Oprah Winfrey was born in Kosciusko, Mississippi on January 29, 1954. She moved to Nashville to live with her father Vernon, a barber and businessman, after being sexually abused by a number of male relatives and friends of the mother Vernita, during a troubled adolescence. Oprah became the youngest person and the first African-American woman to anchor the news at Nashville’s WTVF-TV at the age of 19.
She began working in radio and television broadcasting in 1971 when she entered Tennessee State University in Nashville. When Winfrey moved to Baltimore in 1976, she hosted the TV chat show, People Are Talking. For eight years Winfrey stayed with the hit show until she was recruited to host her own morning show, A.M. Chicago, by a Chicago TV station. Phil Donahue was a major competitor of hers. Winning her 100,000 more viewers than Donahue, Winfrey’s open, warm-hearted personal style had taken her show from last place to first in the ratings, within a couple months. As a result, she landed a role in Steven Speilberg’s 1985 film The Color Purple; she was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. In 1986, the Oprah Winfrey show was launched as a nationally syndicated program.
The show grossed $125 million by being placed on 120 channels and an audience of 21 million people. It is broadcasted in 109 countries ad is the highest-rated talk show in television history. Gaining ownership of the program from ABC, she drew it under the control of her new production company, Harpo Production and made more and more money from syndication. Winfrey pledged to keep her show free of tabloid topics, although talk shows were becoming increasingly trashy and exploitative in 1994. With rating initially falling, she eventually earned the respect of her viewers and was soon rewarded with an increase in popularity.
Designed in 1196 as an on-air reading club to get the country excited about reading, Books selected for Oprah’s Book Club have become instant best sellers. Launched in 1997, Oprah’s Angel Network, a campaign encouraging people to open their hearts a little wider and help those in need. To date, Oprah’s Angel Network has raised over 12 million dollars-5.1 million dollars from viewer donations and an additional 7 million dollars from sponsors and celebrity contributions. It has granted scholarships to 150 young people, funded over 200 homes with Habitat for Humanity, and built 34 schools in 10 countries with Kids Can Free the Children. Since 1992, Oprah Winfrey has been engaged to Stedman Graham, a public relations executive. The couple lives in Chicago, and Winfrey also has homes in Rolling Prairie, Indiana, and Telluride Colorado.
Leaving an incredible mark on the face of television, this talk-show host, actress, and producer has established a legacy as one of the most important figures in popular culture. Oprah entertains, enlightens, and empowers millions of viewers around the world as supervising producer and host of The Oprah Winfrey Show. Oprah Winfrey’s contributions can be felt beyond the world of television and into areas such as publishing, music, film, philanthropy, education, health and fitness as well as social awareness.