Oprah Gail Winfrey was born in the rural town of Kosciusko, Mississippi as Orpah Gail Winfrey on January 29, 1954. She is an American talk show host, television producer, actress, author, and philanthropist. She is best known for her talk show, The Oprah Winfrey Show, broadcast from Chicago, which was the highest-rated television program of its kind in history and ran in national syndication for 25 years, from 1986 to 2011. She was the richest African-American of the 20th century, and was once the world’s only African billionaire, and the greatest black philanthropist in U.S. history. By 2007, she was sometimes ranked as the most influential woman in the world.
In 1971, Winfrey entered Tennessee State University. She began working in radio and television broadcasting in Nashville. Winfrey moved to Baltimore in 1976, where she hosted People Are Talking. Afterward, she was recruited by a Chicago TV station to host her own morning show.
Winfrey launched The Oprah Winfrey Show in 1986 as a nationally syndicated program that ran for 25 years, until 2011. With its placement on 120 channels and an audience of 10 million people, the show grossed $125 million by the end of its first year, of which Winfrey received $30 million.
She soon gained ownership of the program from ABC, drawing it under the control of her new production company, Harpo Productions (‘Oprah’ spelled backwards) and making more and more money from syndication.
In 1994, with talk shows becoming increasingly trashy and exploitative, Winfrey pledged to keep her show free of tabloid topics. Although ratings initially fell, she earned the respect of her viewers and was soon rewarded with an upsurge in popularity.
Oprah’s Book Club
Winfrey contributed immensely to the publishing world by launching her “Oprah’s Book Club,” as part of her talk show. The program propelled many unknown authors to the top of the bestseller lists and gave pleasure reading a new kind of popular prominence.
Winfrey has continued her book club. In 2018, she famously interviewed former First Lady Michelle Obama for the release of her memoir, Becoming.
Oxygen Media and ‘O Magazine’
In 1999 Winfrey debuted Oxygen Media, a company she co-founded that’s dedicated to producing cable and Internet programming for women. In doing so, Winfrey ensured her spot in the forefront of the media industry as one of the most powerful and wealthy people in show business. In 2002, she concluded a deal with the network to air a prime-time complement to her syndicated talk show.
Winfrey’s highly successful monthly magazine, published by Hearst, O: The Oprah Magazine, debuted in 2000.
In 2008, Winfrey launched her own TV network, the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN).