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Oprah Winfrey
Oprah in 2014.jpg
Winfrey in 2014
Orpah Gail Winfrey

(1954-01-29) January 29, 1954 (age 69)
Alma mater Tennessee State University (BA)
  • Television presenter
  • actress
  • television producer
  • media proprietor
  • philanthropist
  • author
Years active 1973–present
Media projects
  • Chairwoman and CEO of Harpo Productions (1986–present)
  • Chairwoman, CEO and CCO of the Oprah Winfrey Network (2011–present)
Political party Independent
Partner(s) Stedman Graham (1986–present)
Children 1
Awards Full list
Oprah Winfrey Signature.svg

Oprah Gail Winfrey ( born Orpah Gail Winfrey; January 29, 1954) is an American talk show host, television producer, actress, author, and media proprietor. She is best known for her talk show, The Oprah Winfrey Show, broadcast from Chicago, which ran in national syndication for 25 years, from 1986 to 2011. Dubbed the "Queen of All Media", she was the richest African-American of the 20th century. She was once the world's only black billionaire. By 2007, she was often ranked as the most influential woman in the world.

Early life

Orpah Gail Winfrey was born on January 29, 1954, in Kosciusko, Mississippi, to an unmarried teenage mother. Her mother, Vernita Lee (1935–2018), was a housemaid.

Winfrey's biological father is usually noted as Vernon Winfrey (c. 1933–2022), a coal miner turned barber turned city councilman who was in the Armed Forces when she was born. However, Mississippi farmer and World War II Veteran Noah Robinson Sr. (born c. 1925) has claimed to be her biological father.

After Winfrey's birth, her mother traveled north, and Winfrey spent her first six years living in rural poverty with her maternal grandmother, Hattie Mae (Presley) Lee (April 15, 1900 – February 27, 1963). Her grandmother was so poor that Winfrey often wore dresses made of potato sacks, for which other children made fun of her.

At age six, Winfrey moved to an inner-city neighborhood in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, with her mother. At the age of eight, she was baptized in a Baptist church. In 1962, Winfrey was temporarily sent to live with her father Vernon in Nashville, Tennessee, as her mother had to work a lot and could not care of Oprah and her other kids well enough.

Winfrey attended Lincoln High School in Milwaukee. When she got successful in the Upward Bound program, she was transferred to the affluent suburban Nicolet High School. At this time, Winfrey was continually reminded of her poverty as she rode the bus to school with fellow African-Americans, some of whom were servants of her classmates' families.

She began to rebel and steal money from her mother in an effort to keep up with her free-spending peers. As a result, her mother once again sent her to live with Vernon in Nashville, although this time she did not take her back. Vernon was strict but encouraging, and made her education a priority. Winfrey became an honors student, was voted Most Popular Girl, and joined her high school speech team at East Nashville High School, placing second in the nation in dramatic interpretation.

She had won an oratory contest and got a full scholarship to Tennessee State University, a historically black institution. She studied communication. However, she did not deliver her final paper and receive her degree until 1987, by which time she was a successful television personality.


The Oprah Winfrey Show

Oprah Winfrey 1997
Winfrey in 1997

The first episode The Oprah Winfrey Show was broadcast nationwide on September 8, 1986 and displaced Donahue as the number-one daytime talk show in America.

In the early years of The Oprah Winfrey Show, the program was classified as a tabloid talk show. In the mid-1990s, Winfrey began to host shows on broader topics such as heart disease, geopolitics, spirituality, and meditation. She interviewed celebrities on social issues they were directly involved with, such as cancer, charity work, or personal struggles, and hosted televised giveaways.

The viewership for The Oprah Winfrey Show was highest during the 1991–92 season, when about 13.1 million U.S. viewers were watching each day. By 2003, ratings declined to 7.4 million daily viewers. Ratings briefly rebounded to approximately 9 million in 2005 and then declined again to around 7.3 million viewers in 2008, though it remained the highest rated talk show.

In 2008, Winfrey's show was airing in 140 countries internationally and seen by an estimated 46 million people in the US weekly. According to the Harris poll, Winfrey was America's favorite television personality in 1998, 2000, 2002–06, and 2009. Winfrey was especially popular among women, Democrats, political moderates, Baby Boomers, Generation X, Southern Americans, and East Coast Americans.

The series finale of The Oprah Winfrey Show aired on May 25, 2011.

Other ventures

In addition to her talk show, Winfrey also produced and co-starred in the drama miniseries The Women of Brewster Place (1989) and its short-lived spin-off, Brewster Place. As well as hosting and appearing on television shows, Winfrey co-founded the women's cable television network Oxygen which was the initial network for her Oprah After the Show program from 2002 to 2006 before moving to when Winfrey sold her stake in the network. She is also the president of Harpo Productions (Oprah spelled backwards), a film and TV production company behind The Oprah Winfrey Show, Dr. Phil, Rachael Ray, The Dr. Oz Show and many others. She also moderated three ABC Afterschool Specials from 1992 to 1994.

On January 15, 2008, Winfrey and Discovery Communications announced plans to change Discovery Health Channel into a new channel called OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network. It was scheduled to launch in 2009 but was delayed, and actually launched on January 1, 2011.

In January 2017, CBS announced that Winfrey would join 60 Minutes as a special contributor on the Sunday evening news magazine program starting in September 2017. Winfrey left 60 Minutes by the end of 2018.

In June 2018, Apple announced a multi-year content partnership with Winfrey, in which it was agreed that Winfrey would create new original programs exclusively for Apple's streaming service, Apple TV+. The first show under the deal, Oprah's Book Club, premiered on November 1, 2019. Oprah's Book Club is based on the segment of the same name from The Oprah Winfrey Show. The second show under the deal, Oprah Talks COVID-19, debuted on March 21, 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic. A third show, The Oprah Conversation debuted on July 30, 2020, with Winfrey "[continuing] to explore impactful and relevant topics with fascinating thought leaders from all over the world".

"The Oprah Effect"

The power of Winfrey's opinions and endorsement to influence public opinion, especially consumer purchasing choices, has been dubbed "the Oprah Effect". The effect has been documented or alleged in domains as diverse as book sales, beef markets, and election voting. Late in 1996, Winfrey introduced the Oprah's Book Club segment to her television show. The segment focused on new books and classics and often brought obscure novels to popular attention. The book club became such a powerful force that whenever Winfrey introduced a new book as her book-club selection, it instantly became a best-seller; for example, when she selected the classic John Steinbeck novel East of Eden, it soared to the top of the book charts. Being recognized by Winfrey often means a million additional book sales for an author.

Personal life

Aerial view of Oprah's Montecito estate

At 13, Winfrey ran away from home. When she was 14, she became pregnant, but her son was born prematurely and died shortly after birth.

In the 1970s, Winfrey had a romantic relationship with John Tesh. In the mid-1980s, Winfrey briefly dated movie critic Roger Ebert.

Winfrey and her partner Stedman Graham have been together since 1986. They were engaged to be married in November 1992, but the ceremony never took place.

Close friends

Oprah Winfrey (2004)
Winfrey celebrating her 50th birthday among friends at her Santa Barbara estate, 2004

Winfrey's best friend since their early twenties is Gayle King. King was formerly the host of The Gayle King Show and is currently an editor of O, the Oprah Magazine.

Winfrey has also had a long friendship with Maria Shriver, after they met in Baltimore. Winfrey considered Maya Angelou, author of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, her mentor and close friend; she called Angelou her "mother-sister-friend". Winfrey hosted a week-long Caribbean cruise for Angelou and 150 guests for Angelou's 70th birthday in 1998, and in 2008, threw her "an extravagant 80th birthday celebration" at Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Florida.

Personal wealth

Winfrey became a millionaire at the age of 32 when her talk show received national syndication. Winfrey negotiated ownership rights to the television program and started her own production company.

At the age of 41, Winfrey had a net worth of $340 million and replaced Bill Cosby as the only African American on the Forbes 400. By 2000, with a net worth of $800 million, Winfrey is believed to have been the richest African American of the 20th century. By 2008, her yearly income had increased to $275 million.

Forbes' list of The World's Billionaires has listed Winfrey as the world's only black billionaire from 2004 to 2006 and as the first black woman billionaire in the world that was achieved in 2003. As of 2014, Winfrey had a net worth in excess of 2.9 billion dollars and had overtaken former eBay CEO Meg Whitman as the richest self-made woman in America.

Religious views

Oprah was raised a Baptist. Oprah has stated that she is a Christian and her favorite Bible verse is Acts 17:28. Oprah attends The Potter's House Church, Dallas service, an Evangelical church.


FEMA - 15330 - Photograph by Andrea Booher taken on 09-09-2005 in Texas
Winfrey visits evacuees from New Orleans temporarily sheltered at the Reliant center in Houston following Hurricane Katrina

In 2004, Winfrey became the first black person to rank among the 50 most generous Americans and she remained among the top 50 until 2010. By 2012, she had given away about $400 million to educational causes.

As of 2012, Winfrey had also given over 400 scholarships to Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia. Winfrey was the recipient of the first Bob Hope Humanitarian Award at the 2002 Emmy Awards for services to television and film. To celebrate two decades on national TV, and to thank her employees for their hard work, Winfrey took her staff and their families (1,065 people in total) on vacation to Hawaii in the summer of 2006.

In 2013, Winfrey donated $12 million to the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture. President Barack Obama awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom later that same year.

In 1998, Winfrey created the Oprah's Angel Network, a charity that supported charitable projects and provided grants to nonprofit organizations around the world. Oprah's Angel Network raised more than $80 million ($1 million of which was donated by Jon Bon Jovi). Winfrey personally covered all administrative costs associated with the charity, so 100% of all funds raised went to charity programs. In May 2010, with Oprah's show ending, the charity stopped accepting donations and was shut down.

In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, Oprah created the Oprah Angel Network Katrina registry which raised more than $11 million for relief efforts. Winfrey personally gave $10 million to the cause. Homes were built in Texas, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Alabama before the one-year anniversary of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

Interesting facts about Oprah Winfrey

Oprah Winfrey 2010
Winfrey at the White House for the 2010 Kennedy Center Honors
  • Her first name was spelled Orpah on her birth certificate after the biblical figure in the Book of Ruth, but people mispronounced it regularly and "Oprah" stuck.
  • Winfrey's grandmother, Hattie Mae, taught her to read before the age of three and took her to the local church, where she was nicknamed "The Preacher" for her ability to recite Bible verses.
  • Winfrey acknowledged her grandmother's influence, saying it was Hattie Mae who had encouraged her to speak in public and "gave me a positive sense of myself".
  • As a child, she played games interviewing her corncob doll and the crows on the fence of her family's property.
  • A genetic test in 2006 determined that her matrilineal line originated among the Kpelle ethnic group, in the area that today is Liberia. Her genetic makeup was determined to be 89% Sub-Saharan African, 8% Native American, and 3% East Asian.
  • Winfrey had three younger half-siblings: half-sister Patricia (died in February 2003 at age 43), another half-sister named Patricia (she was put up for adoption) and half-brother Jeffrey, who died of AIDS-related causes in 1989.
  • Winfrey's first job as a teenager was working at a local grocery store.
  • At the age of 17, Winfrey won the Miss Black Tennessee beauty pageant.
  • Winfrey started her career in media as a newscaster at a local black radio station, WVOL, in Nashville, Tennessee.
  • Winfrey co-starred in Steven Spielberg's The Color Purple (1985), as distraught housewife Sofia. She was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her performance.
  • In 1989, she was accepted into the NAACP Image Award Hall of Fame.
  • In the 2008 presidential race, Winfrey endorsed Barack Obama.
  • The National Museum of African American History and Culture in 2018 opened a special exhibit on Winfrey's cultural influence through television.
  • Her 1993 interview with Michael Jackson became the fourth most-watched event in American television history as well as the most watched interview ever, with an audience of 36.5 million.
  • In 2021, she conducted an interview with Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, and her husband Prince Harry, which was broadcast globally and received international media attention.
  • Winfrey has co-authored five books.
  • She publishes the magazine: O, The Oprah Magazine and from 2004 to 2008 also published a magazine called O At Home.
  • Winfrey's company created the website to provide resources and interactive content related to her shows, magazines, book club, and public charity. averages more than 70 million page views and more than six million users per month, and receives approximately 20,000 e-mails each week.
  • Oprah is often listed among the most influential and powerful people in the world.
  • The Wall Street Journal coined the term "Oprahfication", meaning public confession as a form of therapy.

Oprah Winfrey quotes

  • “Turn your wounds into wisdom.”
  • “You can have it all. Just not all at once.”
  • “Be thankful for what you have; you'll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don't have, you will never, ever have enough.”
  • “The biggest adventure you can ever take is to live the life of your dreams.”
  • “Surround yourself only with people who are going to take you higher.”
  • “You get in life what you have the courage to ask for.”
  • “You don't become what you want, you become what you believe.”


Images for kids


As actress

Year Title Role Notes
1985 The Color Purple Sofia Nominated – Academy Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role
Nominated – Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress – Motion Picture
Nominated – Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award for Best Supporting Actress
1986 Native Son Mrs. Thomas
1989 The Women of Brewster Place Mattie Michael TV miniseries
1990 Brewster Place Mattie Michael TV series
1992 Lincoln Elizabeth Keckley Voice role; TV movie (ABC)
There Are No Children Here LaJoe Rivers TV movie (ABC)
1997 Ellen Therapist "The Puppy Episode: Part 1" (#4.22)
“Part 2" (#4.23)
Before Women Had Wings Zora Williams Producer;
TV movie (ABC)
1998 Beloved Sethe Producer;
Nominated – NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actress in a Motion Picture
1999 Our Friend, Martin Coretta Scott King Voice role; Direct-to-video film
2006 Charlotte's Web Gussy the Goose Voice role
2007 Bee Movie Judge Bumbleton
2009 The Princess and the Frog Eudora
2010 Sesame Street O Voice role; "The Camouflage Challenge"
2013 The Butler Gloria Gaines African-American Film Critics Association Award for Best Supporting Actress;
Santa Barbara International Film Festival — Montecito Award;
Nominated – BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role;
Nominated – Black Reel Award for Best Supporting Actress;
Nominated – Broadcast Film Critics Association Award for Best Supporting Actress;
Nominated – Denver Film Critics Society Award for Best Supporting Actress;
Nominated – NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture;
Nominated – Phoenix Film Critics Society Award for Best Supporting Actress;
Nominated – Satellite Award for Best Supporting Actress – Motion Picture;
Nominated – Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role;
Nominated – Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture
2014 Selma Annie Lee Cooper Producer;
Women Film Critics Circle Award for Best Female Action Star;
Nominated – Academy Award for Best Picture;
Nominated – Independent Spirit Award for Best Film;
Nominated – NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture
2016–17 Greenleaf Mavis McCready TV series; Executive producer
2017 The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks Deborah Lacks TV movie; Executive producer;
Nominated – NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actress in a Television Movie, Mini-Series or Dramatic Special;
Nominated – Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Television Movie
The Star Deborah the Camel Voice role
2018 A Wrinkle in Time Mrs. Which
Crow: The Legend The One Who Creates Everything by Thinking Voice role
2018–19 The Handmaid's Tale Radio Free America Announcer
TBA Six Triple Eight Filming

As herself

Year Title Role Notes
1986 Saturday Night Live Herself (host) Episode: "Oprah Winfrey/Joe Jackson"
1986–2011 The Oprah Winfrey Show Herself Television talk show
1987 Throw Momma from the Train Film
1990 Gabriel's Fire Episode: "Tis the Season"
1992 The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air Episode: "A Night at the Oprah"
1995 All-American Girl Episode: "A Night at the Oprah"
1999 Home Improvement Episode: "Home Alone"
The Hughleys Episode: "Milsap Moves Up"
2005 Desperate Housewives: Oprah Winfrey Is the New Neighbor Herself, Karen Stouffer Segment for The Oprah Winfrey Show, aired February 3, 2005
2007 Ocean's Thirteen Herself Film
2008 30 Rock Herself/Pam Episode: "Believe in the Stars"
2011–18 Oprah's Master Class Herself OWN reality show
2011–14 Oprah's Lifeclass OWN self-help show
2011–present Super Soul Sunday OWN spirituality show
2012–15 Oprah Prime OWN interview show
2012–17 Oprah: Where Are They Now? OWN reality show
2019 A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood Archive footage
2019–present Oprah's Book Club Apple TV+ book club show
2020–present Oprah Talks COVID-19 Apple TV+ interview show
2020–present The Oprah Conversation Apple TV+ talk show
2020 Between the World and Me HBO Special - adaptation of the book
2021 Tina Documentary
Oprah with Meghan and Harry CBS Primetime Special
The Me You Can't See Apple TV+ docuseries
Adele One Night Only CBS Primetime Special
TBD Oprah Winfrey Documentary Apple TV+

As producer only

  • 1989 – The Oprah Winfrey Show (supervising producer – 8 episodes, 1989–2011)
  • 1989 – The Women of Brewster Place (TV miniseries) (executive producer)
  • 1992 – Nine (TV documentary) (executive producer)
  • 1992 – Overexposed (TV movie) (executive producer)
  • 1993 – ABC Afterschool Special (TV series) (producer – 1 episode "Shades of a Single Protein") (producer)
  • 1993 – Michael Jackson Talks to... Oprah Live (TV special) (executive producer)
  • 1997 – Before Women Had Wings (TV movie) (producer)
  • 1998 – The Wedding (TV miniseries) (executive producer)
  • 1998 – Beloved (producer)
  • 1998 – David and Lisa (TV movie) (executive producer)
  • 1999 – Tuesdays with Morrie (TV movie) (executive producer)
  • 2001 – Amy & Isabelle (TV movie) (executive producer, producer)
  • 2002 – Oprah After the Show (TV series) (executive producer)
  • 2005 – Their Eyes Were Watching God (TV movie) (executive producer)
  • 2006 – Legends Ball (TV documentary) (executive producer)
  • 2007 – Oprah's Big Give (TV series) (executive producer)
  • 2007 – The Oprah Winfrey Oscar Special (TV movie) (executive producer)
  • 2007 – Building a Dream: The Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy (TV documentary) (executive producer)
  • 2007 – Oprah Winfrey Presents: Mitch Albom's For One More Day (TV movie) (executive producer)
  • 2007 – The Great Debaters (producer)
  • 2009 – The Dr. Oz Show (TV series) (executive producer)
  • 2009 – Precious (executive producer)
  • 2009 – Christmas at the White House: An Oprah Primetime Special (TV special) (executive producer)
  • 2010 – The Oprah Winfrey Oscar Special (TV movie) (executive producer)
  • 2011 – Your OWN Show (TV series) (executive producer)
  • 2011 – Extraordinary Mom (TV documentary) (executive producer)
  • 2011 – Serving Life (TV documentary) (executive producer)
  • 2014 – The Hundred-Foot Journey (producer)
  • 2014 – Selma (producer)
  • 2016–present – Queen Sugar (co-creator and executive producer)
  • 2016–2020 – Greenleaf (executive producer)
  • 2017 – The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (TV movie) (executive producer)
  • 2018 – Love Is (executive producer)
  • 2019 – When They See Us (executive producer)
  • 2019 – Oprah Winfrey Presents: After Neverland (executive producer)
  • 2019 – David Makes Man (executive producer)
  • 2020 – The Water Man (executive producer)
  • 2023 – The Color Purple (producer)

See also

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