Oprah Winfrey is one of the iconic figures of the media today. Read on to know about her eventful life.
Oprah Winfrey is one of the most recognized personalities in the world today. Through the power of media, she has connected with millions of people around the world. She is a media icon and a role model for both blacks and women. As host and supervising producer of the top-rated, award-winning “The Oprah Winfrey Show”, she has entertained, enlightened and uplifted millions of viewers for the past two decades.
Timeline of Oprah Winfrey
Oprah was born on January 29,1954 in Mississippi to unmarried parents. Her father Vernon Winfrey was a coal miner. Her mother Vernita Lee was a housemaid.
Oprah lived with her grandmother, Hattie Mae Lee on a farm.
At age six, Oprah moved to Milwaukee, Wisconsin with her mother. Oprah has claimed that she was molested by her cousin, uncle, and a family friend, starting when she was nine years old.
Oprah received a scholarship to attend Nicolet High School in Glendale, Wisconsin.
Oprah rebelled, ran away from home and ran to the street. When she was 14, she gave birth to a male baby which died shortly afterwards. Her mother sent her to live with her father in Nashville, Tennessee. Her father was strict and made her education a priority. She became an honors student and graduated from East Nashville High School.
Oprah Winfrey won the Miss Black Tennessee beauty pageant. The local black radio station WVOL hired her to do the news part-time.
Oprah graduated from Tennessee State University with a degree in Speech and Performing Arts. She became the first black TV news anchor reporter with WTVF-TV.
Oprah moved to Baltimore’s WJZ-TV to co-anchor the six o’clock news.
Oprah was recruited to join Richard Sher as co-host of WJZ’s local talk show People Are Talking , which premiered on August 14, 1978. She also hosted the local version of Dialing for Dollars there.
In 1983, Oprah moved to Chicago to host WLS-TV’s low-rated half-hour morning talk-show, AM Chicago.
Within months after Oprah took over, the show went from last place in the ratings to overtaking Donahue as the highest rated talk show in Chicago. It was renamed as “The Oprah Winfrey Show”.
Oprah co-starred in Steven Spielberg’s epic film adaptation of Alice Walker’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Color Purple. She earned immediate accolades as Sofia, the distraught housewife.
The Oprah Winfrey Show was expanded to a full hour, and broadcast nationally beginning September 8, 1986. She starred in the movie ‘Native Son’ as Janet Thomason.
On February 9 her much acclaimed episode from her show was aired from Forsyth County, Georgia, where no blacks had been allowed to live since 1912. Oprah won her first Emmy award for best talk/service show host and best show. She played a cameo role in the Danny DeVito movie “Throw Momma from the Train”.
The International Television and Radio Society named Oprah Broadcaster of the Year. She bought an apartment in Chicago and a farm in Indiana. She appeared in the TV program Pee-wee’s Playhouse Christmas Special as herself.
Oprah’s half brother, Jeffrey Lee died of AIDS. She played the role of Mattie Michael in the movie “The Women of Brewster Place”. She received the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People’s Entertainer of the year award.
Oprah starred in the documentary “Listen Up: The Lives of Quincy Jones”. She appeared as Mattie Michael in the TV program “Brewster Place”.
Oprah testified before the US congress and initiated the National Child Protection Act.
Oprah was engaged to Stedman Graham, a public relations executive. She appeared in the TV program “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” episode “A Night at the Oprah”. She won the Best talk show Host Emmy award.
In the mid-1990s, Oprah anchored shows about heart disease in women, geopolitics with Lisa Ling, spirituality and meditation, and gift-giving and home decorating shows. She would often interview celebrities on issues that directly involve them in some way, such as cancer, charity work, or substance abuse. She also interviewed ordinary people who have done extraordinary things or been involved in important current issues.
Oprah hosted a rare prime-time interview with Michael Jackson which became the fourth most watched event in American television history as well as the most watched interview ever, with an audience of one hundred million. She appeared in the TV program “There Are No Children Here” as LaJoe Rivers.
Oprah won Best Talk Show and Best Talk Show Host at the 21st Annual Daytime Emmy Awards .She became co-author of the book In The Kitchen With Rosie: Oprah’s Favorite Recipes by Oprah Winfrey and Rosie Daley.
Oprah won an Emmy for Best Talk Show and Best Host for the second year in a row. “Oprah Online” started on AOL (American Online) in partnership with ABC. She became the first woman and the only black on Forbes list of 400 richest Americans.
Oprah received the prestigious George Foster Peabody’s Individual Achievement Award. She became co-author of the book “A Journal of Daily Renewal: The Companion to Make the Connection”, by Oprah Winfrey and Bob Greene.
Oprah delivered the commencements address to the Wellesley College Class of 1997. She appeared in the TV program “Ellen – The Puppy Episode” and “Before Women Had Wings.” Oprah’s Angel Network is formed encouraging people to make charitable contributions and volunteer work. She became author of the book The “Uncommon Wisdom of Oprah Winfrey: A Portrait in Her Own Words” by Oprah Winfrey and Bill Adler (editor).
Oprah became co-author of the book “Journey to Beloved”, by Oprah Winfrey and Ken Regan. She received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Daytime Emmy Awards and an award for top talk show host. She starred in the movie of the Toni Morrison novel, “Beloved”.
Oprah was co-author of the book “Make the Connection: Ten Steps to a Better Body and a Better Life”, by Oprah Winfrey and Bob Greene.
Oprah became the recipient of the first Bob Hope Humanitarian Award at the 2002 Emmy Awards for services to television and film.
Oprah and Tom Cruise hosted the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize Concert. She was listed as the world’s only black billionaire in Forbes’s international rich list.
Oprah was named by Time as one of the 100 most influential people of the year. She ranked in 9th place in public poll of the greatest Americans.She was named as the greatest woman in American history. She became the first black person listed by Business Week as one of America’s top 50 most generous philanthropists. “The Color Purple” was made into a Broadway musical and she was one of the producers.
Oprah signed a 3-year contract with XM Satellite Radio to establish a new radio channel based in Chicago. She starred in the movie “Charlotte’s Web” playing Gussy.
Oprah invested $40 million creating the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls near Johannesburg in South Africa. She received praise from Nelson Mandela for overcoming her own disadvantaged youth to become a benefactor for others and for investing in the future of South Africa. Also towards the end of the same year, Oprah endorsed President Barack Obama (then Senator) and joined him for campaign trails.
Oprah announced that she would be concluding The Oprah Winfrey Show in 2011. On the show she said, “This show has been my life. And I love it enough to know when it’s time to say good-bye. Twenty-five years feels right in my bones, and it feels right in my spirit. It’s the perfect number — the exact right time.“
Oprah launched her own cable network, the Oprah Winfrey Network, or OWN.
Oprah’s Next Chapter premiered on 1st January. Oprah chose Steven Tyler (of Aerosmith) as her first guest on the show. Unlike The Oprah Winfrey Show, Oprah has now decided to step out of the studio and into people’s abodes to interview them. Oprah also visited Mumbai, India recently regarding the show.
Oprah Winfrey currently lives on “The Promised Land”, her 42-acre estate in Montecito, California. She also owns a house in Lavallette, New Jersey.