey is believed to have been the richest African American of the 20th century. To celebrate her status as a historical figure, Professor Juliet E.K. Walker of the University of Illinois created the course "Oprah the tycoon".

Forbes' international rich list has listed Winfrey as the world's only black billionaire for the past three straight years and as the first black woman billionaire in world history. Winfrey's 2006 net-worth of $1.4 billion USD placed her as the 562nd richest person in the world.

Although Winfrey's show is known for raising money through her public charity and the cars and gifts she gives away on TV are often donated by corporations in exchange for publicity, behind the scenes Winfrey personally donates more of her own money to charity than any other show business celebrity in America. In 2005 she became the first black listed by Business Week as one of America's top 50 most generous philanthropists, having given an estimated $250 million. Despite being the 235th richest American in 2005, Winfrey was the 32nd most philanthropic.

Oprah Winfrey

Oprah Winfrey was called "arguably the world's most powerful woman" by CNN and Time.com.Time magazine named Winfrey one of the 100 people who most influenced the 20th century, as well as one of the 100 most influential people of 2004, 2005, and again in 2006. Winfrey and Bill Gates are the only two people in the world to make all four lists. At the end of the 20th century Life magazine listed Oprah as both the most influential woman and the most influential black person of her generation and also called her "America's most powerful woman" in a cover profile. Ladies Home Journal also ranked Oprah number one in their list of the most powerful women in America. In 2003 Winfrey edged out both Superman and Elvis to be named the greatest popculture icon of all time by VH1. In 2005 Forbes magazine named her the world's most powerful celebrity.

While Phil Donahue pioneered the tabloid talk show genre, the warmth, intimacy and personal confession Oprah brought to the format both popularized and revolutionized it. In the scholarly text Freaks Talk Back, Yale sociology professor Joshua Gamson credits the tabloid talk show genre with providing much needed high impact media visibility for gays, bisexuals, transsexuals, and transgender people. In the book's editorial review Michael Bronski wrote "In the recent past, lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, and transgendered people had almost no presence on television. With the invention and propagation of tabloid talk shows such as Jerry Springer, Jenny Jones, Oprah, and Geraldo, people outside the sexual mainstream now appear in living rooms across America almost every day of the week."

One of Winfrey's most taboo-breaking shows occurred in the 1980s where for the entire hour, members of the studio audience stood up one by one, gave their name and announced that they were gay. Also in the 1980s Winfrey took her show to West Virgina to confront a town gripped by AIDs paranoia because a gay man living in the town had HIV. Winfrey interviewed the man who had become a social outcast, the town's mayor who drained the swimming pool because the man had gone swimming, and debated the town's hostile residents. "But I hear this is a God fearing town" Winfrey scolded the homophobic studio audience, "where's all that Christain love and understanding?" During a show on gay marriage in the 1990s, a woman in Winfrey's audience stood up to complain that gays were constantly flaunting their sex lives and she announced that she was tired of it. "You know what I'm tired of," replied Winfrey, "heterosexual males raping and sodomizing young girls. That's what I'm tired of." Her rebuttal inspired a screaming standing ovation from that shows mostly gay studio audience. In April 1997, Winfrey played the therapist on the sitcom Ellen to whom both the character, and the real life Ellen DeGeneres confessed she was a lesbian.

Following the success of tabloid talk shows, early 21st century gays were coming out of the closet younger and younger, gay suicide rates had dropped, and gays were embraced on mainstream shows like Will and Grace and Queer Eye for the Straight Guy and films like Broke Back Mountain. While having changed with the times from her tabloid talk show roots, Winfrey continues to empower the gay community by using her show to promote openly gay personalities like her hairdresser, makeup artist, and decorator Nate Berkus who inspired an outpouring of sympathy from middle America after grieving the loss of his partner in the Tsunami on The Oprah Winfrey Show. Winfrey's intimate therapeutic hosting style and the tabloid talk show genre she popularized has been credited or blamed for leading the media counterculture of the 1980s and 1990s which broke 20th century taboos, lead to America's self-help obsession, and created confession culture. The Wallstreet Journal coined the term Oprahfication which means public confession as a form of therapy.

In 1998, Mark Steyn in the National Review wrote of Winfrey "Today, no truly epochal moment in the history of the Republic occurs unless it is validated by her presence. When Ellen said, 'Yep! I'm gay,' Oprah was by her side, guesting on the sitcom as (what else?) the star's therapist. She is, of course, therapist to an entire nation. If only it weren't so hard for the rest of us to get an appointment. Asked to explain the cause of the 1992 riots, one angry black looter from South Central said: 'We had to do something to get Oprah to Los Angeles '"

By confessing intimate details about her weight problems, tumultuous love life, and sexual abuse, and crying along side her guests, Time magazine credits Winfrey with creating a new form of media communication known as "rapport talk" as distinguished from the "report talk" of Phil Donahue:

"Winfrey saw television's power to blend public and private; while it links strangers and conveys information over public airwaves, TV is most often viewed in the privacy of our homes. Like a family member, it sits down to meals with us and talks to us in the lonely afternoons. Grasping this paradox,...She makes people care because she cares. That is Winfrey's genius, and will be her legacy, as the changes she has wrought in the talk show continue to permeate our culture and shape our lives".

With a peak weight of 108 kg (238 lb), Winfrey paved the way for other plus sized women in media such as Roseanne Barr, Rosie O'Donnel and Star Jones. The November 1988 Ms. magazine observed that "in a society where fat is taboo, she made it in a medium that worships thin and celebrates a bland, white-bread prettiness of body and personality...But Winfrey made fat sexy, elegant-damned near gorgeous-with her drop-dead wardrobe, easy body language, and cheerful sensuality."

In the late 1990s, Winfrey introduced a new segment on her television show: Oprah's Book Club. The segment focused on new books and classics, and often brought obscure novels to popular attention. The book club became such a powerful force that whenever Winfrey introduced a new book as her book-club selection, it instantly became a best-seller (known as the Oprah Effect); for example, when she selected the classic John Steinbeck novel East of Eden, it soared to the top of the book charts. Being recognized by Oprah often means a million additional book sales for an author. So powerful is Oprah's book club that when she selected his memoir Night in 2006, Time magazine named author Elie Wiesel one of the world's 100 most influential people on the year. In Reading with Oprah: The book club that changed America, Kathleen Rooney describes Winfrey as "a serious American intellectual who pioneered the use of electronic media, specifically television and the Internet, to take reading-a decidedly nontechnological and highly individual act-and highlight its social elements and uses in such a way to motivate millions of erstwhile nonreaders to pick up books."

Such heavy influence upon both America and the world has led many to become aware of her effect on culture. During a show about mad cow disease with Howard Lyman (aired on April 16, 1996), Winfrey exclaimed, "It has just stopped me cold from eating another burger!" Texas cattlemen sued her and Lyman in early 1998 for "false defamation of perishable food" and "business disparagement," claiming that Winfrey's remarks subsequently sent cattle prices tumbling, costing beef producers some $12 million. On February 26, after a trial spanning over two months in an Amarillo, Texas court in the thick of cattle country, a jury found Winfrey and Lyman not guilty, that they did not act with malice, and were not liable for damages. After the trial, she received a postcard from Rosie O'Donnell reading, "Congratulations, you beat the meat!" In June 2005 the first case of mad cow disease in a cow native to the United States was detected in Texas. The USDA concluded that it was most likely infected in Texas prior to 1997.

In 2002, Christianity Today published an article called The Church of O in which they concluded that Winfrey had emerged as an influential spiritual leader. "Since 1994, when she abandoned traditional talk-show fare for more edifying content, and 1998, when she began 'Change Your Life TV,' Oprah's most significant role has become that of spiritual leader. To her audience of more than 22 million mostly female viewers, she has become a postmodern priestess – an icon of church-free spirituality." The sentiment was second by Marcia Z. Nelson in her book The Gospel According to Oprah.

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Written by mario on 2006-08-16 20:03:06
thanks so much i appreciate it so much!!!!!!!
Love it!
Written by Jk on 2006-08-21 11:41:12
These quotes by Oprah WInfrey just encourage me that I can live a better life. I am trying to take control of my life and this surely is helping me in the process.
Written by feny on 2006-09-06 23:16:33
hi oprah, i first watched your show "oprah winfrey "in october 2005 after one of privates tv in my town release your program. i love it since then.
Written by feny on 2006-09-06 23:27:37
i'd like to meet you oprah. have you been to indonesia (east nusa tenggara)? i'm really pleased if you come to visit east nusa tenggara. you are my inspiration.
Written by cmc on 2006-09-23 04:25:18
It is very interesting to see the talent that is "birthed" from the lowly State of Mississippi. There must be some fertile soil to nuture such an array of talent. Mississippi is a hidden gold mine that people need to investigate.
Written by jacqueline on 2006-10-11 09:35:03
Hi Oprah, you are so amasing person and inspiring person,when you came to Norway,Oslo for Nobel prize.my heat pumped so much that i was saaying oh MyGod!! "Miss Oprah can't be here"It was like a dream!!But final was true Hope you come back and vist Norway again
my hero
Written by Rebecca S on 2006-10-11 15:18:11
my class project is on a hero i am doing you oprah because u helped so many children in poverty and is an inspiration to all Rebecca
Written by Whitney McDowell- Mississippi on 2006-11-02 09:36:15
Oprah Winfrey has reached a place in here life that many African Americans are still trying to obtain. If we stick together one day we will all be able to have a story that everyone can be amazed by. Keep doing great things.
Written by Mera on 2007-02-14 16:21:38
For black history month we have to pick a black intelligent person and i picked oprah becasue not only is she intelligent but also inspirational.
Written by suham on 2007-02-15 14:16:20
we all thank you for helping the poor kids any time i herd the story a bout hungry kids hert my feeling i cry for all day ,we love you and god love love you also.
Written by KEISHA on 2007-02-27 18:48:55
Written by Dwayne L. Kelly on 2007-09-07 10:45:23
A great sucess story. Good job Oprah! Dwayne L. Kelly
my heroe project
Written by las comadres on 2007-09-19 15:19:56
i love u oprah you are the best
Written by MARCIA MILLER on 2007-06-19 15:20:57
A Woman Above All Women
Written by Ubendou Samuel Mbacham on 2007-09-29 08:37:51
" Mrs Oprah I Love U" You are Blessed. And may God continue to Bless U. I which to meet you. I'm Samuel From Cameroon.
no title
Written by adajhia 12yearsold on 2008-08-13 09:59:39
your wonderfull ms. winfrey
no title
Written by Guest on 2007-12-13 08:47:13
yeah you freaken rock
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