Oprah Winfrey (1954 – ) Influential talk show host, author, philanthropist, actress and media personality. Oprah Winfrey has played a key role in modern American life, shaping cultural trends and promoting various liberal causes. Through her talk shows and books, she has focused on many issues facing American women. She has been an important role model for black American women, breaking down many invisible barriers.
“The biggest adventure you can ever take is to live the life of your dreams.”
– Oprah Winfrey
Oprah Winfrey was born in Kosciusko, Mississippi. Her parents were unmarried and separated soon after conception. Oprah had a difficult childhood. She lived in great poverty and often had to dress in potato sacks for which she was mocked at school. She was also sexually abused at an early age.
“Turn your wounds into wisdom.”
– Oprah Winfrey
From the age of 14, she went to live with her father. Oprah says he was strict, but she was in the mood to be disobedient during her teenage years. After working her way through college, she became interested in journalism and media and got her first job as a news anchor for a local TV station.
Her emotional style did not go down well for a news programme, so she was transferred to an ailing daytime chat programme. After Oprah had taken over, the daily chat show took off, and this later led to her own programme – The Oprah Winfrey Show.
The Oprah Winfrey show has proved to be one of the most successful and highly watched TV show of all time. It has broken many social and cultural barriers such as gay and lesbian issues. Oprah has also remained a powerful role model for women and black American women in particular. She is credited with promoting an intimate confessional form of media communication, which has been imitated across the globe.
In recent years, the Oprah Winfrey show has focused on issues of self-improvement, spirituality and self-help. Diet has also been a big issue with Oprah once successfully losing a lot of weight. Her subsequent diet book sold millions of copies.
Oprah Winfrey has promoted many spiritual books, which have focused on the aspect of taking responsibility for your life – not changing your circumstances, but changing the way you look at your life.
“What I learned at a very early age was that I was responsible for my life. And as I became more spiritually conscious, I learned that we all are responsible for ourselves, that you create your own reality by the way you think and therefore act. You cannot blame apartheid, your parents, your circumstances, because you are not your circumstances. You are your possibilities. If you know that, you can do anything.”
– O Magazine (January 2007), pages 160 & 217
Her range of media enterprises have made Oprah one of the richest self-made women. The Forbes’ international rich list has listed Winfrey as the world’s only black billionaire from 2004 to 2006 and as the first black woman billionaire in world history.In 2014 Winfrey has a net worth of more than 2.9 billion dollars.
The Oprah Winfrey book club has become the most influential book clubs in the world. A recommendation from Oprah Winfrey frequently sends books to the top of the best-seller lists. Many commentators agree that Oprah Winfrey exerts enormous influence. Some estimated her support for Barack Obama helped him gain one million votes in the 2008 election.
As Vanity Fair said of Oprah Winfrey:
“Oprah Winfrey arguably has more influence on the culture than any university president, politician, or religious leader, except perhaps the Pope”
Oprah Winfrey was also nominated for an Oscar in the film – A Color Purple. Produced by Steven Spielberg, the epic Color Purple told of segregation in America’s deep south. Oprah was widely admired for her role as Sofia.
Support for Obama
From 2006 to 2008, she lent her support to the Presidential campaign of Barack Obama. Her influence and personal following played a key role in helping Obama to become the first African-American to become president.
In 2013, Oprah gained a unique interview with the professional cyclist, Lance Armstrong. It was on Oprah that Armstrong finally made a dramatic confession that he had used performance-enhancing drugs during his cycling career.
Oprah Winfrey has been critical of the presidency of Donald Trump and on various occasions has hinted she would be interested in the possibility of running as a Democrat for president. However, she later clarified her view and says a presidential bid is unlikely because
“I’ve always felt very secure and confident with myself in knowing what I could do and what I could not,” she told the magazine. “And so it’s not something that interests me. I don’t have the DNA for it.” CNN
Citation: Pettinger, Tejvan. “Biography of Oprah Winfrey”, Oxford, UK www.biographyonline.net, 25th Jan. 2013. Last updated 5 March 2018.
The Oprah Winfrey Show: Reflections on an American Legacy
Oprah Winfrey at Amazon
The Wisdom of Sundays: Life-Changing Insights from Super Soul Conversations by Oprah Winfrey at Amazon
Women who changed the world – Famous women who changed the world. Features female Prime Ministers, scientists, cultural figures, authors and royalty. Includes; Princess Diana, Marie Curie, Queen Victoria, and Catherine the Great.
Famous Americans – Great Americans from the Founding Fathers to modern civil rights activists. Including presidents, authors, musicians, entrepreneurs and businessmen. Featuring Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Madonna, Oprah Winfrey.
Famous Entrepreneurs – Famous businessmen and women. Including Bill Gates, Richard Branson, Donald Trump, Oprah Winfrey, Henry Ford and Steve Jobs.
“The Oprah Winfrey Show”. Her show is known to not only all over the United States, but also known to all around the world. Today she is known as the America’s most famous and powerful woman. Every woman in America envies her great fortune and her intelligence. But Oprah insists that she is not special or gifted. She had overcome many hurdles and reached to the top of America’s national T.V host. What makes her so popular and most loved entertainer in the United States?
Oprah Winfrey, a talk show host, actress, producer and philanthropist, and business woman is the chairwoman of HARPO entertainment in Chicago. She joins the elite company of Lucille Ball and Mary Pickford, as the only woman in T.V and film to own their own production studios. Through HARPO productions, she produces and hosts America’s number one popular show, “The Oprah Winfrey show”. (Oprah Winfrey talk show bio 1997 p.1) Today many woman in America envies her life; her popularity, intelligence and her great fortunes. Though her success was gained from her hard work and education. She did not have any special background to be a most loved woman in America. She has overcame number of obstacles that most people have encountered in their own lives. She had to deal with poverty, sexual abuse, racism as a child, and her lifelong battle with weight.
Oprah Gail Winfrey was born in Kosciusko, Mississippi on January 29, 1954. As a child, she moved to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, then moved back to Nashville. She has lived through poverty, repeated sexual abuse, and a sentence to a juvenile delinquent home. (Hyde 1997 p.57) Oprah was crowned Miss. Black Tennessee at age 19. In 1973. She left Tennessee State University and became a newscaster for WTVF in Nashville. Three years later, Oprah became a news anchor in Baltimore at an ABC station but after 9 months, she was pulled off the air because of an emotional ad-lib delivery. She eventually ended up in Chicago hosting a morning show called “AM Chicago”. In less than a year, the show became number one and was expanded to one hour and re-named “The Oprah Winfrey Show”. (http://pilot.msu.edu/user/bresnah2/oprahbio.htm 1997 p.1) From there, she has been an actress in the “Color Purple”, “The women of Breuster place” and “There are no children here”.(Oprah Winfrey)
Today, “The Oprah Winfrey Show” is the highest rated talk show in T.V history, and seen by 15 to 20 million viewers a day in the United States and is in 132 countries. Since entering syndication in 1986, “The Oprah Winfrey Show” has remained the number one talk show for 10 consecutive seasons, receiving 25 Emmys. At the end of 1996, Oprah was honored with the most prestigious award in broadcasting, the George Foster Peaboy’s Individual Achievement Award. She also received the IRTS Gold Medal Award, and was recognized by Time magazine as one of “America’s 25 most influential people of 1996”.(Oprah Winfrey talk show bio 1997 p1)
According to US news & World Report, Oprah has an ability called “Oprah effect”. It is her ability to make a connection with ordinary women and through that connection, she makes herself one of the most popular women (Dickerson 1997 p.10) In spite of her wealth, she has a public’s taste. She knows what ordinary women want, whatare their troubles and what they are crazy about. Stuart Fishoff, professor of media psychology at UCLA says, “viewers want to be around someone like themselves. They want a nonthreatning person they can identify with. And Oprah has a lot of same problems that many of these women has and can relate to. Viewers have no trouble envisioning her sitting home at the kitchen table in sweats and no makeup, drinking caffeine and chomping a Danish”.(Stanley 1997 p.34) This feeling of closeness is Oprah’s strongest point that makes her a billionaire. And to get more close with publics, Oprah picks up a book every six weeks and asks audience to talk about the title.
What makes her popular are not only her talent as an entertainer but also her talent as a good announcer. She has all requirements that are necessary for a good announcer. First, she always research and prepare about the topic of the day before the show. This preparation and research makes her able to answer any kind of controversial issues. And she is always able to support both sides of the issue and never makes the audience unsatisfied or misleaded. Second, she has a high self esteem. She always has confidence and are full of energy. Loosing many weights gave her more confidence and higher self-esteem and made her show even better than before. Third, she shows respects to audience and guests by listening really well to their opinions. She answers them with direct eye contact and with rational answers. Other characteristics that makes her a good announcer are her usage of appropriate words and language. She knows what words are appropriate to which races and ages. For an example, she knows some words which are O.K. to Afro-Americans but are taboo to White-Americans. She also shows interest in any kind of topics. This comes from her adventurous spirit and her eagerness to learn something new. She always talks in nice tempo and rates so that audience can follow her. And finally, she is very unique and funny that has a talent to make the other laugh. With these characteristics and her hard work, Oprah has become the best entertainer in American talk show.
Today Oprah is the highest-paid woman in entertainment. Her show is not just an entertainment but she deals with social problems which exist in all around the world. And she contributes her self and her show to make the country better. People not only praise her intelligence but her efforts to deal with these social issues. Today Oprah is using her philantrophic efforts to establish educational scholarship for hundreds of students in school and Universities throughout country, including 100 men at Morehouse University in Atlanta, Georgia.(Oprah Winfrey talk show bio P.2) By September 15th, she is obligated to inform whether she will continue for another two year hitch after 1997-98 season.(Schlosser 1997 p.10) It is uncertain that whether she will still keep hosting her show or not, though many women are hoping her to remain in the show and share her power and intelligence with them. Oprah’s effect on T.V is so great that since she started to appear on the show, many similar talk shows increased dramatically. And most of these talk show hosts are very popular just like Oprah. Though I believe no one among them can influence American women just like Oprah did.
1. Benezra, K. (1997). Products pitch talk hosts. Media week, pp. 6.
2. Dickerson, D (1997). A womans’s woman. U.S News & World Report. pp.10.
3. Hyde, W.S (1991). Television and Radio Announcing. Boston:Houghton Mifflin Company.
4. Schlosser, J (1997). Oprah watch. Broadcasting & Cable. pp. 10.
5. Stanley, T.L (1997). What they’ve got. Media week. pp. 34-35.
6. http://pilot.msu.edu/user/bresnah2/oprabio.htm. (1997). Oprah Winfrey. pp1.
7. http://www.datalist.idsite.com/oprah-table.html. (1997). Oprah Winfrey. pp1.
8. http://www.tvtalkshows.com/oprah/bio/. (1997). Oprah Winfrey Talk Show Bio. pp1-2.
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