Source: Getty Images
Oprah Winfrey (born Oprah Gail Winfrey on January 29, 1954) is an American talk show host, television producer, actress, author and philanthropist. She is best known for her talk show, The Oprah Winfrey Show, which was broadcasted from Chicago and was the highest-rated television program of its kind in history and ran for 25 years, from 1986 to 2011.
Oprah has been named the “Queen of All Media,” and at a time, she was ranked as the wealthiest African American of the 20th century and was North America’s first black multi-billionaire. Away from the screen, media, and entrepreneurship, Oprah has also been ranked as the greatest black philanthropist in American history. She was also named the most influential woman in the world.
For Oprah, growing up was tough as she was born into poverty to a single teenage mother in rural Mississippi. Oprah herself stated that she was molested during her childhood and early teens, causing her to become pregnant at the age of 14, though her son was born prematurely and died in infancy. Subsequently, Oprah was sent to live with the man she calls her father, Vernon Winfrey, a barber in Tennessee, where she landed a job in radio while she was still in high school.
By the time she was 19, she was already a co-anchor for the local evening news. However, her emotional delivery led to her transfer to the daytime talk show arena. She single-handedly boosted a third-rated Chicago talk show to first place, and this was all she needed to launch her show and production company.
Oprah reinvented her show in the mid-1990s when she focused more on literature, self-improvement, mindfulness, and spirituality. Although her show has been criticized for creating a confession culture, promoting controversial self-help ideas, and having an emotionally centered approach, she has also received praises for overcoming her adversity to become a benefactor and point of reference to people that are going through something similar.
In recognition of her work, Oprah was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in 1994. She is the recipient of several awards and accolades, including 18 Daytime Emmy Awards, the Chairman’s Award, two Primetime Emmy Awards, including a Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award, awarded by the Academy Award; and she has two additional Academy Award nominations.
Oprah has been named “arguably the world’s most powerful woman” by CNN and Time Magazine, “arguably the most influential woman in the world” by American Spectator. And on ten different occasions, Oprah has appeared on the list of “one of the most influential people” from 2004 to 2011 by TIME.
Away from television, Oprah emerged as a formidable political force in the 2008 presidential race, with her endorsement of Barack Obama estimated to have been worth about one million votes during the 2008 Democratic primaries. In 2013, Winfrey recognized the US government when was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Obama and received honorary doctorate degrees from Duke and Harvard. In 2008, she formed her own network, the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN).