Winfrey, Oprah (Gail) 1954-
WINFREY, Oprah (Gail) 1954-
PERSONAL: Born January 29, 1954, in Kosciusko, MS; daughter of Vernon (a barber and city council representative) and Vernita Lee (a maid) Winfrey; companion of Stedman Graham (a sports marketing executive). Education: Tennessee State University, B.A. (speech and drama), 1976.
ADDRESSES: Offıce—Harpo Productions, 110 North Carpenter St., Chicago, IL 60607-2101. Agent— Creative Artists Agency, 9830 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills, CA 90212-1825.
CAREER: Talk show host, actress, producer, and executive. WVOL-Radio, Nashville, TN, reporter and newscaster; WTVF-TV, Nashville, 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 in 1984; Harpo Entertainment Group, founder and chairperson, 1986—; Oprah's Book Club, founder, 1996; Oxygen Media, Inc. (cable television and interactive network for women), cofounder, 1998; founder of magazine O, 2000; owner of Eccentric Restaurant. Northwestern University, lecturer at Kellogg Graduate School of Management, 1999. Appeared in television commercials for Cease Gun Fire, 1999, and the city of Philadelphia, PA, 2000.
Host of television series, including (cohost) People Are Talking (talk show), WTVF, 1977-83; A.M. Chicago (talk show), WLS, 1984-85, renamed The Oprah Winfrey Show, 1985, syndicated, 1986—; and Oprah Goes Online, American Broadcasting Companies (ABC), 2000. Played Mattie Michael in the miniseries Brewster Place, ABC, 1990. Actress in made-for-television movies, including (as Mattie Michael) The Women of Brewster Place, ABC, 1989; (as LaJoe Rivers) "There Are No Children Here," ABC Theater, ABC, 1993; (as Miss Zora) Before Women Had Wings (also known as Oprah Winfrey Presents: Before Women Had Wings), ABC, 1997.
Appeared in television specials, including (as host) A Star-Spangled Celebration, ABC, 1987; NBC News Report on America: Life in the Fat Lane, National Broadcasting Company (NBC), 1987; The Special Olympics Opening Ceremonies, ABC, 1987; (as host) Prime Time Oprah: No One Dies Alone, syndicated, 1988; The Barbara Walters Special, ABC, 1988; Living the Dream: A Tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, syndicated, 1988; Pee-Wee's Playhouse Christmas Special, Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS), 1988; People Magazine on TV, CBS, 1988; (as host) Just between Friends, syndicated, 1989; Diet America Challenge, CBS, 1989; America's All-Star Tribute to Oprah Winfrey, ABC, 1990; Grammy Legends Show, CBS, 1990; MDA Jerry Lewis Telethon, syndicated, 1990;The Meaning of Life, 1991; Donahue: The 25th Anniversary, 1992; (as voice of Elizabeth Keckley) Lincoln, ABC, 1992; (as host) Oprah: Behind the Scenes, ABC, 1992; (as host) Scared Silent: Exposing and Ending Child Abuse, 1992; (as host) "Surviving a Break-Up," ABC Afterschool Specials, ABC, 1992; The Class of the 20th Century (documentary), Arts and Entertainment, 1992; (as host) "Shades of a Single Protein," ABC Afterschool Specials, ABC, 1993; 60 Minutes ... 25 Years (also known as 60 Minutes Turns 25), CBS, 1993; An American Reunion: New Beginnings, Renewed Hope (also known as An American Reunion: The People's Inaugural Celebration), Home Box Office (HBO), 1993; (as host) "Girlfriend," ABC Afterschool Specials, ABC, 1993; (as host) "I Hate the Way I Look," ABC Afterschool Specials, ABC, 1993; "Learning Not to Hurt" (also known as "Making It: Learning Not to Hurt"), ABC Afterschool Specials, ABC, 1993; (as host) Michael Jackson Talks . . . to Oprah: 90 Prime-Time 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; (as narrator) A Man and a School: The Providence-St. Mel Story, PBS, 1995; Celebrate the Dream: Fifty Years of Ebony, ABC, 1996; Ladies' Home Journal's Most Fascinating Women of '96, CBS, 1996; (as host) About Us: The Dignity of Children, ABC, 1997; (as host) Dinner with Oprah, 1997; I Am Your Child, 1997; (as narrator) Intimate Portrait: Maya Angelou, Lifetime, 1998; Intimate Portrait: Patti La-Belle, Lifetime, 1998; (as host) Quincy Jones—The First 50 Years, ABC, 1998; Steven Spielberg, Arts and Entertainment, 1998; (as voice of Coretta Scott King) Our Friend, Martin, Starz! 1999; Celebration: 100 Years of Great Women with Barbara Walters, ABC, 1999; Kids Pick the Issues, Nickelodeon, 2000; Oprah Winfrey: Heart of the Matter, Arts and Entertainment, 2000; The Kennedy Center Honors: A Celebration of the Performing Arts, 2001; and The Cosby Show: A Look Back, 2002.
Appeared at awards presentations, including (as host) The 14th Annual Daytime Emmy Awards, 1987; The 59th Annual Academy Awards Presentation, 1987; The 15th Annual Daytime Emmy Awards, CBS, 1987; The 20th Annual NAACP Image Awards, NBC, 1988; The 10th Annual American Black Achievement Awards, syndicated, 1989; The 16th Annual Daytime Emmy Awards, NBC, 1989; (as host) The 17th Annual Daytime Emmy Awards, ABC, 1990; The Walt Disney Company Presents the American Teacher Awards, Disney Channel, 1990; The 22nd Annual NAACP Image Awards, 1990; (as host) The Essence Awards, 1992; (as host) One Child, One Dream: The Horatio Alger Awards, 1993; The 10th Annual Television Academy Hall of Fame, 1994; (as presenter) The 21st Annual Daytime Emmy Awards, 1994; (as presenter) The 22nd Annual Daytime Emmy Awards, 1995; (as presenter) The 25th Anniversary Essence Awards, 1995; (as presenter) The 67th Annual Academy Awards, ABC, 1995; The Television Academy Hall of Fame (also known as Academy of Television Arts and Sciences' Hall of Fame), NBC, 1995; The 12th Annual Soap Opera Awards, 1996; The 1996 Emmy Awards, 1996; (as presenter) The 23rd Annual Daytime Emmy Awards, 1996; The 27th Annual NAACP Image Awards, 1996; (as presenter) The 10th Essence Awards, 1997; (as presenter) The 24th Annual Daytime Emmy Awards, 1997; The 24th Annual People's Choice Awards, 1998; The 25th Annual Daytime Emmy Awards, 1998; Academy of Television Arts and Sciences (ATAS) 13th Annual Hall of Fame, 1998; (as presenter) The 26th Annual Daytime Emmy Awards, 1999; (as presenter) The 27th Annual Daytime Emmy Awards, 2000; (as host) Essence Awards 2000, 2000; and The 54th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards, 2002.
Actress on television series Use Your Life, 2001. Guest star on episodes of television series, including (as host) Saturday Night Live, NBC, 1986; The Dolly Show, ABC, 1987; (as herself) The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, NBC, 1990, 1992; (as herself) All American Girl, ABC, 1994; (as Ellen's therapist) "The Puppy Episode," Parts 1-2, Ellen, ABC, 1997; Home Improvement, ABC, 1998; (as herself) Parkinson, 1999; The Hughleys, ABC, 1999; and Gabriel's Fire, ABC.
Producer, Before Women Had Wings (made-for-television movie), ABC, 1997; supervising producer of television programs, including The Oprah Winfrey Show (series), syndicated, 1986—; Oprah: Behind the Scenes (special), ABC, 1992; and "Shades of a Single Protein," ABC Afterschool Specials, ABC, 1993. Executive producer of television programs, including Brewster Place (series), ABC, 1990; The Women of Brewster Place (miniseries), ABC, 1989; and The Wedding (miniseries), ABC, 1998. Executive producer of movies, including "Overexposed," ABC Movie of the Week, 1992; David and Lisa (also known as Oprah Winfrey Presents: David and Lisa), ABC, 1998; Tuesdays with Morrie (also known as Oprah Winfrey Presents: Tuesdays with Morrie), CBS, 1999; and Amy and Isabelle (also known as Oprah Winfrey Presents:Amy and Isabelle), 2001. Executive producer of television specials, including Prime Time Oprah: No One Dies Alone, syndicated, 1988; Just between Friends, syndicated, 1989; Michael Jackson Talks . . . to Oprah: 90 Prime-Time Minutes with the King of Pop, ABC, 1993; and Dinner with Oprah, 1997.
Actress in films, including (as Sofia) The Color Purple, Warner Bros., 1985; (as Mrs. Thomas) Native Son, Cinecom, 1986; (as herself) Throw Momma from the Train, Orion, 1987; Listen Up: The Lives of Quincy Jones (documentary), Warner Bros., 1990; (as Sethe) Beloved, Buena Vista, 1998; Wallowitch and Ross: This Moment, 1999; and (as herself) Tina Turner: Celebrate Live 1999, 1999. Producer of film Beloved, Buena Vista, 1998. Coproducer of stage production From the Mississippi Delta, Circle in the Square/Downtown, New York, 1992. Producer and host of video You Make the Connection, 1997. Narrator of book-on-tape White Oleander, by Janet Fitch, Time Warner AudioBooks, 2000.
AWARDS, HONORS: Named Miss Black Tennessee, 1971; Academy Award nomination and Golden Globe Award nomination, both for best supporting actress, 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; Emmy Awards for outstanding direction, 1987, for outstanding talk or service program, 1987 and 1988, for outstanding host of a daytime talk or service show, 1987, 1992, 1994, 1995, and 1998, and outstanding daytime talk or service show, 1994, 1995, and 1998, and nominations for outstanding host of a talk or service show, 1988 and 1991, and for outstanding daytime talk or service show, 1991 and 1999, all for The Oprah Winfrey Show; Broadcaster of the Year Award, International Radio and Television Society, 1988; honorary degree, Tennessee State University, 1988; Image Award, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People for entertainer, and for best dramatic actress, best executive producer (with Carole Isenberg), and best dramatic episode, 1989, all for The Women of Brewster Place; Image Award for best news/information series or special, 1989, for Prime Time Oprah: No One Dies Alone; CEBA Awards, 1989, 1990, and 1991; America's Hope Award, 1990; Industry Achievement Award, Broadcast Promotion Marketing Executives/Broadcast Design Association, 1991; outstanding daytime children's special, 1992, for "Shades of a Single Protein," ABC Afterschool Specials; inducted into Television Academy Hall of Fame, Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, 1994; George Foster Peabody Individual Achievement Award, 1996; Gold Medal, International Radio and Television Society, 1996; People's Choice Award, favorite female television performer, 1997 and 1998, and nomination, 1999; named "one of the fifty most beautiful people in the world," People, 1997; Lifetime Achievement Award, Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, 1998; Image Award nomination, outstanding lead actress in a motion picture, and Black Film Award nomination for best actress, Acapulco Black Film Festival, 1998, both for Beloved; named among 100 Most Influential People of the Twentieth Century by Time magazine, 1998; Emmy Award nomination (with others) for outstanding movie made for television, and Golden Laurel Award, Producers Guild of America, for "long-form" television producer of the year, both 1999, both for Tuesdays with Morrie; honorary National Book Award, 1999; 50th Anniversary Medal, National Book Foundation, 1999; named one of the 100 Greatest Entertainers, Entertainment Weekly, 1999; elected to National Women's Hall of Fame; Association of American Publishers honors, 2002; Bob Hope Humanitarian Award, 2002; named to Broadcasting & Cable magazine Hall of Fame, 2002.
(With Bob Greene) Make the Connection: Ten Steps to a Better Body—And a Better Life, Hyperion (New York, NY), 1996.
The Uncommon Wisdom of Oprah Winfrey: A Portrait in Her Own Words, edited by Bill Adler, Carol (New York, NY), 1996.
Journey to Beloved, photographs by Ken Regan, Hyperion (New York, NY), 1998.
Oprah Winfrey Speaks: Insight from the World's Most Influential Voice, edited by Janet Lowe, Wiley (New York, NY), 1998.
SIDELIGHTS: Oprah Winfrey is one of the most famous woman in America, and one of the richest. With her own top-ranked talk show, production company, magazine, and a large interest in the Oxygen cable channel, Winfrey is a one-woman media empire.
Winfrey was born in rural Mississippi and spent her early childhood there, in the care of her maternal grandmother. From an early age she showed a talent for public speaking; she recalled to Leslie Marshall of In Style "being two years old and speaking in church and hearing people say: 'That child sure can talk. That is one talking child.'" Soon she was doing recitals of poems and Bible stories at all sorts of local functions.
After age six Winfrey divided her time between her mother's home in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and her father's home in Nashville, Tennessee. Between ages nine and thirteen she lived entirely with her mother, and it was during this time that Winfrey became what is called a "troubled child." She was repeatedly sexually abused by several male relatives and family friends, and in response she rebelled against her mother's authority and started to lie, steal, and run away from home. Finally, her overwhelmed mother tried to sent her to a home for juvenile delinquents, but since it was full she sent Winfrey to her father's house instead.
Under her father and stepmother's strict rule, Winfrey settled down and became a success in school. As soon as she moved in, they started taking her to the library regularly and making her write reports on the books she read. "I don't know if my father has read a book in his entire life," she told Dana Fineman of Life, "nor my stepmother. But they were educated enough to know that reading was important." In high school Winfrey won the Nashville Miss Fire Prevention contest and got a job as a reporter on a local radio station. She stayed in Nashville to attend Tennessee State University, and then moved to Baltimore, Maryland to become a television news reporter, moving to a spot as host of the television station's morning program.
Winfrey stayed in Baltimore until 1983, but was not happy with her job. The station managers did not like her appearance and encouraged her to get plastic surgery and to change her hair. Instead, she took a job with another television station in Chicago. She hosted the A.M. Chicago show, which the station managers decided to run against Phil Donahue's legendary, first-in-the-nation talk show. Donahue's show had been on top of the Chicago morning ratings for ten years, but within a month A.M. Chicago had overtaken him. By 1985, A.M. Chicago had been renamed The Oprah Winfrey Show, and Winfrey has been hosting it ever since.
Through her television position, Winfrey has done a great deal to encourage more Americans to read. Oprah's Book Club, a series of segments on her show where everyone read the same book and then discussed it, made instant best-sellers out of several little-known books. Winfrey has also written several books herself, although "I am by no means a writer," she told Marilyn Johnson and Dana Fineman in Life magazine. "I would not dare kid myself. Writers are a class all by themselves. I have the ultimate respect for them, more than respect—reverence. I will tell you this—I feel that I'm a great communicator. That is my gift. I cannot do that with writing."
Winfrey's first book, written in collaboration with her personal trainer Bob Greene, was Make the Connection: Ten Steps to a Better Body—And a Better Life. This volume sprang from Winfrey's long, public battle with her weight. Another writing project that was very personal to Winfrey was Journey to Beloved, a book created from the journals Winfrey kept while working on the film Beloved. Based on Toni Morrison's novel about a former slave mother and her children, Beloved was made into a film because Winfrey was so inspired by the book that bringing it to the screen became a personal mission. The film stars Winfrey in a role she worked hard to prepare for, her preparations including praying to her slave ancestors in front of an antebellum accounting document from a Southern plantation that listed the names and prices of several slaves. Winfrey writes about those strong emotions in Journey to Beloved, "but what's more affecting are her occasional straightforward, less awestruck what-happened-nextwas anecdotes," a reviewer commented in Time. Winfrey's most recent literary project, O: The Oprah Magazine, had the most successful launch of any magazine in history: by its seventh issue, it had a circulation of two million.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Authors and Artists for Young Adults, Volume 32, Gale (Detroit, MI), 2000.
Business Leader Profiles for Students, Volume 2, Gale (Detroit, MI), 2002.
Contemporary Black Biography, Volume 15, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1997.
Contemporary Heroes and Heroines, Book II, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1992.
Contemporary Theater, Film, and Television, Volume 32, Gale (Detroit, MI), 2000.
Encyclopedia of World Biography, second edition, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1998.
Newsmakers 1997, Issue 4, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1997.
Notable Black American Women, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1992.
St. James Encyclopedia of Popular Culture, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 2000.
Black Issues in Higher Education, June 10, 1999, "Oprah to Teach Business Course at Northwestern," p. 29.
Booklist, October 1, 1996, Ilene Cooper, review of Make the Connection: Ten Steps to a Better Body—And a Better Life, p. 292.
Broadcasting & Cable, July 1, 2002, "B&C Hall of Fame Names Seven Honorees for 2002," p. 15; November 11, 2002, "Oprah Winfrey" (12th annual hall of fame), p. S24; March 3, 2003, "Oprah Winfrey Is Bringing Her Once-Discontinued Book Club Back to Her Syndicated Talk Show," p. 6.
Daily Variety, September 12, 2002, Jill Feiwell, "Emmys Give Winfrey Honorary Hope Kudo," p. 12.
Ebony, October, 1993, Laura B. Randolph, "Oprah Opens up about Her Weight, Her Wedding, and Why She Withheld the Book," pp. 130-136; July, 1995, Laura B. Randolph, "Oprah!" pp. 22-25.
Entertainment Weekly, September 9, 1994, Dana Kennedy, "Oprah: Act Two," pp. 20-27; September 20, 1996, Alexandra Jacobs, review of Make the Connection, p. 70; October 23, 1998, review of Journey to Beloved, p. 70; October 30, 1998, p. 24; November 1, 1999, Shawna Malcom, "Oprah Winfrey: The Best Friend a Popular Culture Ever Had," p. 94.
Essence, June, 1991, Pearl Cleadge, interview with Winfrey, pp. 46-48.
Fortune, April 1, 2002, Patricia Sellers, "The Business of Being Oprah," p. 50.
Good Housekeeping, December, 1998, Joanna Powell, interview with Winfrey, p. 113.
In Style, November, 1998, Leslie Marshall, "The Intentional Oprah," p. 338.
Jet, October 20, 1997, "Gayle King Makes Talk Show History with Oprah and Stedman," pp. 54-55; November 24, 1997, "Oprah Winfrey Reveals the Real Reason Why She Stayed on TV," pp. 58-61; October 7, 2002, "Oprah Gets Special Tribute at Emmys," p. 57.
Life, September, 1997, Dana Fineman, "Oprah Winfrey: A Life in Books," pp. 44-52.
M2 Best Books, November 19, 2002, "U.S Publishers' Association to Honour Oprah Winfrey."
Mediaweek, February 12, 2001, "Oprah Rolls up Sleeves for Oxygen," p. 3.
Newsweek, December 7, 1998, "Now, the Three Amigas," p. 61; November 15, 1999, Lynette Clemetson, interview with Winfrey, p. 64; January 8, 2001, "Oprah on Oprah," p. 38; Lynette Clemetson, interview with Winfrey, p. 44.
People, December 16, 1985, Richard Sanders and Barbara Kleban Mills, "TV Host Oprah Winfrey, Chicago's Biggest Kick, Boots up for a Star-Making Role in The Color Purple," pp. 161-163; January 12, 1987, Alan Richman, "Oprah: TV's Queen of Talk has a Hit Show, a New Man, and a Peeve," pp. 48-53.
PR Newswire, June 8, 1998, "Hyperion to Publish Oprah Winfrey's Journey to Beloved."
Publishers Weekly, September 23, 1996, Daisy Maryles, review of Make the Connection, p. 19; June 15, 1998, Judy Quinn, "A Beloved Bonanza," p. 15; March 3, 2003, Nora Rawlinson, "Winfrey to Launch New Classics Book Club," p. 17.
Saturday Evening Post, July-August, 1987, Charles Whitaker, "TV's New Daytime Darling," pp. 42-45.
Snips, March, 2001, Ed Bas, review of O: The Oprah Magazine, p. 105.
Time, April 24, 2000, Judith Shulevitz, review of O: The Oprah Magazine, p. 76.
Time Online,http://www.time.com/ (May 2, 2003), Deborah Tannen, "Oprah Winfrey."*