With a television talk show watched by millions in more than a hundred countries, Oprah Winfrey was the highest paid entertainer in the United States in 1997. Such was her influence over the viewing public that most of the books she recommended on her book-club slot headed straight for the bestseller lists.
She has won numerous awards, and is also the first woman to own and produce her own talk show and the first African-American to own a large television studio. She was also the first African-American woman to appear on Forbes magazine’s list of the world’s wealthiest people (2003), and is well known for her philanthropic activities.
The show has earned Winfrey 6 Emmy awards for best host as well as 19 other Emmys. Her other awards include having been named one of the 25 most influential people in the world by Time magazine (1996) and earning the Woman of Achievement Award from the National Organization for Women (1986), the highly esteemed Peabody Award (both for her talk show and for her charitable work), and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Image Award four years in a row (1989–1992)
Young Oprah had an inauspicious beginning. To start with, her mother, Vernita Lee, had intended to name her “Orpah,” after a biblical character in the book of Ruth, but somehow the name ended up being spelled “Oprah” when it was registered by the clerk at the courthouse in Kosciusko, Mississippi, and the misspelling stuck.
In 2009 Winfrey announced that her television talk show would end in 2011; it was speculated that she would focus on OWN. The last episode of The Oprah Winfrey Show aired in May 2011, and Oprah’s Next Chapter, a weekly prime-time interview program on OWN, debuted in January 2012.
Winfrey engaged in numerous philanthropic activities, including the creation of Oprah’s Angel Network, which sponsors charitable initiatives worldwide. In 2007 she opened a $40 million school for disadvantaged girls in South Africa.
Winfrey launched the Oprah Winfrey Show in 1986 as a nationally syndicated program. 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.
In 1976, Oprah Winfrey moved to Baltimore, Maryland, where she hosted the TV chat show People Are Talking. The show became a hit and Winfrey stayed with it for eight years, after which she was recruited by a Chicago TV station to host her own morning show, A.M. Chicago.
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.
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.