Winfrey, Oprah
Oprah Winfrey in 2004. (Image by Alan Light, CC)

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Winfrey, Oprah

Winfrey, Oprah

1954—

Television talk show host; broadcasting, media, film production, and publishing executive; actress; humanitarian

Oprah Winfrey, a billionaire businesswoman, is one of the most affluent and powerful people in America. Deemed the undisputed "Queen of Talk" since the mid-1980s, she was the first black woman to host a nationally syndicated weekday talk show. Winfrey became the third woman to own her own studio, when she started Harpo Studios in 1988. Her company, Harpo, Inc., has grown to include divisions for production, film, radio, print, online, and philanthropy. While Winfrey's media presence and popularity was built on women's lifestyle topics, her empire grew to include much more. Winfrey took the core aspects of lifestyle—mind, body, and spirit—much further than most media business by promoting them in a larger cultural context. She encouraged her viewers and readers to improve their own lives by improving those of others. To this end, she started a public charity called Oprah's Angel Network in 1998, which pooled public contributions to offer support and scholarships; and she formed a private charity called the Oprah Winfrey Foundation to offer aid to educate and support women. Described as a "media titan" and "cultural force," Winfrey has become one of the most influential women in the world, one who is respected for both her business acumen and generous humanitarianism.

Showed Potential in Childhood

Winfrey was born January 29, 1954, on a farm in Kosciusko, Mississippi, the product of a fleeting tryst between 20-year-old Vernon Winfrey and 18-year-old Vernita Lee. Since her father was in the service when she was born and her mother was eager to leave Mississippi, Winfrey lived on the farm with her maternal grandparents until the age of six. Her father apparently learned of her birth when he received a printed baby announcement in the mail with a scribbled note: "Send clothes!" Originally named "Orpah," from the book of Ruth in the Bible, Winfrey came to be known as "Oprah" shortly after her birth because of the difficulty most people had spelling and pronouncing "Orpah" properly.

By the age of three, Winfrey was reciting in church on holidays, and the locals quickly perceived her as "gifted." While in kindergarten, she reportedly wrote to her teacher requesting that she be moved to the first grade. The next day she was skipped ahead a grade.

Winfrey formed her spiritual values and learned both discipline and drama in the southern Baptist church. As a young child, she was raised in the rural tradition, receiving whippings and harsh chastisement as punishment for wrong doing. At the age of six, she moved to Milwaukee to live with her mother, who was working as a housecleaner. Rarely at home because of work demands, Vernita Winfrey had a difficult time providing for the emotional needs of the intelligent, high-spirited Oprah. Several sources have documented the imaginative stories Winfrey apparently concocted to capture her mother's attention. Once, when her mother refused to buy her a new pair of eyeglasses—claiming that she couldn't afford them—Winfrey staged a fake burglary at her home, alleging that she had been knocked unconscious, and during the ordeal her glasses had broken. Another time, she ran away from home, approached Aretha Franklin's limousine, and convinced the singer that she was an abandoned child. Franklin is said to have given her one hundred dollars. Winfrey's last antic involved her frantic attempt to keep an un-housebroken puppy: she invented a tale about the courageous puppy fending off robbers and even added a bit of realism to the "scene" by tossing her mother's jewelry out of the window.

At the age of nine, and for several years thereafter, Winfrey was sexually abused by a teenage cousin, and then by other male relatives and friends. She spoke openly about this on her talk show in 1991, lending support and showing empathy to guests and viewers who had endured similar painful experiences. In an article for Essence she admitted that she couldn't free herself of the "shame" she felt until 1990, when she finally admitted, "I was not responsible for the abuse." The molestation Winfrey experienced in Milwaukee ended when, at the age of 14, she went to live with her father in Nashville, where she flourished under his care and honed many of her communication skills. Winfrey grew up a Baptist, but left organized religion behind as an adult. As she told Chicago Magazine: "I have church with myself; I have church walking down the street. I believe in one God force that lives inside all of us, and once you tap into that, you can do anything."

Flourished with Discipline, Guts

Winfrey credits her father, and the time she spent with him and his wife Zelma, for "saving" her. He functioned as a strict and constant presence in her life. She told Jill Nelson in an interview for Washington Post Magazine, "If I hadn't been sent to my father, I would have gone in another direction. I could have made a good criminal. I would have used these same instincts differently."

Winfrey's life under her father's care was purposeful and disciplined. A barber, an elected city councilman, a grocery store owner, and a deacon in his church, Vernon Winfrey was a high achiever who expected responsible behavior from his daughter. Gone were Oprah's days of heavily applied make-up, revealing dresses, and broken curfews. She was expected to maintain top grades. Zelma Winfrey took her to the library every two weeks, where she had to choose five books, read them, and then write book reports for her family. Vernon rightly viewed education as the key to success, and Oprah clearly reaped the benefits of his guidance.

At a Glance …

Born Orpah Gail Winfrey (given name changed to Oprah as an infant), January 29, 1954, in Kosciusko, MS; daughter of Vernon Winfrey (a barber, grocery store owner, and city councilman) and Vernita Lee (a house cleaner); engaged to Stedman Graham; children: one son (deceased). Education: Tennessee State University, BA, 1987.

Career:

WVOL (radio station), Nashville, TN, part-time radio newscaster, 1971; WTVF-TV, Nashville, reporter and anchor, beginning 1973; WJZ-TV, Baltimore, MD, news anchor, 1976-77, People Are Talking, co-host of morning show, 1977-83; WLS-TV talk show AM Chicago, host, 1984-?, Oprah Winfrey Show, ABC-TV, host, 1986-; Harpo Productions, Inc., founder, 1988; Oxygen Media, cable network, co-founder, 1998; Oprah After the Show, Oxygen, host, 2002-; three network affiliated stations, part-owner; O, The Oprah Magazine, a magazine for women, publisher, 2000-; on XM Satellite Radio, Oprah and Friends channel, founder, 2006-; Oprah's Angel Network, founder; The Oprah Winfrey Foundation, founder.

Selected Awards:

Nashville's Miss Fire Prevention, 1971; Miss Black Tennessee, 1971; nominated for Academy Award and Golden Globe Award for best supporting actress, 1986, for role as Sophia in The Color Purple; Broadcaster of the Year Award, International Radio and Television Society, 1988; inducted into the Television Hall of Fame, 1994; George Foster Peabody Individual Achievement Award, 1996; named to Time Magazine's "America's 25 Most Influential People," 1996; received TV Guide's Television Performer of the Year Award, 1997; Bob Hope Humanitarian Award, 2002; People's Choice Award, favorite talk show host, 2004; Global Leadership Award, United Nations, 2004; 100 Most Influential People in the World, Time, 2004; National Freedom Award, National Civil Rights Museum, 2005; inducted into National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Hall of Fame, 2005; International Emmy Founders Award, International Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, 2005; 100 Most Influential People in the World, Time, 2005; 100 Most Influential People in the World, Time, 2006.

Addresses:

Office—Harpo, Inc., 1058 W. Washington Blvd, Chicago, IL 60607. Web—www.oprah.com.

Winfrey joined the drama club in school and became a prizewinning orator, winning a $1,000 college scholarship after a two-and-a-half minute speech titled "The Negro, the Constitution, and the United States," delivered before 10,000 Elks in Philadelphia. She was the first black person to win Nashville's Miss Fire Prevention title. In 1971, she became a part-time radio newscaster on Nashville's WVOL. That same year, she was named Miss Black Tennessee. In 1973, when she was only 19 and still attending Tennessee State University, Winfrey was hired by WTVF-TV, the CBS affiliate in Nashville, as a reporter and anchor. In 1987, she set up a $750,000 fund to provide ten scholarships to her alma mater and followed up with letters to each recipient, challenging a few of them to boost their grades. "My mission is to use this position, power and money to create opportunities for other people," she told Richard Zoglin in Time.

From WTVF-TV, Winfrey moved to Baltimore's WJZ-TV—an ABC affiliate—from 1976 to 1983. She started out as a news anchor but was soon fired. As she told Zoglin, "I had no business anchoring the news in a major market." After being given another chance as co-host of a Baltimore morning show called People Are Talking, Winfrey found her niche in the business. "I said to myself ‘This is what I should be doing. It's like breathing,’" she recalled to Zoglin. Although the ratings soared, Winfrey experienced personal problems and began overeating as a result. The station wanted to change both her name and her look. She was apparently told that her eyes were too far apart, her nose was too wide, and her chin was too long. In an attempt to thin out her hair, she underwent what turned out to be a botched French permanent at an expensive hair salon and was rendered temporarily bald.

In spite of Winfrey's perceived "shortcomings," the ratings for People Are Talking continued to increase and so did Winfrey's size. By the time she left Baltimore for WLS-TV's AM Chicago in 1984, she weighed 160 pounds. After her experience with the broadcasting executives in Baltimore, Winfrey resolved not to let anyone manipulate her appearance or personality again.

Won-Over TV and Film Audiences

Winfrey took over the ailing Chicago television talk show AM Chicago in January of 1984 and instantly turned it into a smash hit, besting even the successful Phil Donahue Show in the ratings. When the Chicago based ABC affiliate WLS-TV put the little-known Winfrey against Phil Donahue in the 9 a.m. slot, the odds against her were formidable. Then standing 5 feet 6 inches and weighing 180 pounds, she seemed an unlikely contender for a television idol, but her earthy, down-home, comfortable style captivated audiences. She even studied improvisation with Chicago's Second City comedy troupe to polish her instinctive flair for entertainment. Where Phil Donahue might have probed the morality of a pornographic actress, Winfrey would simply blurt out "Don't you get sore?" She automatically asks the questions her television viewers want to ask—frequently tossing aside propriety—yet always remains warm and empathetic. Her show was quickly syndicated to television stations in more than 120 American cities. Within a year after she arrived, Phil Donahue relocated to New York City, and his show was switched to an afternoon spot, thus avoiding head-on competition with the Oprah Winfrey Show.

In 1985, producer Quincy Jones was in Chicago to testify in a lawsuit and watched Winfrey's show from his hotel room. He immediately arranged an audition for her for the role of Sophia in the screen adaptation of Alice Walker's novel The Color Purple. His faith in her acting abilities proved well placed, as Winfrey's acting debut merited her nominations for both a Golden Globe and an Academy Award for best supporting actress. In addition to The Color Purple, Winfrey's other movie credits include the 1986 film Native Son, and the 1993 made-for-TV movie There Are No Children Here, in which Winfrey played the role of a single mother struggling to raise her family in a tough Chicago housing project.

In September of 1986, the Oprah Winfrey Show made its national debut, entering the talk show wars in earnest. Within five months it was the third highest rated show in syndication—after the game shows Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy!—and the number one talk show, reaching between 9 and 10 million people daily in 192 cities at that time. Winfrey and her show have received numerous Daytime Emmy awards for excellence in the talk/service broadcasting field.

In addition to owning and producing the Oprah Winfrey Show, the broadcasting executive spins grand ventures from her Chicago-based company, Harpo Productions, Inc. (Harpo is Oprah spelled backwards.) Harpo Productions, which reaped at least $50 million during the 1988-89 season, took over the ownership and production of the Oprah Winfrey Show in 1988 from Chicago's WLS-TV. Having let ABC know that she was considering discontinuing her show at the end of her original contract so she could pursue other interests, Winfrey ended up gaining the control she wanted and went on to become the first black woman to own her own television and film production complex. By 1991, Winfrey was earning a whopping $80 million and came in third on Forbes magazine's 1990-91 list of the richest entertainers in the business. She told Ms. magazine that making a difference in the lives of others is key to her master plan and noted, "I'm starting a minority training program…specifically to bring more people of color into the film and television industry as producers."

Jeffrey Jacobs, Winfrey's lawyer-manager and chief adviser, told Ms.: "Because of our economic status, and because of Oprah's other talents, we're going to bring things to the screen that no one else will be able to do…. She can develop or buy something that no one else will think is commercially viable—because she thinks the message is important and people should see it…. If we can make money, great. And if we don't, well, there are other reasons to do projects besides making money."

Took Risks, Spoke Out

In 1989 Winfrey co-produced and starred in the Harpo endeavor The Women of Brewster Place, a miniseries based upon Gloria Naylor's award-winning novel about a group of ghetto-based women. The strong female cast and solid script earned the show considerable acclaim, and Winfrey decided to follow it up the next year with a weekly television show based on the same characters. But the series was canceled in its first season. "I could hear my inner voice telling me it wasn't time, don't do it," she revealed in Essence. "People around me whom I love and trust advised me to wait until I was sure everything was ready, but I thought I could make it all right because I wanted it to be all right…. I thought I could make it happen on the strength of my own will. I was doing two Oprah Winfrey shows a day and then taping Brewster Place at night…. I was physically and emotionally exhausted. When Brewster Place was canceled, I felt disappointed for everyone else. But for myself? I felt relief."

Around the same time, Winfrey, who has battled a weight problem since 1977, began to gain back most of the 67 pounds she had lost on a much celebrated medically supervised liquid diet. "When I started gaining the weight back, I felt I had let people down, and that triggered my greatest fear in life: the fear of not being liked, of not being good enough," she explained in an article for Essence. Winfrey's weight difficulties seem to have stemmed from her continued use of food as a stress reliever. "My greatest failure was in believing that the weight issue just about weight," she later admitted in People.

In coming to understand the reasons for her weight problem and in finally coming to grips with the abuse she endured as a child, Winfrey has been able to move forward both personally and professionally with more gusto than ever. She began producing films based on well-respected literature and classic film, such as Tuesdays with Morrie, David and Lisa, and Their Eyes Were Watching God. She also owned the screen rights to Toni Morrison's Pulitzer Prize-winning tale of slavery, Beloved—she co-starred in the film adaptation of it opposite Danny Glover in 1998. She also expanded his business empire to include additional endeavors: part-ownership of three network-affiliated stations and an interest in a Chicago restaurant called The Eccentric. She also set up a "Little Sisters" program in Chicago's Cabrini-Green housing projects. To support both her business and humanitarian projects, Winfrey gives dozens of speeches every year, dousing them with her practiced wit, evangelical anecdotal flair, and recognizable fervor.

Sought to Help Others

As her media empire grew, Winfrey broadened her impact well beyond her audience to include the world's least fortunate people and others in need of help. In 1991, the tragic story of a four-year-old Chicago girl's molestation and murder prompted her—as a former abuse victim—"to take a stand for the children of this country," she explained in People. With the help of former Illinois governor James Thompson, she proposed federal child protection legislation designed to keep nationwide records on convicted child abusers. Winfrey's efforts on behalf of abused and neglected children came to fruition on December 20, 1993, when President Bill Clinton signed the national "Oprah Bill" into law. This bill guarantees strict sentencing of individuals convicted of child abuse.

In her talk show, Winfrey had offered many stories of healing. She had modeled the power of healing in her own life through dealing with her weight and past abuse. In 1995, Winfrey shocked many of her viewers when, during a show about women who used drugs, she admitted that she had smoked crack cocaine with a boyfriend during the 1970s. Although officials at Harpo Productions, her production company, fretted about the negative impact this revelation would have on the ratings of the Oprah Winfrey Show, telling this long-held secret gave Winfrey a sense of peace and closure. "What I learned from it," she remarked to Ebony magazine, "is the thing you fear the most truly has no power. Your fear of it is what has the power. But the thing itself cannot touch you. What I learned that day is that the truth really will set you free."

In 1995, Winfrey's many fans were distressed to learn that she was considering quitting her successful talk show and moving on to other projects. King World Productions, which syndicates the Oprah Winfrey Show, announced that they had reached a deal with Winfrey that would continue distribution of the show through the 1999-2000 television season. However, the contract also gave Winfrey the option of ending the program with only one year's notice. Winfrey did not quit, but signed other extensions with King World which ensured her show would be on the air through 2011.

By the mid-1990s, Winfrey's television show was but one portion of her empire. She next moved onto the Internet. On October 2, 1995, America Online launched Winfrey's own on-line site entitled "Oprah Online." The tremendous success of "Oprah Online" was followed in October of 1996 with the debut on the Oprah Winfrey Show of "Oprah's Book Club." Winfrey, an avid reader, created the monthly book club as a way to encourage her viewers to read more often. Each month, she showcased a particular novel on her program and recommends it to her audience. Novels that were featured on "Oprah's Book Club" have become instant bestsellers, dramatically illustrating the tremendous influence Winfrey has with her viewers. The success of her monthly book club also prompted Winfrey to invite four women to her Chicago home to have dinner and discuss books with Toni Morrison, a Nobel Prize-winning author. The dinner with Morrison was taped for a television special entitled Dinner with Oprah, which aired on February 24, 1997 on the Lifetime cable network. Oprah.com touted Oprah's Book Club as the largest book club in the world with more than 1 million members. Moreover, Oprah.com expanded to include supplementary information for Winfrey's many endeavors. The Web site attracted approximately 4 million users each month in the early 2000s.

As her fame grew, Winfrey's personal life was scrutinized. On April 30, 1997, Winfrey appeared on a controversial episode of the sitcom Ellen in which the show's character discloses that she is a lesbian. The controversy deepened when the show's star, comedian Ellen DeGeneres, announced that she herself was a lesbian. Rumors quickly circulated that Winfrey, who portrayed a therapist on the episode, was also gay. Distressed by the rumors, Winfrey issued a statement declaring that she is a heterosexual. Her long-term relationship with businessman Stedman Graham served as compelling evidence. Later Winfrey's relationship with Gayle King, her best friend of more than 30 years, attracted media attention. In hopes of putting the rumors to rest, King told Lisa Kogan of O, The Oprah Magazine: "The truth is, if we were gay, we would so tell you, because there's nothing wrong with being gay." Rumors or not, Winfrey's personal life received comparatively little press when compared to her professional and humanitarian achievements.

Continued Receiving Accolades, Finding New Projects

In addition to her numerous Daytime Emmys, Winfrey has received other awards. She was inducted into the Television Hall of Fame in 1994 and at the end of the 1995-96 television season received the George Foster Peabody Individual Achievement Award, one of broadcasting's most coveted awards. She was also the recipient of the IRTS Gold Medal Award, was named one of "America's 25 Most Influential People of 1996" by Time Magazine, and included on Marjabelle Young Stewart's 1996 list of most polite celebrities. In 1997, Winfrey received TV Guide's Television Performer of the Year Award and was named favorite Female Television Performer at the 1997 People's Choice Awards. The seemingly endless parade of awards and citations continued through the turn of the century, as she received a National Book Award in 1999 and was recognized at the (Martin Luther) King Center Salute to Greatness Awards Dinner in 2000. Also in 2000 Winfrey digressed into magazine publishing with the launch of her magazine, O, The Oprah Magazine, for women; and in 2001 her name appeared on the list of the ten most influential people in publishing, as compiled by Book magazine. Other honors included induction into the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People's Hall of Fame and receipt of the International Founders Award of the International Academy of Television Arts & Sciences in 2005.

O, The Oprah Magazine was a huge success for Winfrey, beyond such accolades. After launching in April 2000 with a circulation of 500,000, O increased its readership to 2.65 million in 2003. The printed word was not Winfrey's only successful venture in the early 2000s. Winfrey and her Harpo Productions began developing syndicated television programming for King World to distribute. One early success was a show featuring Dr. Phil McGraw, which began airing in 2002. King World was impressed with Winfrey's touch and decided to turn over the development of all their syndicated talk shows to Winfrey and her company. Another Winfrey venture, called "Oprah and Friends," was launched as a new channel on XM Satellite Radio in September of 2006.

By 2003, Winfrey was worth over $1 billion. She had used her wealth, position, and popularity to become "America's Ultimate Brand," according to Black Enterprise. Yet as Winfrey built her brand name over the years, adding divisions to Harpo, Inc., she maintained an "I-am-every-woman attitude," which, Tanisha A. Sykes wrote in Black Enterprise, she coupled "with some practical advice" to leave "a soft spot in the heart of millions that has added up to a lot of dollars and cents." With her girl-next-door demeanor, Winfrey built an empire, an empire she used to positively affect others. Her talk show, magazine, radio, and television programming offered advice for individuals to improve themselves and reach out to help others. Oprah lives up to the generosity and compassion she preaches: her philanthropy has benefited many people in America and abroad. Winfrey channeled over a billion dollars into charitable projects; she started a public charity called Oprah's Angel Network that has raised approximately $50 million for various educational and community projects in more than a dozen countries since 1998. Moreover, she formed a private charity called the Oprah Winfrey Foundation that has funded more than a billion dollars in projects, including a school for girls in South Africa that opened in 2007. Winfrey long used her media empire to call for people to "live their best lives," and she herself strove to be a role model for her call.

Selected works

Books

(With Bob Greene) Make the Connection: Ten Steps to a Better Body-And a Better Life, 1996.

Films

The Color Purple, 1985.

The Women of Brewster Place (television movie), 1989.

There Are No Children Here (television movie), 1993.

Before Women Had Wings (television movie), 1997.

Beloved, 1998.

Periodicals

O, The Oprah Magazine, 2000-.

O at Home, 2004-.

Plays

(Producer) The Color Purple, Broadway, 2005.

Television

The Oprah Winfrey Show, 1985-.

Sources

Books

Beck Paprocki, Sherry, Oprah Winfrey: Talk Show Host and Media Magnate, Chelsea House, 2007.

Cooper, Ilene, Up Close: Oprah Winfrey, Viking Juvenile, 2007.

Krohn, Katherine E., Oprah Winfrey, Lerner, 2001.

Rooney, Kathleen, Reading with Oprah: The Book Club that Changed America, University of Arkansas Press, 2005.

Westen, Robin, Oprah Winfrey: "I Don't Believe in Failure," Enslow, 2005.

Periodicals

Atlanta Constitution, February 24, 1997.

Black Enterprise, June 2004; July 2005; June 2006.

Boston Globe, December 6, 1996.

Brandweek, March 1, 2004.

Broadcasting & Cable, December 13, 2004.

Chicago Magazine, November 1985.

Chicago Tribune, September 14, 1994; August 27, 1996.

Daily News (New York), January 22, 1989.

Ebony, August 1991; July 1995.

Essence, June 1991.

Good Housekeeping, September 1991.

The Independent (London), January 7, 2005.

Jet, June 5, 1989; December 18, 1989; September 17, 1990; February 18, 1991; September 30, 1991; October 7, 1991; October 17, 1994; January 29, 1996; January 27, 1997.

Ladies' Home Journal, May 1990; August 1991.

McCalls, August 1995.

Ms., November 1988.

Multichannel News, June 17, 2002.

New York Times, July 29, 1991.

New York Times Magazine, June 11, 1989.

People, January 4, 1988; June 10, 1988; January 12, 1989; January 14, 1991; January 21, 1991; December 2, 1991; February 2, 2004.

People Weekly, January 15, 2007.

Philadelphia Inquirer, January 14, 1986.

Time, September 15, 1986; August 8, 1988.

Washington Post, October 22, 1994.

Washington Post Magazine, December 14, 1986.

US Magazine, March 20, 1989.

USA Today, October 26, 1994; September 29, 1995.

On-line

"About Oprah," Oprah.com, www.oprah.com/about/press/about_press_bio.jhtml (January 20, 2007).

"Gayle and Oprah—Uncensored," O: Oprah.com,www.oprah.com/omagazine/200608/omag_200608_ocut.jhtml (June 11, 2007).

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Winfrey, Oprah 1954–

Winfrey, Oprah 1954–

(Oprah)

PERSONAL

Full name, Oprah Gail Winfrey; born January 29, 1954, in Kosciusko, MS; daughter of Vernon Winfrey (a barber and city council representative) and Vernita Lee (a maid); companion of Stedman Graham (a sports marketing executive and public speaker); children: one son (deceased). Education: Tennessee State University, B.A., speech and drama, 1976.

Addresses: Office—Harpo Films, 345 North Maple Dr., Suite 315, Beverly Hills, CA 90210 and 110 North Carpenter, Chicago, IL 60607. Agent—Creative Artists Agency, 9830 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills, CA 90212.

Career: Talk show host, actress, producer, and executive. WVOL-Radio, Nashville, TN, worked as a reporter and newscaster; WTVF-TV, Nashville, TN, worked as reporter and news anchor; WJZ-TV, Baltimore, MD, news anchor, 1976–77, host of morning talk show, 1977–83; WLS-TV, Chicago, IL, talk show host, beginning 1984; Harpo Entertainment Group (includes Harpo Productions, Inc., Harpo Films, Harpo Video, and Harpo Print, L.L.C.), founder and chairperson, 1986–; Granite Broadcasting Corporation, co-owner, beginning c. 1991; founder of Oprah's Book Club, 1996; Oxygen Media, Inc. (cable television network and interactive network for women), cofounder, 1998; affiliated with the educational Internet site http://www.oprahgoesonline.com, beginning 2000; founder of the lifestyle magazines O (also known as O, the Oprah Magazine), 2000, and O at Home, 2004; affiliated with the XM Satellite Radio channel Oprah & Friends (channel 156), beginning 2006; launched Oprah.com, a website which includes the interactive multimedia workshop Live Your Best Life; appeared in advertisements. Northwestern University, lecturer at the Kellogg Graduate School of Management, beginning 1999; owner of Eccentric Restaurant. Competitor in pageants, including Miss Black America and Miss Black Tennessee. Founder of Oprah's Angel Network (a public fund-raising organization), 1998; founder of the Oprah Winfrey Foundation, a charity supporting educational causes, and founder of schools worldwide, including the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls in South Africa; also involved with other charitable efforts, such as Christmas Kindness South Africa 2002. Testified on behalf of the U.S. National Child Protection Act, an act which became a law in the early 1990s and became known as the Oprah Bill.

Awards, Honors: Named Miss Fire Prevention, Nashville, TN, 1971; named Miss Black Tennessee, 1971; named one of twelve promising new actors of 1985, John Willis's Screen World, 1985; Academy Award nomination, best actress in a supporting role, and Golden Globe Award nomination, best performance by an actress in a supporting role in a motion picture, both 1986, for The Color Purple; Woman of Achievement Award, National Organization for Women, 1986; selected one of Playgirl magazine's ten most admired women, 1986; Golden Apple Award, female star of the year, Hollywood Women's Press Club, 1987; Daytime Emmy Award, outstanding direction, 1987, Daytime Emmy awards, outstanding talk or service program, 1987 and 1988, Daytime Emmy awards, outstanding host of a daytime talk or service show, 1987, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, and 1998, People's Choice Award, favorite talk show host, 1988, Daytime Emmy Award nomination, outstanding host of a talk or service show, 1988, Daytime Emmy Award, outstanding talk/service show, 1989, Image awards, outstanding news, talk, or information series, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, 1991 and 1997, Daytime Emmy Award nominations (with others), outstanding daytime talk or service show, 1991 and 1999, Daytime Emmy awards (with others), outstanding daytime talk or service show, 1992, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, and 1998, TV Guide Award nomination, talk-variety star of the year, 2001, People's Choice Award nominations, favorite female television performer, 2003 and 2004, People's Choice Award nomination, favorite talk show host, 2004, and People's Choice Award nominations, favorite daytime talk show host, 2005 and 2006; all for The Oprah Winfrey Show; Broadcaster of the Year Award, International Radio and Television Society, 1988; honorary degree, Tennessee State University, 1988; Image awards, best dramatic actress, best executive producer (with Carole Isenberg), and best dramatic episode, and Emmy Award nomination (with others), outstanding miniseries, all 1989, for The Women of Brewster Place; Image Award, best news/information series or special, 1989, for Prime Time Oprah: No One Dies Alone; Image Award, entertainer of the year, 1989; honorary Doctor of Humane Letters, Morehouse College, 1989; CEBA awards, Communication Excellence to Black Audiences, 1989, 1990, and 1991; America's Hope Award, 1990; Special Award, entertainer of the year, Image awards, 1991; Industry Achievement Award, Broadcast Promotion Marketing Executives/Broadcast Design Association, 1991; Emmy Award (with others), outstanding daytime children's special, c. 1993, for "Shades of a Single Protein," ABC Afterschool Specials; Emmy Award nomination (with others), outstanding informational special, 1993, for Michael Jackson Talks … to Oprah: 90 Primetime Minutes with the King of Pop; inducted into Television Academy Hall of Fame, Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, 1994; inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame, 1994; Aftonbladet TV Prize (Sweden), best foreign television personality, 1994; 1995 Individual Achievement Award, George Foster Peabody Broadcasting awards, Henry W. Grady School of Journalism and Mass Communications, University of Georgia, 1996; Gold Medal, International Radio and Television Society, 1996; named one of the most fascinating women of 1996, Ladies' Home Journal; Image Award, outstanding news, talk, or informational special, 1997, for Dinner with Oprah: A Lifetime Exclusive—Toni Morrison; TV Guide Award, Television performer of the year, 1997; named the most important person in books and media by Newsweek, 1997; People's Choice awards, favorite female television performer, 1997 and 1998; Lifetime Achievement Award, Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, 1998; named the most powerful person in the entertainment industry, Entertainment Weekly, 1998; named one of the 100 most influential people of the twentieth century by Time magazine, 1998; Image Award nomination, outstanding lead actress in a motion picture, and Black Film Award nomination, Acapulco Black Film Festival, best actress, both 1999, for Beloved; 50th Anniversary Medal, National Book Foundation, 1999; honorary National Book Award, for her influential promotion of reading and books, 1999; named one of the greatest women of the century in a 1999 television special; Broadcast Film Critics Association Award, best television movie, 1999, Golden Laurel Award, Norman Felton producer of the year for longform television, Producers Guild of America, 2000, and Emmy Award nomination, outstanding movie made for television, 2000, all with others, for Tuesdays with Morrie; honored by the American Teacher awards, 2000; Daytime Emmy Award nomination (with others), outstanding special class special, 2002, for A Prayer for America: Yankee Stadium Memorial; Bob Hope Humanitarian Award, Emmy awards, 2002; named to Broadcasting & Cable magazine Hall of Fame, 2002; AAP Honors Award, Association of American Publishers, 2003; Outstanding Community Service Award, National Urban League, 2003; Marian Anderson Award, 2003; named the greatest pop culture icon, VH1, 2003; was the first African American women named to the Forbes magazine list of billionaires, 2003; Distinguished Service Award, National Association of Broadcasters, 2004; Global Humanitarian Action Award, United Nations Association of the United States of America, 2004; named one of the most powerful women in entertainment, Hollywood Reporter, 2004; named one of the ten most fascinating people of the year in a 2004 television special; named one of the 100 most influential people in the world by Time magazine, 2004, 2005, and 2006; Black Movie Award (with others), outstanding television movie, 2005, for Their Eyes Were Watching God; Founders Award, International Emmy awards, 2005; inducted into the Image awards Hall of Fame, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, 2005; Freedom Award, National Civil Rights Museum, 2005; named the most powerful celebrity and one of the most powerful women, both Forbes magazine, 2005; named one of the fifty women to watch, Wall Street Journal, 2005; Antoinette Perry Award nomination, best musical, and Outer Critics Circle Award nomination, outstanding Broadway musical, both with others, 2006, for The Color Purple; named one of the greatest Chicagoans of the century; some sources cite other awards and nominations, such as People's Choice Award nominations.

CREDITS

Television Appearances; Series:

Cohost, People Are Talking (talk show), WTVF-TV (Nashville, TN), 1977–83.

Host, A.M. Chicago (talk show), WLS-TV (Chicago, IL), 1984–85, renamed The Oprah Winfrey Show (also known as Oprah), 1985, syndicated, 1986–.

Mattie Michael, Brewster Place, ABC, 1990.

Host, Oprah Goes @nline (also known as Oprah Goes Online), Oxygen, beginning 2000.

Use Your Life, Oxygen, beginning 2001.

Host, Oprah after the Show, Oxygen, beginning 2002.

Television Appearances; Miniseries:

Mattie Michael, The Women of Brewster Place, ABC, 1989.

Voice of Elizabeth Keckley, Lincoln (documentary), ABC, 1992.

(In archive footage) Herself, 200 Greatest Pop Culture Icons (also known as The Greatest), VH1, 2003.

Herself, African American Lives, PBS, 2006.

Television Appearances; Movies:

LaJoe Rivers, "There Are No Children Here," ABC Theatre, ABC, 1993.

Miss Zora, Before Women Had Wings (also known as Oprah Winfrey Presents: "Before Women Had Wings"), ABC, 1997.

Television Appearances; Specials:

Host, A Star-Spangled Celebration, ABC, 1987.

NBC News Report on America: Life in the Fat Lane, NBC, 1987.

The Special Olympics Opening Ceremonies, ABC, 1987.

Host, Prime Time Oprah: No One Dies Alone (also known as No One Dies Alone), syndicated, 1988.

Herself, Pee-Wee's Playhouse Christmas Special (also known as Christmas at Pee Wee's Playhouse, Christmas Special, and Pee-Wee Herman's Christmas Special), CBS, 1988.

The Barbara Walters Special, ABC, 1988.

Living the Dream: A Tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, syndicated, 1988.

People Magazine on TV, CBS, 1988.

Host, Just between Friends, syndicated, 1989.

Diet America Challenge, CBS, 1989.

Host, Grammy Legends Show (also known as Grammy Legends), CBS, 1990.

Twenty-Fifth Anniversary MDA Jerry Lewis Labor Day Telethon (also known as MDA Jerry Lewis Labor Day Telethon and MDA Jerry Lewis Telethon), syndicated, 1990.

The Meaning of Life, CBS, 1991.

Host, Oprah: Behind the Scenes, ABC, 1992.

Host, Scared Silent: Exposing and Ending Child Abuse, CBS, NBC, ABC, and PBS, 1992.

Host, "Surviving a Break-Up," ABC Afterschool Specials, ABC, 1992.

The Class of the 20th Century (documentary), Arts and Entertainment, 1992.

Donahue: The 25th Anniversary, NBC, 1992.

Host, "Girlfriend" (also known as "Girlfriends"), ABC Afterschool Specials, ABC, 1993.

Host, "I Hate the Way I Look," ABC Afterschool Specials, ABC, 1993.

Host, "Shades of a Single Protein," ABC Afterschool Specials, ABC, 1993.

Host, Michael Jackson Talks … to Oprah: 90 Primetime Minutes with the King of Pop (also known as Live and Dangerous and Oprah Live with Michael Jackson: 90 Minutes with the King of Pop), ABC, 1993.

An American Reunion: New Beginnings, Renewed Hope (also known as An American Reunion: The People's Inaugural Celebration), HBO, 1993.

"Learning Not to Hurt" (also known as "Making It: Learning Not to Hurt"), ABC Afterschool Specials, ABC, 1993.

60 Minutes … 25 Years (also known as 60 Minutes Turns 25), CBS, 1993.

Narrator, A Man and a School: The Providence-St. Mel Story, PBS, 1995.

Herself, Celebrate the Dream: 50 Years of Ebony, ABC, 1996.

Herself, Ladies' Home Journal's Most Fascinating Women of '96, CBS, 1996.

Host, About Us: The Dignity of Children (also known as The Dignity of Children), ABC, 1997.

Host, Dinner with Oprah: A Lifetime Exclusive—Toni Morrison (also known as Dinner with Oprah), Lifetime, 1997.

I Am Your Child, ABC, 1997.

Host, Quincy Jones … The First 50 Years, ABC, 1998.

Herself, A Celebration: 100 Years of Great Women with Barbara Walters, ABC, 1999.

Voice of Coretta Scott King, Our Friend, Martin (animated), Starz!, 1999.

ABC 2000: The Millennium, ABC, 2000.

Kids Pick the Issues, Nickelodeon, 2000.

Host, A Prayer for America: Yankee Stadium Memorial, Cable News Network, 2001.

Herself, The Cosby Show: A Look Back, NBC, 2002.

Herself, ABC's 50th Anniversary Celebration, ABC, 2003.

Herself, 100 Years of Hope and Humor, NBC, 2003.

Herself, Oprah in Africa: A Personal Journey, A Global Challenge, ABC, 2003.

Herself, The Stars' First Time … on Entertainment Tonight with Mary Hart, CBS, 2003.

Reader, Unchained Memories: Readings from the Slave Narratives (documentary), HBO, 2003.

Host, E! Nobel Peace Prize Concert (also known as Nobel Peace Prize Concert), E! Entertainment Television, 2004.

Herself, Cristina: El 15 aniversario, Univision, 2004.

Herself, "The 10 Most Fascinating People of 2004," The Barbara Walters Special (also known as Barbara Walters: Interviews of a Lifetime and The Barbara Walters Summer Special), ABC, 2004.

(In archive footage) Herself, Michael Jackson's Boys, Channel 4 (England), 2005.

(In archive footage) Herself, Out of Africa: Heroes and Icons, BBC-2, 2005.

Red Carpet Confidential, CBS, 2005.

Herself, CMT Greatest Moments: Dolly Parton, Country Music Television (CMT), 2006.

Host, Oprah Winfrey's "Legends' Ball" (also known as Legends Ball), ABC, 2006.

Appeared in other specials.

Television Appearances; Awards Presentations:

The 58th Annual Academy Awards, ABC, 1986.

Host, The 14th Annual Daytime Emmy Awards, ABC, 1987.

Presenter, The 59th Annual Academy Awards Presentation, ABC, 1987.

The 15th Annual Daytime Emmy Awards, CBS, 1987.

The 20th Annual NAACP Image Awards, NBC, 1988.

The 16th Annual Daytime Emmy Awards, NBC, 1989.

The 10th Annual American Black Achievement Awards, syndicated, 1989.

Host, The 17th Annual Daytime Emmy Awards, ABC, 1990.

America's All-Star Tribute to Oprah Winfrey, ABC, 1990.

The 22nd Annual NAACP Image Awards, NBC, 1990.

The Walt Disney Company Presents the American Teacher Awards, The Disney Channel, 1990.

Host, The Essence Awards, CBS, 1992.

Host, One Child, One Dream: The Horatio Alger Awards, NBC, 1993.

Presenter, The 21st Annual Daytime Emmy Awards, ABC, 1994.

The 10th Annual Television Academy Hall of Fame, The Disney Channel, 1994.

10th Annual TV Academy Hall of Fame, The Disney Channel, 1994, NBC, 1995.

(Uncredited) Presenter, The 67th Annual Academy Awards, ABC, 1995.

Presenter, The 25th Anniversary Essence Awards, Fox, 1995.

Presenter, The 22nd Annual Daytime Emmy Awards, NBC, 1995.

The Television Academy Hall of Fame (also known as Academy of Television Arts and Sciences' Hall of Fame), NBC, 1995.

Presenter, The 23rd Annual Daytime Emmy Awards, CBS, 1996.

The 1996 Emmy Awards, ABC, 1996.

The 12th Annual Soap Opera Awards, NBC, 1996.

The 27th Annual NAACP Image Awards, Fox, 1996.

Presenter, The 10th Essence Awards, Fox, 1997.

Presenter, The 24th Annual Daytime Emmy Awards, ABC, 1997.

The 23rd Annual People's Choice Awards, CBS, 1997.

Academy of Television Arts and Sciences (ATAS) 13th Annual Hall of Fame, Showtime, 1998.

The 25th Annual Daytime Emmy Awards, NBC, 1998.

The 24th Annual People's Choice Awards, CBS, 1998.

Host, The 26th Annual Daytime Emmy Awards, CBS, 1999.

Honoree, Lifetime Presents Disney's American Teacher Awards, Lifetime, 2000.

Host, The 2000 Essence Awards (also known as Essence Awards 2000), Fox, 2000.

Presenter, The 27th Annual Daytime Emmy Awards, ABC, 2000.

Lifetime Presents Disney's American Teacher Awards, Lifetime, 2001.

Presenter, The Kennedy Center Honors: A Celebration of the Performing Arts, CBS, 2001, 2005.

The 54th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards, NBC, 2002.

Presenter, The Museum of the Moving Image Salutes John Travolta (also known as Moving Image Salutes John Travolta), USA Network, 2004.

Presenter, The 76th Annual Academy Awards, ABC, 2004.

An Evening of Stars: Tribute to Quincy Jones, Black Entertainment Television, 2004.

Honoree, The 36th Annual NAACP Image Awards, Fox, 2005.

The 60th Annual Tony Awards, CBS, 2006.

Television Appearances; Episodic:

Herself, The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson (also known as The Best of Carson), NBC, 1985, 1989.

Host, Saturday Night Live (also known as NBC's "Saturday Night," Saturday Night, Saturday Night Live '80, SNL, and SNL 25), NBC, 1986.

Herself, Late Night with David Letterman, NBC, 1986, 1989.

Herself, Dolly, ABC, 1987.

Herself, "Tis the Season," Gabriel's Fire, ABC, 1990.

Herself, "A Night at the Oprah," The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, NBC, 1992.

Herself, The Arsenio Hall Show, syndicated, 1992.

Herself, "A Night at the Oprah," All American Girl, ABC, 1995.

Herself, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, NBC, 1996, 2003, 2004, 2005.

Ellen's therapist, "The Puppy Episode: Parts 1 & 2," Ellen (also known as These Friends of Mine), ABC, 1997.

Herself, "MC Hammer," Behind the Music (also known as Behind the Music: MC Hammer, BtM, and VH1's "Behind the Music"), VH1, 1997.

(In archive footage) Herself, "Elizabeth Taylor," The E! True Hollywood Story (also known as THS), E! Entertainment Television, 1998.

Herself, "Home Alone," Home Improvement, ABC, 1998.

Narrator, Intimate Portrait: Maya Angelou, Lifetime, 1998.

Herself, Intimate Portrait: Patti LaBelle, Lifetime, 1998.

"Steven Spielberg: An Empire of Dreams," Biography (also known as A & E Biography: Steven Spielberg), Arts and Entertainment, 1998.

Herself, The Rosie O'Donnell Show, syndicated, 1998, 2000.

Herself, "Milsap Moves Up," The Hughleys, ABC, 1999.

Herself, "Oprah Winfrey," Parkinson, BBC, 1999.

Herself, "Oprah Winfrey: Heart of the Matter," Biography (also known as A & E Biography: Oprah Winfrey), Arts and Entertainment, 2000.

Herself, "Two Days at a Time," Bette! (also known as Bette and The Bette Show), CBS, 2000.

Herself, Mundo VIP, SIC Televisao (Portugal), 2000.

Herself, Intimate Portrait: Maria Shriver, Lifetime, 2001.

Herself, MAD TV (also known as MADtv), Fox, 2002.

(In archive footage) Herself, Celebrities Uncensored, E! Entertainment Television, 2003.

Herself, Extra (also known as Extra: The Entertainment Magazine), syndicated, 2003.

Herself, Intimate Portrait: Susan Lucci, Lifetime, 2003.

(As Oprah) Herself, Larry King Live, Cable News Network, 2003.

(In archive footage) Herself, "It's Good to Be Oprah Winfrey," It's Good to Be, E! Entertainment Television, c. 2003.

Herself, "Weight Matters," Second Opinion with Dr. Oz, The Discovery Channel, c. 2003.

Herself, Entertainment Tonight (also known as Entertainment This Week, E.T., ET Weekend, and This Week in Entertainment), syndicated, 2003, 2005.

Herself, Good Morning America (also known as GMA), ABC, 2004.

Herself, On-Air with Ryan Seacrest, syndicated, 2004.

Herself, Larry King Live, Cable News Network, 2004, 2006 (multiple episodes).

(In archive footage) Herself, Corazon de…, Television Espanola (TVE, Spain), 2005 (multiple episodes).

Herself, The Late Show with David Letterman (also known as The Late Show and Late Show Backstage), CBS, 2005.

Herself, "Josh Runs into Oprah," Drake & Josh, Nickelodeon, 2006.

Herself, Rachael Ray, syndicated, 2006.

Herself, The View, ABC, 2006.

Appeared in other episodes, including "Danny Glover," Celebrity Profile (also known as E! Celebrity Profile), E! Entertainment Television; and in "Oprah Winfrey," The E! True Hollywood Story (also known as THS), E! Entertainment Television.

Television Work; Series:

Supervising producer, The Oprah Winfrey Show (also known as Oprah), syndicated, 1986–.

Executive producer, Brewster Place, ABC, 1990.

Producer, Use Your Life, Oxygen, beginning 2001.

Creator and producer, Dr. Phil, syndicated, 2002–.

Executive producer, Rachael Ray, syndicated, 2006–.

Television Work; Miniseries:

Executive producer, The Women of Brewster Place, ABC, 1989.

Executive producer, The Wedding (also known as Oprah Winfrey Presents: "The Wedding"), ABC, 1998.

Television Work; Movies:

Executive producer, "Overexposed," ABC Movie of the Week, ABC, 1992.

Producer, Before Women Had Wings (also known as Oprah Winfrey Presents: "Before Women had Wings"), ABC, 1997.

Executive producer, David and Lisa (also known as Oprah Winfrey Presents: "David and Lisa"), ABC, 1998.

Executive producer, Tuesdays with Morrie (also known as Oprah Winfrey Presents: "Tuesdays with Morrie"), CBS, 1999.

Executive producer, Amy & Isabelle (also known as Oprah Winfrey Presents: "Amy & Isabelle"), ABC, 2001.

Executive producer, Knock Me a Kiss, 2005.

Executive producer, Their Eyes Were Watching God (also known as Oprah Winfrey Presents: "Their Eyes Were Watching God'), ABC, 2005.

Television Work; Specials:

Executive producer, Prime Time Oprah: No One Dies Alone (also known as No One Dies Alone), syndicated, 1988.

Executive producer, Just between Friends, syndicated, 1989.

Executive producer, Nine (documentary), 1992.

Supervising producer, Oprah: Behind the Scenes, ABC, 1992.

Executive producer, Michael Jackson Talks … to Oprah: 90 Primetime Minutes with the King of Pop (also known as Live and Dangerous and Oprah Live with Michael Jackson: 90 Minutes with the King of Pop), ABC, 1993.

Funding, It's in the Bag, Showtime, 1993.

Supervising producer, "Shades of a Single Protein," ABC Afterschool Specials, ABC, 1993.

Executive producer, Dinner with Oprah: A Lifetime Exclusive—Toni Morrison (also known as Dinner with Oprah), Lifetime, 1997.

Executive producer, Oprah Winfrey's "Legends' Ball" (also known as Legends Ball), ABC, 2006.

Television Work; Pilots:

Involved in the production of television pilots.

Film Appearances:

Sofia, The Color Purple (also known as Moon Song), Warner Bros., 1985.

Mrs. Thomas, Native Son, Cinecom, 1986.

Herself, Throw Momma from the Train, Orion, 1987.

Herself, Listen Up: The Lives of Quincy Jones (documentary; also known as Listen Up), Warner Bros., 1990.

Sethe, Beloved, Buena Vista, 1998.

Wallowitch and Ross: This Moment (documentary), First Run Features, 1999.

Herself, Bolero (short film), 2004.

Preshow narrator, Brothers of the Borderland (short film), 2004.

Narrator, Emmanuel's Gift (documentary), First Look Pictures Releasing, 2005.

Voice of Gussy the goose, Charlotte's Web, Paramount, 2006.

Voice, Bee Movie (animated), DreamWorks, 2007.

Film Work:

Producer, Beloved, Buena Vista, 1998.

Stage Work:

Coproducer, From the Mississippi Delta, Circle in the Square Downtown, New York City, 1991–92.

Coproducer, The Color Purple (musical), Broadway Theatre, New York City, 2005–U.S. cities, 2007.

Radio Appearances:

Appeared in broadcasts on the XM Satellite Radio channel Oprah & Friends (channel 156).

RECORDINGS

Video Appearances:

(In archive footage) Herself, Dangerous: The Short Films (also known as Michael Jackson—Dangerous: The Short Films), 1993.

Host, You Make the Connection, Walt Disney Video, 1997.

Herself, Tina Turner: Celebrate Live 1999 (also known as Happy Birthday Tina!), 1999.

Herself, A Collaboration of Spirits: Casting and Acting "The Color Purple" (short), Warner Home Video, 2003.

Video Work:

Producer, You Make the Connection, Walt Disney Video, 1997.

Audiobooks:

Janet Fitch, White Oleander, Time Warner AudioBooks, 2000.

WRITINGS

Nonfiction:

(With Bob Greene) Make the Connection: Ten Steps to a Better Body—And a Better Life, Hyperion, 1996.

The Uncommon Wisdom of Oprah Winfrey: A Portrait in Her Own Words, edited by Bill Adler, Carol, 1996.

Journey to Beloved (diary), photographs by Ken Regan, Hyperion, 1998.

Oprah Winfrey Speaks: Insight from the World's Most Influential Voice, edited by Janet Lowe, Wiley, 1998.

Videos:

You Make the Connection, Walt Disney Video, 1997.

OTHER SOURCES

Books:

Buffalo, Audreen, Meet Oprah Winfrey, Random House, 1993.

Gallick, Sarah (as Nellie Bly), Oprah!: Up Close and Down Home, Zebra Books, 1993.

Mair, George, Oprah Winfrey: The Definitive Story of Her Struggle and Success, HarperCollins, 1994.

Periodicals:

Biography, March, 1999, pp. 36-38, 40-44, 120-21.

Black Collegian, November/December, 1990.

Black Enterprise, July, 2005, p. 28.

Broadcasting & Cable, January 24, 2005, p. 46.

Ebony, October, 1988; July, 1995, p. 22.

Entertainment Weekly, September 9, 1994, p. 20; November 17, 2000, p. 132.

Essence, October, 1986.

Flicks, March, 1999, p. 28.

Good Housekeeping, August, 1986; November, 1994, p. 68; October, 1995, p. 120.

Hollywood Reporter, 58th anniversary issue, 1989.

Ladies' Home Journal, December, 1988; February, 1994, p. 96; November, 1994, p. 200; January, 1997.

McCall's, November, 1993, p. 146; August, 1995, p. 72.

Ms., November, 1988, pp. 50-54; January/February, 1989.

New York Times, March 12, 1989; January 26, 2006.

New York Times Magazine, June 11, 1989.

People Weekly, January 10, 1994, p. 42; September 12, 1994, p. 84; November 7, 1994, p. 44; June 23, 1997, p. 66; February 16, 1998, pp. 170-75.

Publishers Weekly, May 8, 2000, p. 32.

Radio Times, February 27, 1999, pp. 16-18, 20.

Redbook, September, 1993, p. 94; December, 1994, p. 82; August, 1995, p. 74; August, 1996, p. 76; May, 1997, p. 94.

Shape, December, 1996, p. 74.

Time, December 15, 2003, p. 8; May 8, 2006, p. 65.

TV Guide, October 10, 1998, pp. 16-21, 51; July 28, 2001, pp. 18-20, 35; October 4, 2003, pp. 36-40; July 18, 2004, pp. 22-23; October 10, 2004, pp. 32-37; September 25, 2005, p. 12; December 12, 2005, p. 24; January 30, 2006, p. 8.

USA Today, May 15, 1997; May 11, 2006, pp. 1D-2D.

US Weekly, July 11, 2005, pp. 66-67.

Washington Post, February 10, 2006, pp. C1, C7.

Woman's World, June 22, 1999, pp. 16-17; October 25, 2005, pp. 16-18; December 19, 2005, p. 7.

Working Woman, May, 1994, p. 52.

Electronic:

Oprah.com, http://www2.oprah.com, June 2, 2006.

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"Winfrey, Oprah 1954–." Contemporary Theatre, Film and Television. 2007. Encyclopedia.com. 29 Sep. 2016 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Winfrey, Oprah 1954–." Contemporary Theatre, Film and Television. 2007. Encyclopedia.com. (September 29, 2016). http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-2588400200.html

"Winfrey, Oprah 1954–." Contemporary Theatre, Film and Television. 2007. Retrieved September 29, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-2588400200.html

Winfrey, Oprah 1954–

Oprah Winfrey 1954

Broadcasting executive, television talk show host, actress

Uneven Childhood, Productive Teen Years

Spectacular Success in Chicago

Gained Complete Creative and Financial Control

Stress Took Its Toll

Ever-Widening Range of Endeavors

Sources

Image not available for copyright reasons

Oprah Winfrey, a multi-millionaire businesswoman with her own national top-rated talk show and Chicago-based movie production company called Harpo Productions, Inc., is one of the most affluent and powerful black women in America. Deemed the undisputed Queen of Talk since the mid-1980s, she is the first black woman to host a nationally syndicated weekday talk show.

Winfrey was born January 29, 1954, on a farm in Kosciusko, Mississippi, the product of a fleeting tryst between 20-year-old Vernon Winfrey and 18-year-old Vernita Lee. Since her father was in the service when she was born and her mother was eager to leave Mississippi, Winfrey lived on the farm with her maternal grandparents until the age of six. Her father apparently learned of her birth when he received a printed baby announcement in the mail with a scribbled note: Send clothes! Originally named Orpah, from the book of Ruth in the Bible, Winfrey came to be known as Oprah shortly after her birth because of the difficulty most people had spelling and pronouncing Orpah properly.

Uneven Childhood, Productive Teen Years

By the age of three, Winfrey was reciting in church on holidays, and the locals quickly perceived her as gifted. While in kindergarten, she reportedly wrote to her teacher requesting that she be moved to the first grade. The next day she was skipped ahead a grade.

Winfrey formed her spiritual values and learned both discipline and drama in the southern Baptist church. As a young child, she was raised in the rural tradition, receiving whippings and harsh chastisement as punishment for wrongdoing. At the age of six, she moved to Milwaukee to live with her mother, who was working as a house-cleaner. Rarely at home because of work demands, Vernita Winfrey had a difficult time providing for the emotional needs of the intelligent, high-spirited Oprah. Several sources have documented the imaginative stories Winfrey apparently concocted to capture her mothers attention. Once, when her mother refused to buy her a new pair of eyeglasses-claiming that she couldnt afford them-Winfrey staged a fake burglary at her home, alleging that she had been knocked unconscious, and during the ordeal her glasses had broken. Another

At a Glance

Born Orpah Gail Winfrey (given name changed to Oprah as an infant), January 29, 1954, in Ko-sciusko, MS; daughter of Vernon Winfrey (a barber, grocery store owner, and city councilman) and Ver-nita Lee (a housecleaner); engaged to Stedman Graham.Education: Received ? .A. from Tennessee State University.

WVOL (radio station), Nashville, TN, part-time radio newscaster, 1971; WTVF-TV, Nashville, reporter and anchor, beginning 1973; WJZ-TV, Baltimore, MD, news anchor, 1976-77, cohost of morning show People Are Talking, 1977-83; host of WLS-TV talk show AM Chicago, beginning 1984, nationally syndicated as the Oprah Winfrey Show, ABC-TV, 1986-. Appeared in films The Color Purple, 1985, Native Son, 1987, There Are No Children Here, 1993. Founder of Harpo Productions, Inc., 1988. Coexecutive producer and actress in television miniseries The Women of Brewster Place, ABC, 1989, and in weekly television series based on the miniseries, 1990. Owns the screen rights to Toni Morrisons novel Beloved and Mark Mathabanes novel Kaffir Boy. Part-owner of three network affiliated stations; Co-author of Make the Connection: Ten Steps to a Better Body-And a Better Life, 1996; Actress on television sitcom Ellen, 1997 .

Awards: Nashvilles Miss Fire Prevention, 1971; Miss Black Tennessee, 1971 ; nominated for Academy Award and Golden Globe Award for best supporting actress, 1986, for role as Sophia in The Color Purple; Women of Achievement Award, National Organization for Women, 1986; Broadcaster of the Year Award, International Radio and Television Society, 1988; numerous Daytime Emmy awards for the Oprah Winfrey Show; inducted into the Television Hall of Fame, 1994; George Foster Peabody Individual Achievement Award, 1996; named to Time Magazines Americas 25 Most Influential People, 1996; received TV Guides Television Performer of the Year Award, 1997; Peoples Choice Award, 1997.

Addresses: Office -Harpo Productions, Inc., 110 North Carpenter, Chicago, IL 60607.

time, she ran away from home, approached Aretha Franklins limousine, and convinced the singer that she was an abandoned child. Franklin is said to have given her one hundred dollars. Winfreys last antic involved her frantic attempt to keep an un-housebro-ken puppy: she invented a tale about the courageous puppy fending off robbers and even added a bit of realism to the scene by tossing her mothers jewelry out of the window.

At the age of nine, and for several years thereafter, Winfrey was sexually abused by a teenage cousin, and then by other male relatives and friends. She spoke openly about this on her talk show in 1991, lending support and showing empathy to guests and viewers who had endured similar painful experiences. In an article for Essence she admitted that she couldnt free herself of the shame she felt until 1990, when she finally admitted, I was not responsible for the abuse. The molestation Winfrey experienced in Milwaukee ended when, at the age of 14, she went to live with her father in Nashville, where she flourished under his care and honed many of her communication skills. Winfrey grew up a Baptist, but left organized religion behind as an adult. As she told Chicago Magazine: I have church with myself; I have church walking down the street. I believe in one God force that lives inside all of us, and once you tap into that, you can do anything.

Winfrey credits her father, and the time she spent with him and his wife Zelma, for saving her. He functioned as a strict and constant presence in her life. She told Jill Nelson in an interview for Washington Post Magazine, If I hadnt been sent to my father, I would have gone in another direction. I could have made a good criminal. I would have used these same instincts differently.

Winfreys life under her fathers care was purposeful and disciplined. A barber, an elected city councilman, a grocery store owner, and a deacon in his church, Vernon Winfrey was a high achiever who expected responsible behavior from his daughter. Gone were Oprahs days of heavily applied make-up, revealing dresses, and broken curfews. She was expected to maintain top grades. Zelma Winfrey took her to the library every two weeks, where she had to choose five books, read them, and then write book reports for her family. Vernon rightly viewed education as the key to success, and Oprah clearly reaped the benefits of his guidance.

Winfrey joined the drama club in school and became a prizewinning orator, winning a $1,000 college scholarship after a two-and-a-half minute speech titled The Negro, the Constitution, and the United States, delivered before 10,000 Elks in Philadelphia. She was the first black person to win Nashvilles Miss Fire Prevention title. In 1971, she became a part-time radio newscaster on Nashvilles WVOL. That same year, she was named Miss Black Tennessee. In 1973, when she was only 19 and still attending Tennessee State University, Winfrey was hired by WTVF-TV, the CBS affiliate in Nashville, as a reporter and anchor. In 1987, she set up a $750,000 fund to provide ten scholarships to her alma mater and followed up with letters to each recipient, challenging a few of them to boost their grades. My mission is to use this position, power and money to create opportunities for other people, she told Richard Zoglin in Time.

From WTVF-TV, Winfrey moved to Baltimores WJZ-TV-an ABC affiliate-from 1976 to 1983. She started out as a news anchor but was soon fired. As she told Zoglin, I had no business anchoring the news in a major market. After being given another chance as co-host of a Baltimore morning show called People Are Talking, Winfrey found her niche in the business. I said to myself This is what I should be doing. Its like breathing, she recalled to Zoglin. Although the ratings soared, Winfrey experienced personal problems and began overeating as a result. The station wanted to change both her name and her look. She was apparently told that her eyes were too far apart, her nose was too wide, and her chin was too long. In an attempt to thin out her hair, she underwent what turned out to be a botched French permanent at an expensive hair salon and was rendered temporarily bald.

In spite of Winfreys perceived shortcomings, the ratings for People Are Talking continued to increase and so did Winfreys size. By the time she left Baltimore for WLS-TVs AM Chicago in 1984, she weighed 160 pounds. After her experience with the broadcasting executives in Baltimore, Winfrey resolved not to let anyone manipulate her appearance or personality again.

Spectacular Success in Chicago

Winfrey took over the ailing Chicago television talk show AM Chicago in January of 1984 and instantly turned it into a smash hit, besting even the successful Phil Donahue Show in the ratings. When the Chicago-based ABC affiliate WLS-TV put the little-known Winfrey against Phil Donahue in the 9 a.m. slot, the odds against her were formidable. Then standing 5 feet 6 inches and weighing 180 pounds, she seemed an unlikely contender for a television idol, but her earthy, down-home, comfortable style captivated audiences. She even studied improvisation with Chicagos Second City comedy troupe to polish her instinctive flair for entertainment. Where Phil Donahue might have probed the morality of a pornographic actress, Winfrey would simply blurt out Dont you get sore? She automatically asks the questions her television viewers want to askfrequently tossing aside proprietyyet always remains warm and empathetic. Her show was quickly syndicated to television stations in more than 120 American cities. Within a year after she arrived, Phil Donahue relocated to New York City, and his show was switched to an afternoon spot, thus avoiding head-on competition with the Oprah Winfrey Show.

In 1985, producer Quincy Jones was in Chicago to testify in a lawsuit and watched Winfreys show from his hotel room. He immediately arranged an audition for her for the role of Sophia in the screen adaptation of Alice Walkers novel The Color Purple. His faith in her acting abilities proved well placed, as Winfreys acting debut merited her nominations for both a Golden Globe and an Academy Award for best supporting actress. In addition to The Color Purple, Winfreys other movie credits include the 1986 film Native Son, and the 1993 made-for-TV movie There Are No Children Here, in which Winfrey played the role of a single mother struggling to raise her family in a tough Chicago housing project.

In September of 1986, the Oprah Winfrey Show made its national debut, entering the talk show wars in earnest. Within five months it was the third highest rated show in syndication-after the gameshows Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy! -and the number one talk show, reaching between 9 and 10 million people daily in 192 cities at that time. Winfrey and her show have received numerous Daytime Emmy awards for excellence in the talk/service broadcasting field.

Gained Complete Creative and Financial Control

In addition to owning and producing the Oprah Winfrey Show, the broadcasting executive spins grand ventures from her Chicago-based company, Harpo Productions, Inc. (Harpo is Oprah spelled backwards.) Harpo Productions, which reaped at least $50 million during the 1988-89 season, took over the ownership and production of the Oprah Winfrey Show in 1988 from Chicagos WLS-TV. Having let ABC know that she was considering discontinuing her show at the end of her original contract so she could pursue other interests, Winfrey ended up gaining the control she wanted and went on to become the first black woman to own her own television and film production complex. By 1991, Winfrey was earning a whopping $80 million and came in third on Forbes magazines 1990-91 list of the richest entertainers in the business. She told Ms. magazine that making a difference in the lives of others is key to her master plan and noted, Im starting a minority training program ... specifically to bring more people of color into the film and television industry as producers.

Jeffrey Jacobs, Winfreys lawyer-manager and chief adviser, told Ms.: Because of our economic status, and because of Oprahs other talents, were going to bring things to the screen that no one else will be able to do.... She can develop or buy something that no one else will think is commercially viable-because she thinks the message is important and people should see it.... If we can make money, great. And if we dont, well, there are other reasons to do projects besides making money.

Stress Took Its Toll

In 1989 Winfrey coproduced and starred in the Harpo endeavor The Women of Brewster Place, a miniseries based upon Gloria Naylors award-winning novel about a group of ghetto-based women. The strong female cast and solid script earned the show considerable acclaim, and Winfrey decided to follow it up the next year with a weekly television show based on the same characters. But the series was canceled in its first season. I could hear my inner voice telling me it wasnt time, dont do it, she revealed in Essence.People around me whom I love and trust advised me to wait until I was sure everything was ready, but I thought I could make it all right because I wanted it to be all right.... I thought I could make it happen on the strength of my own will. I was doing two Oprah Winfrey shows a day and then taping Brewster Place at night.... I was physically and emotionally exhausted. When Brewster Place was canceled, I felt disappointed for everyone else. But for myself? I felt relief.

Around the same time, Winfrey, who has battled a weight problem since 1977, began to gain back most of the 67 pounds she had lost on a much celebrated medically supervised liquid diet. When I started gaining the weight back, I felt I had let people down, and that triggered my greatest fear in life: the fear of not being liked, of not being good enough, she explained in an article for Essence. Winfreys weight difficulties seem to have stemmed from her continued use of food as a stress reliever. My greatest failure was in believing that the weight issue just about weight, she later admitted in People.

Ever-Widening Range of Endeavors

In coming to understand the reasons for her weight problem and in finally coming to grips with the abuse she endured as a child, Winfrey has been able to move forward both personally and professionally with more gusto than ever. She owns the screen rights to Toni Morrisons Pulitzer Prize-winning tale of slavery, Beloved-she intends to play the title role in the film adaptationand to Kaffir Boy, the anti-apartheid autobiography of South African writer Mark Mathabane. Her additional endeavors include part-ownership of three network affiliated stations, and she has an interest in a Chicago restaurant called The Eccentric. She has also set up a Little Sisters program in Chicagos Cabrini-Green housing projects and attempts to answer many of the two thousand letters that pour into her studio weekly. An active fund-raiser who is notoriously generous with her staff and friends, Winfrey gives dozens of speeches every year, dousing them with her practiced wit, evangelical anecdotal flair, and recognizable fervor.

Winfrey is also politically active. In 1991, the tragic story of a four-year-old Chicago girls molestation and murder prompted her-as a former abuse victimto take a stand for the children of this country, she explained in People. With the help of former Illinois governor James Thompson, she proposed federal child protection legislation designed to keep nationwide records on convicted child abusers. Winfreys efforts on behalf of abused and neglected children came to fruition on December 20, 1993, when President Bill Clinton signed the national Oprah Bill into law. This bill guarantees strict sentencing of individuals convicted of child abuse.

Although Winfrey is one of the wealthiest women in America, she has become noted for her generous contributions to charitable organizations and institutions such as Morehouse College, the Harold Washington Library, The United Negro College Fund, and her alma mater, Tennessee State University. In 1994, Winfrey announced that she would commit $6 million dollars to Families for a Better Life, a program designed to help 100 families get out of Chicago public housing, off welfare rolls, and into their own apartments or homes. Despite this lofty goal, only five families had completed the program by August of 1996 and the project was put on hold.

Oprah shocked many of her viewers in January of 1995 when, during a show about women who used drugs, she admitted that she had smoked crack cocaine with a boyfriend during the 1970s. Although officials at Harpo Productions, her production company, fretted about the negative impact this revelation would have on the ratings of the Oprah Winfrey Show, telling this long-held secret gave Winfrey a sense of peace and closure. What I learned from it, she remarked to Ebony magazine, is the thing you fear the most truly has no power. Your fear of it is what has the power. But the thing itself cannot touch you. What I learned that day is that the truth really will set you free.

In 1995, Winfreys many fans were distressed to learn that she was considering quitting her successful talk show and moving on to other projects. King World Productions, which syndicates the Oprah Winfrey Show, announced that they had reached a deal with Winfrey that would continue distribution of the show through the 1999-2000 television season. However, the contract also gave Winfrey the option of ending the program with only one years notice.

On October 2, 1995, America Online launched Winfreys own on-line site entitled Oprah Online. The tremendous success of Oprah Online was followed in October of 1996 with the debut on the Oprah Winfrey Show of Oprahs Book Club. Winfrey, an avid reader, created the monthly book club as a way to encourage her viewers to read more often. Each month, she showcases a particular novel on her program and recommends it to her audience. Novels that are featured on Oprahs Book Club have become instant bestsellers, dramatically illustrating the tremendous influence Winfrey has with her viewers. The success of her monthly book club also prompted Winfrey to invite four women to her Chicago home to have dinner and discuss books with Toni Morrison, a Nobel Prize-winning author. The dinner with Morrison was taped for a television special entitled Dinner with Oprah, which aired on February 24, 1997 on the Lifetime cable network.

On April 30, 1997, Winfrey appeared on a controversial episode of the sitcom Ellen in which the shows character discloses that she is a lesbian. The controversy deepened when the shows star, comedian Ellen DeGeneres, announced that she herself was a lesbian. Rumors quickly circulated that Winfrey, who portrayed a therapist on the episode, was also gay. Distressed by the rumors, Winfrey issued a statement declaring that she is a heterosexual. In addition to her numerous Daytime Emmys, Winfrey has received other awards. She was inducted into the Television Hall of Fame in 1994 and at the end of the 1995-96 television season received the George Foster Peabody Individual Achievement Award, one of broadcastings most coveted awards. She was also the recipient of the IRTS Gold Medal Award, was named one of Americas 25 Most Influential People of 1996 by Time Magazine, and included on Marjabelle Young Stewarts 1996 list of most polite celebrities. In 1997, Winfrey received TV Guides Television Performer of the Year Award and was named favorite Female Television Performer at the 1997 Peoples Choice Awards.

Sources

Atlanta Constitution, February 24, 1997.

Boston Globe, December 6, 1996.

Chicago Magazine, November 1985.

Chicago Tribune, September 14, 1994; August 27, 1996.

Daily News (New York), January 22, 1989.

Ebony, August 1991; July 1995.

Essence, June 1991.

Good Housekeeping, September 1991.

Jet, June 5, 1989; December 18, 1989; September 17, 1990; February 18, 1991; September 30, 1991; October 7,1991; October 17,1994; January 29, 1996; January 27, 1997.

Ladies Home Journal, May 1990; August 1991.

McCalls, August 1995.

Ms., November 1988.

New York Times, July 29, 1991.

New York Times Magazine, June 11, 1989.

People, January 4, 1988; June 10, 1988; January 12, 1989; January 14, 1991;

January 21, 1991; December 2, 1991.

Philadelphia Inquirer, January 14, 1986.

Time, September 15, 1986; August 8, 1988.

Washington Post, October 22, 1994.

Washington Post Magazine, December 14, 1986.

US Magazine, March 20, 1989.

USA Today, October 26, 1994; September 29, 1995.

Additional information for this profile was obtained from America Onlines Oprah Online site, last updated in April 1997.

B. Kimberly Taylor and David Oblender

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Taylor, B.; Oblender, David. "Winfrey, Oprah 1954–." Contemporary Black Biography. 1997. Encyclopedia.com. 29 Sep. 2016 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

Taylor, B.; Oblender, David. "Winfrey, Oprah 1954–." Contemporary Black Biography. 1997. Encyclopedia.com. (September 29, 2016). http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-2871700072.html

Taylor, B.; Oblender, David. "Winfrey, Oprah 1954–." Contemporary Black Biography. 1997. Retrieved September 29, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-2871700072.html

Winfrey, Oprah 1954–

Oprah Winfrey 1954

Broadcasting executive, television talk show host, actress

At a Glance

Spectacular Success in Chicago

Gained Complete Creative and Financial Control

Stress Took Its Toll

Ever-Widening Range of Endeavors

Sources

Oprah Winfrey, a millionaire businesswoman with her own national top-rated talk show and Chicago-based movie production company called Harpo Productions, Inc., is one of the most affluent and powerful black women in America. Deemed the undisputed Queen of Talk since the mid-1980s, she is the first black woman to host a nationally syndicated weekday talk show.

Winfrey was born January 29, 1954, on a farm in Kosciusko, Mississippi, the product of a fleeting tryst between 20-year-old Vernon Winfrey and 18-year-old Vernita Lee. Since her father was in the service when she was born and her mother was eager to leave Mississippi, Winfrey lived on the farm with her maternal grandparents until the age of six. Her father apparently learned of her birth when he received a printed baby announcement in the mail with a scribbled note: Send clothes! Originally named Orpah, from the book of Ruth in the Bible, Winfrey came to be known as Oprah shortly after her birth because of the difficulty most people had spelling and pronouncing Orpah properly.

By the age of three, Winfrey was reciting in church on holidays, and the locals quickly perceived her as gifted. While in kindergarten, she reportedly wrote to her teacher requesting that she be moved to the first grade. The next day she was skipped ahead a grade.

Winfrey formed her spiritual values and learned both discipline and drama in the southern Baptist church. As a young child, she was raised in the rural tradition, receiving whippings and harsh chastisement as punishment for wrongdoing. At the age of six, she moved to Milwaukee to live with her mother, who was working as a housecleaner. Rarely at home because of work demands, Vernita had a difficult time providing for the emotional needs of the intelligent, high-spirited Winfrey. Several sources have documented the imaginative stories Winfrey apparently concocted to capture her mothers attention. Once, when her mother refused to buy her a new pair of eyeglassesclaiming that she couldnt afford themWinfrey staged a fake burglary at her home, alleging that she had been knocked unconscious, and during the ordeal her glasses had broken. Another time, she ran away from home, approached Aretha Franklins limousine, and convinced the singer that she was an abandoned child. Franklin is said to have given

At a Glance

Born Orpah Gail Winfrey (given name changed to Oprah as an infant), January 29,1954, in Kosciusko, MS; daughter of Vernon Winfrey (a barber, grocery store owner, church deacon, and city councilman) and Vernita Lee (a housecleaner); engaged to Stedman Graham. Education: Received B.A. from Tennessee State University.

WVOL (radio station), Nashville, TN, part-time radio newscaster, 1971; WTVF-TV, Nashville, reporter and anchor, beginning 1973; WJZ-TV, Baltimore, MD, news anchor, 1976-77, cohost of morning show People Are Talking, 1977-83; host of WLS-TV talk show AM Chicago, beginning 1984, nationally syndicated as the Oprah Winfrey Show, ABC-TV, 1986. Appeared in films The Color Purple, 1985, and Native Son, 1987. Founder of Harpo Productions, Inc., 1988. Coexecutive producer and actress in television miniseries The Women of Brewster Place, ABC, 1989, and in weekly television series based on the miniseries, 1990. Owns the screen rights to Toni Morrisons novel Beloved and Mark Mathabanes novel Kaffir Boy. Part-owner of three network affiliated stations.

Awards: Nashvilles Miss Fire Prevention, 1971; Miss Black Tennessee, 1971; nominated for Academy Award and Golden Globe Award for best supporting actress, 1986, for role as Sophia in The Color Purple ; Women of Achievement Award, National Organization for Women, 1986; Broadcaster of the Year Award, International Radio and Television Society, 1988; three Daytime Emmy awards for the Oprah Winfrey Show.

Addresses: Office Harpo Productions, Inc., 110 North Carpenter, Chicago, IL 60607.

her one hundred dollars. Winfreys last antic involved her frantic attempt to keep an un-housebroken puppy: she invented a tale about the courageous puppy fending off robbers and even added a bit of realism to the scene by tossing her mothers jewelry out of the window.

At the age of nine, and for several years thereafter, Winfrey was sexually abused by a teenaged cousin, and then by other male relatives and friends. She spoke openly about this on her talk show in 1991, lending support and showing empathy to guests and viewers who had endured similar painful experiences. In an article for Essence she admitted that she couldnt free herself of the shame she felt until 1990, when she finally admitted, I was not responsible for the abuse. The molestation Winfrey experienced in Milwaukee ended when, at the age of 14, she went to live with her father in Nashville, where she flourished under his care and honed many of her communication skills. Winfrey grew up a Baptist, but left organized religion behind as an adult. As she told Chicago Magazine: I have church with myself; I have church walking down the street. I believe in one God force that lives inside all of us, and once you tap into that, you can do anything.

Winfrey credits her father, and the time she spent with him and his wife Zelma, for saving her. He functioned as a strict and constant presence in her life. She told Jill Nelson in an interview for Washington Post Magazine, If I hadnt been sent to my father, I would have gone in another direction. I could have made a good criminal. I would have used these same instincts differently.

Winfreys life under her fathers care was purposeful and disciplined. A barber, an elected city councilman, a grocery store owner, and a deacon in his church, Vernon Winfrey was a high achiever who expected responsible behavior from his daughter. Gone were Oprahs days of heavily applied make-up, revealing dresses, and broken curfews. She was expected to maintain top grades. Zelma Winfrey took her to the library every two weeks, where she had to choose five books, read them, and then write book reports for her family. Vernon rightly viewed education as the key to success, and Oprah clearly reaped the benefits of his guidance.

Winfrey joined the drama club in school and became a prizewinning orator, winning a $1,000 college scholarship after a two-and-a-half minute speech titled The Negro, the Constitution, and the United States, delivered before 10,000 Elks in Philadelphia. She was the first black person to win Nashvilles Miss Fire Prevention title. In 1971, she became a part-time radio newscaster on Nashvilles WVOL. That same year, she was named Miss Black Tennessee. In 1973, when she was only 19 and still attending Tennessee State University, Winfrey was hired by WTVF-TV, the CBS affiliate in Nashville, as a reporter and anchor. In 1987, she set up a $750,000 fund to provide ten scholarships to her alma mater and followed up with letters to each recipient, challenging a few of them to boost their grades. My mission is to use this position, power and money to create opportunities for other people, she told Richard Zoglin in Time.

From WTVF-TV, Winfrey moved to Baltimores WJZ-TVan ABC affiliatefrom 1976 to 1983. She started out as a news anchor but was soon fired. As she told Zoglin, I had no business anchoring the news in a major market. After being given another chance as cohost of a Baltimore morning show called People Are Talking, Winfrey found her niche in the business. I said to myself This is what I should be doing. Its like breathing, she recalled to Zoglin. Although the ratings soared, Winfrey experienced personal problems and began overeating as a result. The station wanted to change both her name and her look. She was apparently told that her eyes were too far apart, her nose was too wide, and her chin was too long. In an attempt to thin out her hair, she underwent what turned out to be a botched French permanent at an expensive hair salon and was rendered temporarily bald.

In spite of Winfreys perceived shortcomings, the ratings for People Are Talking continued to increase and so did Winfreys size. By the time she left Baltimore for WLS-TVs AM Chicago in 1984, she weighed 160 pounds. After her experience with the broadcasting executives in Baltimore, Winfrey resolved not to let anyone manipulate her appearance or personality again.

Spectacular Success in Chicago

Winfrey took over the ailing Chicago television talk show AM Chicago in January of 1984 and instantly turned it into a smash hit, besting even the successful Phil Donahue Show in the ratings. When the Chicago-based ABC affiliate WLS-TV put the little-known Winfrey against Phil Donahue in the 9 a.m. slot, the odds against her were formidable. Then standing 5 feet 6 inches and weighing 180 pounds, she seemed an unlikely contender for a television idol, but her earthy, down-home, comfortable style captivated audiences. She even studied improvisation with Chicagos Second City comedy troupe to polish her instinctive flair for entertainment. Where Phil Donahue might have probed the morality of a pornographic actress, Winfrey would simply blurt out Dont you get sore? She automatically asks the questions her television viewers want to askfrequently tossing aside proprietyyet always remains warm and empathetic. Her show was quickly syndicated to television stations in more than 120 American cities. Within a year after she arrived, Phil Donahue relocated to New York City, and his show was switched to an afternoon spot, thus avoiding head-on competition with the Oprah Winfrey Show.

In 1985, producer Quincy Jones was in Chicago to testify in a lawsuit and watched Winfreys show from his hotel room. He immediately arranged an audition for her for the role of Sophia in the screen adaptation of Alice Walkers novel The Color Purple. His faith in her acting abilities proved well placed, as Winfreys acting debut merited her nominations for both a Golden Globe and an Academy Award for best supporting actress.

In September of 1986, the Oprah Winfrey Show made its national debut, entering the talk show war in earnest. Within five months it was the third highest rated show in syndicationafter the gameshows Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy! and the number one talk show, reaching between 9 and 10 million people daily in 192 cities at that time. Winfrey and her show have received three Daytime Emmy awards for excellence in the talk/service broadcasting field.

Gained Complete Creative and Financial Control

In addition to owning and producing the Oprah Winfrey Show, the broadcasting executive spins grand ventures from her Chicago-based company, Harpo Productions, Inc. (Harpo is Oprah spelled backwards.) Harpo Productions, which reaped atleast $50 million during the 1988-89 season, took over the ownership and production of the Oprah Winfrey Show in 1988 from Chicagos WLS-TV. Having let ABC know that she was considering discontinuing her show at the end of her original contract so she could pursue other interests, Winfrey ended up gaining the control she wanted and went on to become the first black woman to own her own television and film production complex. By 1991, Winfrey was earning a whopping $80 million and came in third on Forbes magazines 1990-91 list of the richest entertainers in the business. She told Ms. magazine that making a difference in the lives of others is key to her master plan and noted, Im starting a minority training program specifically to bring more people of color into the film and television industry as producers.

Jeffrey Jacobs, Winfreys lawyer-manager and chief adviser, told Ms.: Because of our economic status, and because of Oprahs other talents, were going to bring things to the screen that no one else will be able to do. She can develop or buy something that no one else will think is commercially viablebecause she thinks the message is important and people should see it. If we can make money, great. And if we dont, well, there are other reasons to do projects besides making money.

Stress Took Its Toll

In 1989 Winfrey coproduced and starred in the Harpo endeavor The Women of Brewster Place, a miniseries based upon Gloria Naylors award-winning novel about a group of ghetto-based women. The strong female cast and solid script earned the show considerable acclaim, and Winfrey decided to follow it up the next year with a weekly television based on the same characters. But the series was canceled in its first season. I could hear my inner voice telling me it wasnt time, dont do it, she revealed in Essence. People around me whom I love and trust advised me to wait until I was sure everything was ready, but I thought I could make it all right because I wanted it to be all right. I thought I could make it happen on the strength of my own will. I was doing two Oprah Winfrey shows a day and then taping Brewster Place at night. I was physically and emotionally exhausted. When Brewster Place was canceled, I felt disappointed for everyone else. But for myself? I felt relief.

Around the same time, Winfrey, who has battled a weight problem since 1977, began to gain back most of the 67 pounds she had lost on a much celebrated medically supervised liquid diet. When I started gaining the weight back, I felt I had let people down, and that triggered my greatest fear in life: the fear of not being liked, of not being good enough, she explained in an article for Essence. Winfreys weight difficulties seem to have stemmed from her continued use of food as a stress reliever. My greatest failure was in believing that the weight issue just about weight, she later admitted in People.

Ever-Widening Range of Endeavors

In coming to understand the reasons for her weight problem and in finally coming to grips with the abuse she endured as a child, Winfrey has been able to move forward both personally and professionally with more gusto than ever. She owns the screen rights to Toni Morrisons Pulitzer Prize-winning tale of slavery, Beloved she intends to play the title role in the film adaptationand to Kaffir Boy, the anti-apartheid autobiography of South African writer Mark Mathabane. Her additional endeavors include part-ownership of three network affiliated stations, and she has an interest in a Chicago restaurant called The Eccentric. She has also set up a Little Sisters program in Chicagos Cabrini-Green housing projects and attempts to answer many of the two thousand letters that pour into her studio weekly. An active fund-raiser who is notoriously generous with her staff and friends, Winfrey gives dozens of speeches every year, dousing them with her practiced wit, evangelical anecdotal flair, and recognizable fervor.

Winfrey is also politically active. In 1991, the tragic story of a four-year-old Chicago girls molestation and murder prompted heras a former abuse victimto take a stand for the children of this country, she explained in People. With the help of former Illinois governor James Thompson, she proposed federal child protection legislation designed to keep nationwide records on convicted child abusers. In addition, Winfrey is pursuing a ruling that would guarantee strict sentencing of individuals convicted of child abuse.

Sources

Chicago Magazine, November 1985.

Daily News (New York), January 22, 1989.

Ebony, August 1991.

Essence, June 1991.

Good Housekeeping, September 1991.

Jet, June 5, 1989; December 18, 1989; September 17, 1990; February 18, 1991; September 30, 1991; October 7, 1991.

Ladies Home Journal, May 1990; August 1991.

Ms., November 1988.

New York Times, July 29, 1991.

New York Times Magazine, June 11, 1989.

People, January 4, 1988; June 10, 1988; January 12, 1989; January 14, 1991; January 21, 1991; December 2, 1991.

Philadelphia Inquirer, January 14, 1986.

Time, September 15, 1986; August 8, 1988.

Washington Post Magazine, December 14, 1986.

US Magazine, March 20, 1989.

B. Kimberly Taylor

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Taylor, B.. "Winfrey, Oprah 1954–." Contemporary Black Biography. 1992. Encyclopedia.com. 29 Sep. 2016 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

Taylor, B.. "Winfrey, Oprah 1954–." Contemporary Black Biography. 1992. Encyclopedia.com. (September 29, 2016). http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-2870400078.html

Taylor, B.. "Winfrey, Oprah 1954–." Contemporary Black Biography. 1992. Retrieved September 29, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-2870400078.html

Oprah Gail Winfrey

Oprah Gail Winfrey

America's first lady of talk shows, Oprah Gail Winfrey (born 1954), is well known for surpassing her competition to become the most watched daytime show host on television. Her natural style with guests and audiences on the Oprah Winfrey Show earned her widespread adoration, as well as her own production company.

Oprah Gail Winfrey was born to Vernita Lee and Vernon Winfrey on an isolated farm in Kosciusko, Mississippi, on January 29, 1954. Her name was supposed to be Orpah, from the Bible, but because of the difficulty of spelling and pronunciation, she was known as Oprah almost from birth. Winfrey's unmarried parents separated soon after she was born and left her in the care of her maternal grandmother on the farm.

Winfrey made friends with the farm animals and, under the strict guidance of her grandmother, she learned to read at two and a half years old. She addressed her church congregation about "when Jesus rose on Easter Day" when she was two years old. Then Winfrey skipped kindergarten after writing a note to her teacher on the first day of school saying she belonged in the first grade. She was promoted to third grade after that year.

It was her last year on the farm; at six years old she was sent north to join her mother and two half-brothers in the Milwaukee ghetto. Because she missed the farm animals and could not afford a dog, she made pets out of cockroaches and kept them in a jar. Her career as a young speaker continued with poetry readings at African American social clubs and church teas. At 12 years old she was staying with her father in Nashville and earned $500 for a speech at a church. She knew then that she wanted to be "paid to talk."

The poor, urban lifestyle had its negative effect on Winfrey as a young teenager, and her problems were compounded by repeated sexual abuse, starting at age nine, by men that others in her family trusted. Her mother worked strenuously at odd jobs and did not have much time for supervision.

Winfrey became a delinquent teenager, frequently acting out and crying for attention. Once she faked a robbery in her house, smashed her glasses, feigned amnesia, and stole from her mother's purse, all because she wanted newer, more stylish glasses. Another time she spotted Aretha Franklin getting out of a car and convinced her she was a poor orphan from Ohio looking for a way back home. Franklin gave her $100, with which Winfrey rented herself a hotel room for three days until a minister brought her home. Her mother tried to send her to a detention center only to discover there was no room; so she sent her troubled daughter to live with her father in Nashville.

Winfrey said her father saved her life. He was very strict and provided her with guidance, structure, rules, and books. He required his daughter to complete weekly book reports, and she went without dinner until she learned five new vocabulary words each day.

She became an excellent student, participating as well in the drama club, debate club, and student council. In an Elks Club oratorical contest, she won a full scholarship to Tennessee State University. The following year she was invited to a White House Conference on Youth. Winfrey was crowned Miss Fire Prevention by WVOL, a local Nashville radio station, and was hired by that station to read afternoon newscasts.

During her freshman year at Tennessee State, Winfrey became Miss Black Nashville and Miss Tennessee. The Nashville CBS affiliate offered her a job; Winfrey turned it down twice, but finally took the advice of a speech teacher, who reminded her that job offers from CBS were "the reason people go to college." Now seen each evening on WTVFTV, Winfrey was Nashville's first African American female co-anchor of the evening news. She was 19 years old and still a sophomore in college.

When she graduated in 1976, she went to Baltimore to become a reporter and co-anchor at ABC affiliate WJZ-TV. The station sent her to New York for a beauty overhaul, which Winfrey attributes to her assistant news director's attempt to "make her Puerto Rican" and from an incident when she was told her "hair's too thick, nose is too wide, and chin's too big." The New York salon only made things worse by giving her a bad permanent, leaving her temporarily bald and depressed. Winfrey comforted herself with food; so began the weight problem that became so much a part of her persona.

In 1977 WJZ-TV scheduled her to do the local news updates, called cut-ins, during Good Morning, America, and soon she was moved to the morning talk show Baltimore Is Talking with co-host Richard Sher. After seven years on the show, the general manager of WLS-TV, ABC's Chicago affiliate, saw Winfrey in an audition tape sent in by her producer, Debra DiMaio. At the time her ratings in Baltimore were better than Phil Donahue's, and she and DiMaio were hired.

Winfrey moved to Chicago in January 1984 and took over as anchor on A.M. Chicago, a morning talk show which was consistently last in the ratings. She changed the emphasis of the show from traditional women's issues to current and controversial topics, and after one month the show was even with Donahue's program. Three months later it had inched ahead. In September 1985 the program, renamed the Oprah Winfrey Show, was expanded to one hour. Consequently, Donahue moved to New York.

One of the reasons her show became so successful was she decided against using stifling prepared scripts. She refused to research her topics, and, in her own words, she "wings it" in order to carry on normal conversations with her guests. It succeeds because of her sharp personality and quick wit.

In 1985 Quincy Jones saw Winfrey on television and thought she would make a fine actress in a movie he was co-producing with director Stephen Spielberg. The film was based on the Alice Walker novel The Color Purple. Her only acting experience until then had been in a one-woman show, The History of Black Women Through Drama and Song, which she performed during an African American theater festival in 1978.

Winfrey was cast as Sofia, a proud, assertive woman whose spirit is broken by neither an abusive husband nor white authorities. Critics praised her performance, and she was nominated for an Academy Award as Best Supporting Actress.

In 1986 she appeared in Jerrold Freedman's film of Richard Wright's Native Son, playing the crucial role of Bigger Thomas' mother. The film was not as well received as The Color Purple, and critics considered Winfrey's performance overly sentimental.

The popularity of Winfrey's show skyrocketed after the success of The Color Purple, and in September 1985 the distributor King World bought the syndication rights to air the program in 138 cities, a record for first-time syndication. That year, although Donahue was being aired on 200 stations, Winfrey won her time slot by 31 percent, drew twice the Chicago audience as Donahue, and carried the top ten markets in the United States.

The Oprah Winfrey Show featured such topics and guests as a group of nudists without clothing in the studio (with only their faces shown), a live birth, white supremacists, transsexuals, pet death, gorgeous men, well-dressed women, and Winfrey's own struggle with her weight and coming to terms with the abuse she endured as a child. She holds interviewees' hands during difficult discussions and often breaks into tears right along with them. One show's topic was incest, during which she revealed to her audience she had been raped by a cousin when she was nine years old.

She once taped a show with an all-white audience in Forsyth County, Georgia, where no African American had lived since 1912. This program was prompted after an incident on the anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday, when 20,000 people marched in Forsyth County to protest racism after the Ku Klux Klan had broken up a previous civil rights march in that town. Another program featured a man who had contracted AIDS and as a result had been harassed, beaten, jailed, and run out of his hometown. The studio audience was made up of the residents of that town.

In 1986 she received a special award from the Chicago Academy for the Arts for unique contributions to the city's artistic community and was named Woman of Achievement by the National Organization of Women. The Oprah Winfrey Show won several Emmys for Best Talk Show, and Winfrey was honored as Best Talk Show Host.

Winfrey formed her own production company, Harpo, Inc., in August 1986 in order to produce the topics that she wanted to see produced, including the television drama miniseries based on Gloria Naylor's The Women of Brewster Place, in which Winfrey was featured, along with Cicely Tyson, Robin Givens, Olivia Cole, Jackee, Paula Kelly, and Lynn Whitfield. The miniseries aired in March 1989, and a regular series called Brewster Place, also starring Winfrey, debuted on ABC in May 1990. Winfrey also owned the screen rights to Kaffir Boy, Mark Mathabane's autobiographical book about growing up under apartheid in South Africa, as well as Toni Morrison's novel Beloved.

Winfrey is also politically active. In 1991 the tragic story of a four-year-old Chicago girl's molestation and murder prompted Winfrey, as a former abuse victim, "to take a stand for the children of this country," she explained in People. With the help of former Illinois governor James Thompson, she proposed federal child protection legislation designed to keep nationwide records on convicted child abusers. In addition, Winfrey pursued a ruling that would guarantee strict sentencing of individuals convicted of child abuse.

In September 1996 Winfrey started an on-air reading club. For 10 years publishers had watched as self-help, inspirational, and celebrity titles rose to best-seller status on the tides of telegenic emotion flooding each day across the screens of Winfrey's 14 million American viewers. Think of Simple Abundance, The Soul's Code, Don't Block the Blessings, Down in the Garden, and Winfrey's own Make the Connection, written with Bob Greene. They all received their sales starts because of Winfrey's reading club. The book club has taken her power to sell books to a different level. On September 17 Winfrey stood up in an evangelist mode and announced she wanted ''to get the country reading." She told her adoring fans to hasten to the stores to buy the book she had chosen. They would then discuss it together on the air the following month.

The initial reaction was astonishing. The Deep End of the Ocean had generated significant sales for a first novel; 68,000 copies had gone into the stores since June. But between the last week in August, when Winfrey told her plans to the publisher, and the September on-air announcement, Viking printed 90,000 more. By the time the discussion was broadcast on October 18, there were 750,000 copies in print. The book became a number one best-seller, and another 100,000 were printed before February 1997.

The club ensured Winfrey as the most powerful book marketer in the United States. She sends more people to bookstores than morning news programs, other daytime shows, evening magazines, radio shows, print reviews and feature articles combined. As of May 1997, Make the Connection was rated number nine on the New York Times Best Seller List.

On April 30, 1997, Winfrey appeared in the role of a therapist on a controversial episode of the sitcom Ellen, in which the show's character reveals her homosexuality. The controversey deepened when the show's star, comedian Ellen DeGeneres, announced that she herself was a lesbian. As a result, rumors quickly spread questioning Winfrey's sexuality. Distressed by the rumors, Winfrey issued a statement declaring that she is heterosexual.

Although one of the wealthiest women in America and the highest paid entertainer in the world, Winfrey has made generous contributions to charitable organizations and institutions such as Morehouse College, the Harold Washington Library, The United Negro College Fund, and Tennesse State University.

In addition to her numerous Daytime Emmys, Winfrey has received other awards. She was inducted into the Television Hall of Fame in 1994 and received the George Foster Peabody Individual Achievement Award following the 1995-1996 season, one of broadcasting's most coveted awards. Further, she received the IRTS Gold Medal Award, was named one of "Americas's 25 Most Influential People of 1996" by Time magazine, and was included on Marjabelle Young Stewart's 1996 list of most polite celebrities. In 1997 Winfrey received TV Guide's Television Performer of the Year Award and was named favorite Female Television Performer at the 1997 People's Choice Awards.

Winfrey lives in a condominium on Chicago's Gold Coast and owns a 162-acre farm in Indiana. She spends four nights a week lecturing for free at churches, shelters, and youth organizations. Winfrey also spends two Saturdays a month with the Little Sisters program she set up at Chicago's Cabrini-Green housing project.

Further Reading

Three informative and anecdotal books have been written about Oprah Winfrey: Everybody Loves Oprah! (1987) by Norman King, Oprah (1987) by Robert Waldron, and Oprah Winfrey by Lillie Patterson (1988). "The Importance of Being Oprah," a June 11, 1989, feature story in the New York Times Magazine by Barbara Grizzuti Harrison, is an excellent in-depth profile of Winfrey. She is the subject of countless magazine articles in the popular media. □

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"Oprah Gail Winfrey." Encyclopedia of World Biography. 2004. Encyclopedia.com. 29 Sep. 2016 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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Winfrey, Oprah 1954–

Oprah Winfrey
1954

Producer, chief executive officer, and chairman, Harpo Productions

Nationality: American.

Born: January 29, 1954, in Kosciusko, Mississippi.

Education: Attended Tennessee State University.

Family: Daughter of Vernon Winfrey (sailor and barber) and Vernita Lee (maid and dietician).

Career: WVOL Radio (Nashville), 19711972, news reader; WTVF-TV (Nashville), 19731976, news anchor and reporter; WJZ-TV (Baltimore), 19761977, news anchor; 19771983, talk show host; WLS-TV (Chicago), 1984, talk show host; King World Productions, 1985, host of the Oprah Winfrey Show ; Harpo Productions, 1986, producer, chief executive officer, and chairman; Oxygen Media, 1998, partner; Hearst Magazines, 2000, editorial director of O: The Oprah Magazine.

Awards: Woman of Achievement Award, National Organization for Women, 1986; named one of the Ten Most Admired Women, Playgirl, 1986; Emmy Award for best daytime talk show host, Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, 1987, 1991, 1992, 1994, 1995, and 1997; named Broadcaster of the Year, International Radio and Television Society, 1988; Entertainer of the Year Award, NAACP, 1989; Image Award, NAACP, 1989, 1991, 1992, and 1994; Industry Achievement Award, Broadcast Promotion Marketing Executives/Broadcast Design Association, 1991; Horatio Alger Award, Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans, 1993; named to the Television Academy Hall of Fame, Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, 1994; Gold Medal, International Television and Radio Society, 1996; Lifetime Achievement Award, Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, 1998; National Book Awards 50th Anniversary Gold Medal, National Book Foundation, 1999; Bob Hope Humanitarian Award, 2002; named to the Hall of Fame, Broadcasting & Cable, 2002.

Publications: Make the Connection: Ten Steps to a Better Bodyand a Better Life (with Bob Greene), 1996; The Uncommon Wisdom of Oprah Winfrey: A Portrait in Her Own Words (edited by Bill Adler), 1996; Journey to

Beloved, 1998; Oprah Winfrey Speaks: Insight from the World's Most Influential Voice (edited by Janet Lowe), 1998.

Address: Harpo Productions, 110 North Carpenter Street, Chicago, Illinois 60607-2145; http://www.oprah.com.

Coming from life in a home with no electricity or running water and having suffered misery and severe abuse, Oprah Gail Winfrey became one of the most influential people in history as host of The Oprah Winfrey Show, which reached more than 20 million Americans five days a week and tens of millions more in 107 other countries. By age 49 she was a self-made billionaire, ruler of a vast entertainment and communications empire. Indeed, she was a symbol of what an individual person could achieve in America, and around the world were people who, when asked, declared that the person they most wished to be like was "Oprah Winfrey."

MISERY

Winfrey was born out of wedlock to an impoverished young woman, Vernita Lee, in Mississippi at a time when segregation in that state denied basic civil rights to African Americans. Her mother named several different men as potential fathers to Winfrey, but only one man, Vernon Winfrey, a sailor in the U.S. Navy, took responsibility for the child. Throughout her life, Winfrey would refuse to have the tests done that would determine whether Vernon was her biological father.

Lee left her baby daughter with her own mother, the owner of a remote pig farm. Her grandmother provided Winfrey with a stern disciplinary environment in which church played a big role. In 1956 Winfrey astonished church members by delivering a reading and interpretation of a part of the Bible. Her grandmother had taught her to read, and reading would always be a source of inspiration and solace for Winfrey. In 1960 she was sent from the farm that lacked electricity and running water to her mother's Milwaukee home, which was tiny; Winfrey missed being able to play with animals but kept roaches as pets. Unable to care for her daughter, Lee soon sent her to Nashville to live with her father and his wife, Zelma, who loved the little girl. When Lee asked to have her daughter back for a summer's visit, the Winfreys reluctantly let her go; she would not return until 1968.

At first, Winfrey did well in school; she skipped over kindergarten to first grade and then over second grade to third grade. But in 1963 Winfrey was raped by a 19-year-old cousin; at least two other relatives molested her. To encourage boys to like her, she was sexually promiscuous. She was very rebellious; her mother tried to have her put in juvenile hall, which had no room to spare, so she sent Winfrey back to her father. At 14, Winfrey became pregnant, and, at first, she named several possible fathers. Eventually she insisted the father had to be her own father's brother. The baby was stillborn. Her father was a remarkable man, who accepted Winfrey as his daughter without question and who made it clear to her that he wanted her to be his daughter. He and his wife gave Winfrey a disciplined home environment. She was required to read books and, every two weeks, to write a report about what she had read, instilling a habit of reading that Winfrey continued for the rest of her life. She had to wear conservative, standard schoolgirl clothing at all times, to do her homework, and to behave respectfully toward grownups. Winfrey would often tell others that her father had saved her life.

TALKING FOR A LIVING

Even as a small child, Winfrey would say that she wanted to make her living by talking, for she was a gifted, quick-witted speaker. In 1971, partly on the basis of her brilliant public speaking, she won the Miss Nashville Fire Prevention beauty and talent contest, which led to a job reading the news at the WVOL radio station. She chafed under her father and stepmother's curfew rules, because she was earning $15,000 per yeara good salary at the timeand felt that she was demonstrating grownup responsibility. Even after she took a job anchoring the news broadcasts of Nashville's WTVF-TV, the restrictions required by her parents remained. When, in 1976, Baltimore's WJZ-TV offered her a job anchoring the news, she leaped at the chance. She was a senior at Tennessee State University with only a few months to go for her degree, but as a friend pointed out to her, the WJZ-TV job was the chance of a lifetime. Her bosses at WJZ-TV wanted her to have plastic surgery to move her eyes closer together and to narrow her nose (she refused). They sent her to a hairdresser to make her hair more chic; the hairdresser burned the hair off her head, making her bald save for three little hairs over her forehead; her head proved too big for wigs, so she wore scarves while she was on the air, until her hair grew back.

In 1977 she was switched to cohosting a morning talk show; her gift of gab and her knack for asking the questions most listeners wanted to have answered turned the show into a hit. In 1984 her producer at WJZ-TV, Debra DiMaio, took a job in Chicago at WLS-TV. She brought with her a tape of Winfrey at work and showed it to Dennis Swanson, who immediately wanted to hire Winfrey to host the morning talk show A.M. Chicago. Winfrey was afraid that a heavyset black woman would be unwelcome on television in Chicago, which had a reputation for racial conflict, but Swanson insisted. Winfrey accepted the job, and WJZ-TV let her out of her contract. She then visited a Chicago lawyer, Jeff Jacobs, to gain his help with her contract negotiations; he became her lifelong adviser and business manager. Smart, honest, and devoted to Winfrey's well-being, he had a hand in all of her business dealings from 1984 onward. Within four weeks, opposite the dominating Donahue talk show (with host Phil Donahue), Winfrey's show went from last in the ratings in Chicago to first for its time slot. She had shown that her appeal transcended ethnicity.

GOING NATIONAL

The year 1985 was momentous for Winfrey. Her talk show was renamed The Oprah Winfrey Show, and Jacobs negotiated a national syndication deal with the owners of syndication company King World, Mike and Roger King, two persuasive salesmen who quickly sold the show to 138 stations in the United States. Jacobs got Winfrey 25 percent of the gross King World made from the show, and from a salary of $230,000 per year at WLS-TV, Winfrey's income leaped to over $30 million for her first year in syndication. Also in 1986 The Color Purple, a motion picture based on one of her favorite books, came out. In it, she played Sofia, and her dazzling performance received Golden Globe and Academy Award nominations for best supporting actress, although she did not win.

She played the mother of the protagonist in the motion picture Native Son ; though she was praised for her performance by critics, she was unhappy with the motion picture, which quickly died at the box office. Wanting to control the content of her productions, in 1986 Winfrey founded Harpo Productions, giving a 5 percent share to Jacobs. ("Harpo" was "Oprah" spelled backward.) This studio was set up in a former ice-skating rink and became a large production company that made motion pictures and miniseries for the ABC network and eventually produced The Oprah Winfrey Show. It was in May 1986 that she met Stedman Graham Jr., a tall, movie-star-handsome, successful businessman, and the two fell in love. Although they announced their engagement in 1992, they did not marry.

In 1989 Winfrey made Jacobs president of Harpo. Like Winfrey, he had a great deal of common sense, and he gave the young business stability. That year Winfrey produced and acted in the television miniseries The Women of Brewster Place, based on one of her favorite novels. It did well, and a dramatic series Brewster Place starring Winfrey was spun off in 1990, but it failed after only a few episodes were aired.

EMPIRE

In 1992 Winfrey began a series of prime-time specials called Oprah: Behind the Scenes, about Winfrey's interviews of famous people. In a separately produced show, syndicated to more than 50 countries by King World, Winfrey interviewed the singer Michael Jackson for prime time; the interview aired February 10, 1993, and 39 percent of American homes tuned in to the show. Winfrey typically hired friends for jobs at Harpo Productions, people whose characters she knew and whom she trusted. This may be why by 2000 her top 10 executives each had logged over 10 years' employment at Harpo Productions. One such friend was Tim Bennett, who had been program director for Chicago's WLS-TV when Oprah first worked there. Bennett became chief operations officer for Harpo Productions, and he organized the company into departments and clarified the company's capital structure.

Ever since coming to Chicago, Winfrey had given 10 percent of her income to charities, mostly having to do with youths, education, and books. In 1996 she began Oprah's Book Club to promote reading, for which she recommended a recently published book each month. One show each month would focus discussion on the book. Such was her influence that within minutes of her recommendations, booksellers would be swamped with orders for the books; sales for the books typically increased by 500,000 to one million copies, and previously obscure authors would become major literary figures. In 2000 Winfrey began O: The Oprah Magazine, which topped two million in circulation. In 2001 the magazine grossed over $140 million. On April 4, 2002, Winfrey announced that she was exhausted by reading so many books to single out ones to recommend, and she ended her book club, but in March 2003 she announced that she was going to start a classics book club, featuring three authors per year. She called it "Traveling with the Classics." In 2002 Harpo Productions began producing Dr. Phil, featuring a forensic psychiatrist who had frequently appeared on Winfrey's show as a family counselor, becoming a fixture. In 2003 her personal fortune topped $1 billion.

See also entries on Harpo Entertainment Group, The Hearst Corporation, and King World Productions, Inc. in International Directory of Company Histories.

sources for further information

Mair, George, Oprah Winfrey: The Real Story, New York: Birch Lane Press, 1994.

Sellers, Patricia, "The Business of Being Oprah: She Talked Her Way to the Top of Her Own Media Empire and Amassed a $1 Billion Fortune: Now She's Asking, 'What's Next?'" Fortune, April 1, 2002, pp. 5064.

Kirk H. Beetz

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Beetz, Kirk. "Winfrey, Oprah 1954–." International Directory of Business Biographies. 2005. Encyclopedia.com. 29 Sep. 2016 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

Beetz, Kirk. "Winfrey, Oprah 1954–." International Directory of Business Biographies. 2005. Encyclopedia.com. (September 29, 2016). http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3448500619.html

Beetz, Kirk. "Winfrey, Oprah 1954–." International Directory of Business Biographies. 2005. Retrieved September 29, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3448500619.html

Winfrey, Oprah

Oprah Winfrey

Born: January 29, 1954
Kosciusko, Mississippi
Talk-show host and founder, Harpo, Inc.

From an early age, Oprah Winfrey was comfortable in front of crowds. Her ease with audiences while simply being herself helped her become the most popular talk-show host in the United States. Winfrey, however, did more than explore hot topics and interview guests. She prodded her audiencedominated by womento help others and find meaning in their lives. Through her show, her magazine 0, and her public appearances, Winfrey emerged as a sort of preacher with an important message: "Live your best life."

While using her own "power for greatness" and helping others find theirs, Winfrey built a corporate empire, Harpo, Inc. Winfrey readily admits she is not much of a business woman. Instead, she relies on the skills of her executives and her own instincts. So far, those instincts have proven strong, as most of her projects have connected deeply with an audience that looks to her for information and inspiration.

"Don't complain about what you don't have. Use what you've got. To do less than your best is a sin. Every single one of us has the power for greatness, because greatness is determined by serviceto yourself and to others."

Humbleand PainfulBeginnings

Winfrey, the wealthiest African American woman ever, faced hardship and personal problems before hitting the road to stardom. She was born on January 29,1954, in Kosciusko, Mississippi, the product of a brief affair between teenager Vernita Lee and Vernon Winfrey, a twenty-year-old soldier. (Winfrey later acknowledged that she and her mother had no proof Vernon Winfrey was her biological father.) Baby Oprah was supposed to be Orpah, a name taken from the Bible, but a mix-up on her birth certificate made it Oprah.

Winfrey and her mother spent several years living with Lee's parents on their farm. Like many poor, rural families of the era, the Lees had no indoor plumbing, and the family wore homemade clothes. After several years, Winfrey's mother left her daughter with the grandparents to live in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Winfrey's grandmother taught her to read before she was three. Winfrey also began speaking at the family church, reciting sermons. Adults loved the smart and assured young girl. Other children, however, taunted her.

At age six, Winfrey went to live with her mother in Milwaukee. Except for one year when she lived with her father in Nashville, Tennessee, Winfrey stayed in Milwaukee for the next eight years. During that time, Winfrey was sexually abused by male relatives and their friends. At fourteen, she had a premature baby that died after birth. Winfrey kept her teen pregnancy a secret for many years. Her half-sister Patricia went public with the story in 1990. At the time, Vernita Lee was on welfare and unable to control her daughter. She tried to put Winfrey in a home for troubled teenaged girls. The home was full, so Winfrey returned to Nashville to live with her father.

While living with her father for the first time, at age eight, Oprah Winfrey amazed church audiences with her speaking skills. She also took notes on the minister's sermons, then gave her own version the next day on the school playground.

From Beauty Queen to Television Host

Her second stay in Nashville changed Winfrey's life for the better. Her father and stepmother Zelma were respected members of Nashville's black community, and they gave her both discipline and love. Winfrey became active in the church and excelled in school. She also entered and won several local beauty contests. In 1971, she was named Miss Black Tennessee. The same year, she got a job reading the news part-time at WVOL, a local radio station. Winfrey kept the job when she entered Tennessee State University, where she majored in drama and speech.

In 1973, while still at Tennessee State, Winfrey moved to TV news, working for WVTF. She was the station's first African American female woman anchor. Winfrey left college to pursue TV news full time, although she completed her course work years later to receive her degree. After three years at WVTF, Winfrey moved to WJZ in Baltimore, Maryland. For the first time in her young career, she failed. The casual, warm tone that she used in Nashville did not fit with her new station's more "professional" approach to the news. Winfrey was removed as the evening news co-anchor in April 1977 and ended up as the co-host of a morning talk show, People Are Talking. She later told Time that, "The minute the first show was over I thought, 'Thank God, I've found what I was meant to do.'"

Locally, People are Talking began to draw more viewers than the nationally syndicated Phil Donahue Show. WJZ tried syndicating the show, but only about a dozen stations agreed to air it. Winfrey, meanwhile, developed the style that would make her the top talk-show host in the country. She asked questions that explored her guests' deepest feelings, and viewers saw her as someone they could trusta good friend who came into their homes on a TV screen.

In 1987, Winfrey won her first Emmy Award as a talk-show host; her program won the Emmy for Best Daytime Talk Show. By 2002, she and The Oprah Winfrey Show had won more than thirty Emmys. Winfrey's other honors include a Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences and a gold medal from the National Book Foundation, for her efforts to promote reading.

In 1983, Winfrey left Baltimore to take over the morning talk show on WLS in Chicagothe program that became The Oprah Winfrey Show. Her rapid success in the new market led to another syndication deal. This time, Winfrey and her show were a hit across the country. Her role in the 1985 movie The Color Purple boosted her recognition. In 1986, Winfrey appeared in the film Native Son. That same year she also formed Harpo Productions, to take a more active role in television and film production. But no matter how many other projects she launched, Winfrey was best-loved for her talk show.

A Public Personal Life

Within a few years of starting her daily show, Winfrey was famous for talking about her personal struggles and successes on television. She always felt she was overweight, so in 1989 she went on a liquid diet and lost sixty-seven pounds. Winfrey then wheeled a cartload of animal fat onto the stage of her show, representing the weight she had lost. In future years, her fans followed her constant struggle to lose the weight she eventually regained. On a more emotional level, Oprah used her show in 1991 to reveal her past sexual abuse. In a later show, she talked about using drugs to try to satisfy an old boyfriend. Her current love life also made headlines, as tabloid newspapers reported on her relationship with Stedman Graham, a Chicago educator. The two met in 1986 and have lived together for many years.

Winfrey used her interviewing skills and personal warmth to draw out painful information from guests who appeared on her program. Some newspapers and magazines talked about the "Oprahfication" of Americathe tendency to use talk shows as a form of therapy for guests and the studio audience. Not everyone welcomed the trend, especially if the topics were sexual. By the mid 1990s, Winfrey decided to move away from the more questionable topics, and begin focusing on the positive qualities in people and her own life. Her show began to take on a more religious or spiritual feel. In 2002, she told Fortune her show was not just a product, "It's my soul. It's who I am."

With her strengthened desire to be a positive influence, Winfrey started her book club in 1996. The next year, she began "Oprah's Angel Network," which asked viewers to donate their spare change to worthy causes, such as education and building homes for the poor. Winfrey's vast wealth also let her make generous contributions to different organizations. She donated millions of dollars to several African American universities.

After revealing that she suffered abuse as a child, Oprah Winfrey led the effort to pass a new national law designed to keep track of convicted child abusers. Officially known as the National Child Protection Act, it was nicknamed the Oprah Bill. The law went into effect in 1993.

Winfrey's more spiritual efforts, however, drew some criticism. In 2001, Oprah launched a speaking tour that encouraged audiences to look within themselves for answers to life's questions, while also having faith in God or some higher power. People reported the reaction of noted writer Barbara Grizutti Harrison to Winfrey's approach: "She thinks she's the messiah, leading everyone to the promised land." Still, Winfrey's devoted fans admired the way she inspired others. Mary Madden, a New York housewife, told Newsweek in 2001, "She's giving me the tools to find myself."

The Appeal of "Dr. Phil"

A married couple struggles to restore their happiness. A parent looks for ways to control a difficult teen. These are typical problems guests have brought to the Oprah Winfrey Show, and the man they turn to for help is Dr. Phil McGraw. Known on the show as "Dr. Phil" and "Dr. Tell It Like It Is," McGraw first appeared on Winfrey's show in 1998. The therapist's straightforward approach proved so popular, Winfrey made him a weekly guest. Thanks to his exposure on the show, McGraw has become one of the most famous psychologists in the United States. His three books have become best-sellers, and his talks often draw several thousand people.

Born in 1950, McGraw spent most of his childhood in Oklahoma before settling in Texas. He gave up a private practice to start his own company as a legal consultant. McGraw met Winfrey in 1997, when he helped her prepare for her trial after being sued by Texas cattlemen. On Winfrey's show, McGraw offered what the host called "Philisms"short, direct sayings that cut to the heart of a problem. A typical Philism, as reported in the Palm Beach Post: "Make a decision and pull the trigger."

McGraw's popularity has led to another business opportunity for Winfrey's Harpo, Inc. In 2001, the company announced it would produce McGraw's own syndicated talk show, starting in the fall of 2002. Within months, King World Productions announced that Dr. Phil had been sold to more than one hundred stations that reach about 85 percent of the country's TV viewers.

Winfrey's fame and spiritual outlook made her a logical choice to serve as host for a prayer service to honor New York's victims of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. With religious leaders of many faiths by her side, Winfrey expressed one of the common themes in her shows and in her life: "May we leave this place determined to create deeper meaning, to know what really matters."

In 2002, Harpo, Inc. was worth an estimated $575 million. Winfrey's other business deals and investments gave her a total worth just under $1 billion. Her personal holdings included a 160-acre farm in Indiana and a California mansion worth $51 million.

For More Information

Books

Lowe, Janet. Oprah Winfrey Speaks. New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1998.

Mair, George. Oprah Winfrey: The Real Story. Rev. ed. Secaucus, NJ: Citadel Stars, 1998.

Periodicals

Cheakalos, Christina. "Direct Males." People (June 11, 2001): p. 89.

Clemetson, Lynette. "Talk Show: 'Oxygen Gives Me That Voice.'" Newsweek (November 15, 1999): p. 64.

Farley, Christopher John. "Queen of All Media." Time (October 5, 1998): p. 82.

Folstad, Kim. "Dr. Phil: Buy the Book." Palm Beach Post (March 6, 2002): p. 1D.

Hollandsworth, Skip, and Pamela Colloff. "How the West Was Won Over." Texas Monthly (March 1998): p. 100.

La Franco, Robert, and Josh McHugh. "'Piranha is Good.'" Forbes (October 16, 1995): p. 66.

Oldenburg, Ann. "Dr. Phil's Advice: Wake Up!" USA Today (May 8, 2001): p. 1D.

"Oprah on Oprah." Newsweek (January 8, 2001): p. 38.

Randolph, Laura B. "Oprah!" Ebony (July 1995): p. 22.

. "Oprah Opens up About Her Weight, Her Wedding, and Why She Withheld the Book." Ebony (October 1993): p. 130.

Sellers, Patricia. "The Business of Being Oprah." Fortune (April 1, 2002): p. 50.

Smolowe, Jill, and Sonja Steptoe. "O on the Go." People (July 16, 2001): p. 50.

Web Sites

Oprah.com [On-line] http://www.oprah.com (accessed on August 15, 2002).

Oxygen. [On-line] http://www.oxygen.com (accessed on August 15, 2002).

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Winfrey, Oprah

Oprah Winfrey

Born: January 29, 1954
Kosciusko, Mississippi

African American television host and actress

America's first lady of talk shows, Oprah Winfrey is well known for surpassing her competition to become the most watched daytime show host on television. Her natural style with guests and audiences on the Oprah Winfrey Show earned her widespread popularity, as well as her own production company, Harpo, Inc.

A difficult childhood

Oprah Gail Winfrey was born to Vernita Lee and Vernon Winfrey on an isolated farm in Kosciusko, Mississippi, on January 29, 1954. Her name was supposed to be Orpah, from the Bible, but because of the difficulty of spelling and pronunciation, she was known as Oprah almost from birth. Winfrey's unmarried parents separated soon after she was born and left her in the care of her maternal grandmother on the farm.

As a child, Winfrey entertained herself by "playacting" in front of an "audience" of farm animals. Under the strict guidance of her grandmother, she learned to read at two and a half years old. She addressed her church congregation about "when Jesus rose on Easter Day" when she was two years old. Then Winfrey skipped kindergarten after writing a note to her teacher on the first day of school saying she belonged in the first grade. She was promoted to third grade after that year.

At six years old Winfrey was sent north to join her mother and two half-brothers in a Milwaukee ghetto, an extremely poor and dangerous neighborhood. At twelve years old she was sent to live with her father in Nashville, Tennessee. Feeling secure and happy for a brief period she began making speeches at social gatherings and churches, and one time earned five hundred dollars for a speech. She knew then that she wanted to be "paid to talk."

Winfrey, again, was called back by her mother, and she had to leave the safety of her father's home. The poor, urban lifestyle had its negative effect on Winfrey as a young teenager, and her problems were compounded by repeated sexual abuse, starting at age nine, by men that others in her family trusted. Her mother worked odd jobs and did not have much time for supervision. After years of bad behavior, Winfrey's mother sent her back to her father in Nashville.

A turning point

Winfrey said her father saved her life. He was very strict and provided her with guidance, structure, rules, and books. He required his daughter to complete weekly book reports, and she went without dinner until she learned five new vocabulary words each day.

Winfrey became an excellent student, participating as well in the drama club, debate club, and student council. In an Elks Club speaking contest, she won a full scholarship to Tennessee State University. The following year she was invited to a White House Conference on Youth. Winfrey was crowned Miss Fire Prevention by WVOL, a local Nashville radio station, and was hired by the station to read afternoon newscasts.

Winfrey became Miss Black Nashville and Miss Tennessee during her freshman year at Tennessee State. The Nashville Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) affiliate offered her a job; Winfrey turned it down twice, but finally took the advice of a speech teacher, who reminded her that job offers from CBS were "the reason people go to college." The show was seen each evening on WTVF-TV, and Winfrey was Nashville's first African American female coanchor of the evening news. She was nineteen years old and still a sophomore in college.

Professional career

After Winfrey graduated, WJZ-TV in Baltimore, Maryland, scheduled her to do the local news updates, called cut-ins, during Good Morning, America, and soon she was moved to the morning talk show Baltimore Is Talking with cohost Richard Sher. After seven years on the show, the general manager of WLS-TV, American Broadcasting Company's (ABC) Chicago affiliate, saw Winfrey in an audition tape sent in by her producer, Debra DiMaio. At the time her ratings in Baltimore were better than Phil Donahue's, a national talk-show host, and she and DiMaio were hired.

Winfrey moved to Chicago, Illinois, in January 1984 and took over as anchor on A.M. Chicago, a morning talk show that was consistently last in the ratings. She changed the emphasis of the show from traditional women's issues to current and controversial (debatable) topics, and after one month the show was even with Donahue's program. Three months later it had inched ahead. In September 1985 the program, renamed the Oprah Winfrey Show, was expanded to one hour. As a result, Donahue moved to New York City.

In 1985 Quincy Jones (1933) saw Winfrey on television and thought she would make a fine actress in a movie he was coproducing with director Steven Spielberg (1946). The film was based on the Alice Walker (1944) novel The Color Purple. Her only acting experience until then had been in a one-woman show, The History of Black Women Through Drama and Song, which she performed during an African American theater festival in 1978.

Popularity of Oprah

The popularity of Winfrey's show skyrocketed after the success of The Color Purple, and in September 1985 the distributor King World bought the syndication rights (the rights to distribute a television program) to air the program in one hundred thirty-eight cities, a record for first-time syndication. That year, although Donahue was being aired on two hundred stations, Winfrey won her time slot by 31 percent, drew twice the Chicago audience as Donahue, and carried the top ten markets in the United States.

In 1986 Winfrey received a special award from the Chicago Academy for the Arts for unique contributions to the city's artistic community and was named Woman of Achievement by the National Organization of Women. The Oprah Winfrey Show won several Emmys for Best Talk Show, and Winfrey was honored as Best Talk Show Host.

Production

Winfrey formed her own production company, Harpo, Inc., in August 1986 to produce the topics that she wanted to see produced, including the television drama miniseries based on Gloria Naylor's The Women of Brewster Place, in which Winfrey was featured along with Cicely Tyson, Robin Givens, Olivia Cole, Jackee, Paula Kelly, and Lynn Whitfield. The miniseries aired in March 1989 and a regular series called Brewster Place, also starring Winfrey, debuted on ABC in May 1990. Winfrey also owned the screen rights to Kaffir Boy, Mark Mathabane's autobiographical (having to do with a story about oneself) book about growing up under apartheid in South Africa, as well as Toni Morrison's (1931) novel Beloved.

In September 1996 Winfrey started an on-air reading club. On September 17 Winfrey stood up and announced she wanted "to get the country reading." She told her adoring fans to hasten to the stores to buy the book she had chosen. They would then discuss it together on the air the following month.

The initial reaction was astonishing. The Deep End of the Ocean had generated significant sales for a first novel; sixty-eight thousand copies had gone into the stores since June. But between the last week in August, when Winfrey told her plans to the publisher, and the September on-air announcement, Viking printed ninety thousand more. By the time the discussion was broadcast on October 18, there were seven hundred fifty thousand copies in print. The book became a number one best-seller, and another one hundred thousand were printed before February 1997.

The club ensured Winfrey as the most powerful book marketer in the United States. She sent more people to bookstores than morning news programs, other daytime shows, evening magazines, radio shows, print reviews, and feature articles combined. But after a six-year run with her book club, Winfrey decided to cut back in the spring of 2002 and no longer have the book club as a monthly feature.

The future

Although one of the wealthiest women in America and the highest paid entertainer in the world, Winfrey has made generous contributions to charitable organizations and institutions such as Morehouse College, the Harold Washington Library, the United Negro College Fund, and Tennessee State University.

Winfrey renewed her contract with King World Productions to continue The Oprah Winfrey Show through the 20032004 television season. Winfrey and Harpo Production company plan to develop other syndicated television programming with King World.

For More Information

Brooks, Philip. Oprah Winfrey: A Voice for the People. New York: Franklin Watts, 1999.

King, Norman. Everybody Loves Oprah! New York: Morrow, 1987.

Patterson, Lillie. Oprah Winfrey: Talk Show Host and Actress. Hillside, NJ: Enslow, 1988.

Stone, Tanya Lee. Oprah Winfrey: Success with an Open Heart. Brookfield, CT: Millbrook Press, 2001.

Waldron, Robert. Oprah. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1987.

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Winfrey, Oprah

Oprah Winfrey, 1954–, African-American television host, actress, and media magnate, b. Kosciusko, Miss., as Orpah Gail Winfrey, grad. Tennessee State Univ. (1976). She began her career as a Nashville radio reporter at age 17, worked in television news at 19, and moved (1976) to Baltimore to coanchor a news show. In 1977 she became cohost of a Baltimore morning chat show and in 1984 settled in Chicago to host another talk show. Her charm, easy manner, warmth, gift of gab, and unpretentious style earned the program an enthusiastic audience and soaring ratings. Soon the most popular local talk show, it was syndicated nationally in 1986, becoming the highest-rated such program, and ended only in 2011. Also a talented actress, Winfrey made her motion-picture debut in Steven Spielberg's The Color Purple (1985), and a variety of other movie and television roles followed.

Winfrey subsequently built a media empire. In 1988 she established Harpo Studios, a production company responsible for numerous telefilms and movies, e.g., Beloved (1998, in which she starred). In an effort to promote reading, she founded (1996) Oprah's Book Club, which recommended books to her talk-show viewers and has produced spectacular best sellers, making her a force in American publishing. In 1999 she established Oxygen Media, which produces women's programs on cable television and the Internet, and in 2000 she joined with the Hearst Corp. in creating O: The Oprah Magazine, a monthly women's lifestyle publication. In a joint venture with the Discovery channels, she launched her own network, OWN (the Oprah Winfrey Network), in 2011. One of the country's wealthiest women (her estimated worth in the early 2000s was well over $1 billion), Winfrey is also an active philanthropist with a particular interest in women's and children's issues and education.

See B. Adler, ed., The Uncommon Wisdom of Oprah Winfrey: A Portrait in Her Own Words (1997); biographies by H. S. Garson (2004) and K. Kelley (2010); study by E. Illouz (2003).

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