Oprah Winfrey's Official Biography
Through the power of media, Oprah Winfrey has created an unparalleled connection with people around the world. As host and supervising producer of the top-rated, award-winning The Oprah Winfrey Show, she entertained, enlightened and uplifted millions of viewers for 25 years. Her accomplishments as a global media leader and philanthropist have established her as one of the most respected and admired public figures today.
Take a moment to scroll through Oprah Winfrey's interactive biography and timeline.
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In 1984, Oprah moved to Chicago to host WLS-TV's morning talk show, AM Chicago, which became the number one local talk show—surpassing ratings for Donahue—just one month after she began. In less than a year, the show expanded to one hour and was renamed The Oprah Winfrey Show. It entered national syndication in 1986, becoming the highest-rated talk show in television history. In 1988, she established Harpo Studios, making her the third woman in the American entertainment industry (after Mary Pickford and Lucille Ball) to own her own studio.
Produced by Oprah's Harpo Studios, The Oprah Winfrey Show entertained, enlightened and uplifted millions of viewers for 25 years. The show reached more than 40 million viewers a week in the United States as the top-rated talk show and was licensed to 150 countries internationally.
In 2008, Oprah and Discovery Communications announced plans to create OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network, the first and only network named for, and inspired by, a single iconic leader. Oprah's heart and creative instincts inform the brand—and the magnetism of the channel. Oprah provides leadership in programming and attracts superstar talent to join her in primetime, building a global community of like-minded viewers and leading that community to connect on social media and beyond. OWN is a joint venture between Harpo, Inc. and Discovery Communications. The network debuted on January 1, 2011 and is available in 85 million homes. The venture also includes the award-winning digital platform Oprah.com. Effective July 2011, Oprah assumed the positions of Chairman, Chief Executive Officer and Chief Creative Officer for the network.
Oprah's Lifeclass is a true multi-platform experience with million of students from over 200 countries around the world engaging with Oprah on-air, online and via social media. In the popular series, Oprah and handpicked experts interact with fans worldwide in inspiring conversations about principles that guide our lives. The series, which is also live streamed at Oprah.com and Facebook, features a digital classroom with course work to accompany episode themes.
In 1998, Harpo Films produced the critically acclaimed Beloved, a Touchstone Pictures feature film based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Toni Morrison, which co-starred Oprah and Danny Glover and was directed by Jonathan Demme.
On Christmas Day 2007, co-producers Harpo Films and The Weinstein Company released The Great Debaters, which was directed by Academy Award®-winner Denzel Washington who also stars in the film with Academy Award®-winner Forest Whitaker. The Great Debaters received a Golden Globe® nomination for Best Motion Picture. In fall 2009, Oprah Winfrey and Tyler Perry supported Lionsgate's distribution of Precious, based on the novel by Sapphire.
Oprah made her acting debut in 1985 as "Sofia" in Steven Spielberg's The Color Purple, for which she received both Academy Award® and Golden Globe® nominations. She also has been lauded for her performances in the made-fortelevision movies Before Women Had Wings (1997), There Are No Children Here (1993), and The Women of Brewster Place (1989). She also has lent her voice to animated feature films, including Charlotte's Web (2006), Bee Movie (2007) and The Princess and the Frog (2009). Most recently, Oprah wrapped production in the summer of 2012 on Lee Daniels' The Butler which was released nationwide on August 16, 2013.
In March 2008, Oprah.com launched the first international interactive webinar series in conjunction with the Book Club selection A New Earth. The groundbreaking live multimedia sessions taught by Oprah and author Eckhart Tolle, have been downloaded or streamed more than 35 million times. For each chapter, Oprah.com users could capture their thoughts and new perspectives within their own personal online workbook.
Oprah.com averages 43 million page views, 6.5 million unique users per month and has close to 7 million members.
In December 2002, The Oprah Winfrey Foundation expanded its global humanitarian efforts with her "Christmas Kindness South Africa 2002" initiative that included visits to orphanages and rural schools in South Africa where 50,000 children received gifts of food, clothing, athletic shoes, school supplies, books and toys. Sixty-three schools received libraries and teacher education.
During a December 2000 visit with Nelson Mandela, Oprah pledged to build a school in South Africa. As that commitment broadened, she established The Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy Foundation, to which she has contributed more than $40 million toward the creation of the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls—South Africa, which opened in January 2007 and now serves grades 7 through 12. Located in a 28-building campus in Henley-on-Klip, the Leadership Academy is a state-of-the-art independent school that engenders high standards of academic achievement and service leadership for girls from all nine South African provinces who show outstanding promise despite their impoverished backgrounds and social circumstances. Her vision is that the Leadership Academy will help develop the future women leaders of South Africa. On January 21, 2012, seventy-two students became the first-ever graduating class of the school.
In a 1997 episode of The Oprah Winfrey Show, Oprah encouraged viewers to use their lives to make a difference in the lives of others, which led to the creation of the public charity Oprah's Angel Network in 1998. Oprah's Angel Network raised more than $80 million, with 100% of the donations funding charitable projects and grants across the globe. Oprah's Angel Network helped establish 60 schools in 13 countries, create scholarships, support women's shelters, and build youth centers and homes—changing the future for people all over the world. The Angel Network distributed its final grants, six $1 million donations to U.S. charter schools, in September 2010.
Oprah's commitment to children also led her to initiate the National Child Protection Act in 1991, when she testified before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee to establish a national database of convicted child abusers. On December 20, 1993, President Clinton signed the national "Oprah Bill" into law.
- Recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom
- Spelman College—National Community Service Award
- The Board of Governors of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences—Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award/Honorary Academy Award
- National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences—Crystal Pillar Award
- TIME Magazine—100 Most Influential People in the World. She is the only person to have been included in all eight of TIME'S 100 Most Influential People in World lists, from 2004-2011.
- The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts—Kennedy Center Honors
- The Women's Conference (California)—Minerva Award
- The Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity—2007 Humanitarian Award
- The New York Public Library—Library Lion 2006
- National Association for the Advancement of Colored People—Hall of Fame
- National Civil Rights Museum—2005 National Freedom Award
- International Academy of Television Arts & Sciences—2005 International Emmy Founders Award
- United Nations Association of the United States of America—Global Humanitarian Action Award
- National Association of Broadcasters—Distinguished Service Award
- Association of American Publishers—AAP Honors Award
- 54th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards®—Bob Hope Humanitarian Award
- Broadcasting & Cable—Hall of Fame
- National Book Foundation—50th Anniversary Gold Medal
- National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences®—Lifetime Achievement Award
- TIME Magazine—100 Most Influential People of the 20th Century
- Newsweek—Most Important Person in Books and Media
- TV Guide—Television Performer of the Year
- International Radio & Television Society Foundation—Gold Medal Award
- George Foster Peabody Awards—1995 Individual Achievement Award