Oprah Gail Winfrey was born January 29, 1954, in Kosciusko, Mississippi. She lived on a farm with her mother, Vernita. As a child, Winfrey was sexually assaulted by a number of male family members and friends of her mother. She was then sent to Nashville, Tennessee where she lived with her father, Vernon. Her father was a barber and businessman. She learned a lot from him.
Education and Early Career
After graduating high school, Winfrey entered Tennessee State University in 1971. Simultaneously, she began working in radio and television broadcasting in Nashville. In 1976, she moved to Baltimore. There, she hosted the talk show, People Are Talking. She then hosted her own morning talk show titled, A.M. Chicago, in Chicago, Illinois.
Winfrey eventually gained 100,000 more viewers than Phil Donahue, another talk show host. Her show went from last to first place in ratings. The success earned her widespread fame and led to a role in Steven Spielberg’s cinematic adaptation of Alice Walker’s The Color Purple. Her performance led to her nomination for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress.
The Oprah Winfrey Show
In 1986, Winfrey launched her nationally syndicated talk show, titled The Oprah Winfrey Show. In the first year, the show earned $125 million. Of that, she earned $30 million. She eventually established her own production company, Harpo, and purchased the show from ABC. From there, she began earning more money from the show’s syndication.
Through her production company, Winfrey created the 1989 miniseries, The Women of Brewster Place. In the late 1990s, she signed a multi-movie contract with Disney. Their first project was a cinematic adaptation of Toni Morrison’s novel, Beloved. The film received mixed reviews.
Part of Winfrey’s talk show consisted of Oprah’s Book Club. Her book club helped launch the careers of many unknown authors. In 1999, she co-founded the company, Oxygen Media. By 2000, she launched O: The Oprah Magazine. In 2002, Oxygen Media agreed to air a prime-time syndicated talk show starring Winfrey.
In 2004, Winfrey signed on to continue The Oprah Winfrey Show until the 2010-2011 season. By that time, her show was airing on over 200 U.S. stations, as well as in over 100 countries throughout the world.
In 2011, Winfrey’s contract with ABC came to an end. She ended her show but founded OWN: The Oprah Winfrey Network. Her network got off to a rocky financial start but it eventually became a success. In 2015, she closed Harpo Studios in order to move her production efforts to the Los Angeles-based OWN headquarters.
In addition to acting, Winfrey also got involved in politics. She campaigned for the then-presidential candidate, Barack Obama. She also embarked on a philanthropic career, creating a school in Africa among other feats. Winfrey has also won numerous awards and accolades. At the age of 64, Oprah Winfrey continues to entertain and inform audiences while advocating for human rights worldwide.
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