Winfrey, Oprah (1954–)
Winfrey, Oprah (1954–)
African-American talk-show host, actress, and entrepreneur. Born out of wedlock, Jan 29, 1954, in Kosciusko, Mississippi; dau. of Vernon Winfrey and Vernita Lee; entered Tennessee State University, 1972.
Television talk-show host, actress, and producer, the 1st African-American woman to helm a national tv program, who became one of the most recognized and influential media personalities in America; raised in poverty on grandparents' farm before moving to Milwaukee to live with mother; during her troubled years, was often threatened with placement in an institution; moved to Nashville to live with father, who introduced strict discipline and a respect for education into her life; entered Tennessee State University as a speech and drama major (1972); became a reporter at a Nashville radio station (1973); offered a job as a weekend tv news anchor on Nashville's CBS affiliate, WTVF, becoming the city's 1st black news anchor (1973); became a co-anchor on Baltimore's WJZ evening newscast (1976), then was teamed as a co-host with one of the station's best-known reporters on "People Are Talking," a half-hour morning chat show meant to challenge top-rated"Phil Donahue Show"; received an offer to host "A. M. Chicago" (1984), where her obvious empathy with whomever she was talking to and her ability to relate her personal experiences to the subject at hand convinced the show's producers that her guests and topics should be drawn from everyday life; show was renamed "The Oprah Winfrey Show" and syndicated nationally (1986); made film debut in The Color Purple (1985), receiving an Oscar nomination (1986); after winning 3 daytime Emmy Awards, bought the rights to her show from Capitol Cities/ABC, with which she also negotiated a deal to broadcast her company's 1st major tv film, "The Women of Brewster Place" (1987); began to head her own production company, Harpo, which produces her tv show along with tv mini-series and feature films, becoming the 1st black woman to own a studio, and only the 3rd woman in American history, after Mary Pickford Mary and Lucille Ball; finally managed to bring the film Beloved to the screen (1995) after a tortuous process she described in her book The Road to Beloved; launched Oprah, the magazine; remains one of America's most influential women.
See also George Mair, Oprah Winfrey: The Real Story (Carol, 1994); Lois Nicholson, Oprah Winfrey (Chelsea House, 1994); and Women in World History.