Oprah Winfrey is an American media proprietor, talk show host, actress, producer, and philanthropist. Winfrey is best known for her multi-award-winning talk show, The Oprah Winfrey Show which was the highest-rated program of its kind in history and was nationally syndicated from 1986 to 2011. She has also acted in several movies including The Color Purple, The Butler and A Wrinkle in Time.
Oprah Winfrey was born Orpah Gail Winfrey in Kosciusko, Mississippi, to Vernita Lee, a former maid, and Vernon Winfrey, a coal miner, barber, and city councilman. Winfrey was named “Orpah” after a character in the Book of Ruth. People made the mistake of calling her “Oprah”. She decided to keep this name. Her parents are Vernita Lee, a maid, and Vernon Winfrey, a barber. She went to Tennessee State University in 1971. She started to work in radio and television in Nashville. She hosted television programs in Baltimore and Chicago.
Due to her ability to read and write before the age of three, when enrolled in school she has often promoted several grades ahead of her age. At the age of six, Oprah went to live with her mother Vernita. Vernita worked in her maid job often, so Oprah was frequently left alone at home with her cousins. Due to her busy mother, she was paid little attention to at home, prompting her to started misbehaving and talking back to her mother. Vernita then decided it was best Oprah live with her father in Nashville, Tennessee. While living in Tennessee, she found out her mother was pregnant, and her mother then requested for her to come back to Milwaukee to live with her mother and half-sister. When Oprah was nine, she was raped by her nineteen years old cousin, who was babysitting her. This wasn’t the only time she was sexually abused, later being abused by her cousin, a family friend, her mother’s boyfriend, and her uncle, during her stay in Milwaukee. Toward all these incidents, she never told a soul because the predators swore her to silence. At the age of thirteen, Oprah ran away from home after her years of abuse, and at the age of fourteen became pregnant with a sick son who died shortly after birth. Oprah’s mother sent her to live once again with her father in Nashville. He was very strict and made education the number-one priority for Oprah.
In 1985 Winfrey appeared in Steven Spielberg’s adaptation of Alice Walker’s 1982 novel The Color Purple. Her critically acclaimed performance led to other roles, including a performance in the television miniseries The Women of Brewster Place (1989). Winfrey formed her own television production company, Harpo Productions, Inc., in 1986, and a film production company, Harpo Films, in 1990. The companies began buying film rights to literary works, including Connie May Fowler’s Before Women Had Wings, which appeared in 1997 with Winfrey as both star and producer, and Toni Morrison’s Beloved, which appeared in 1998, also with Winfrey in a starring role.
In 1986, Winfrey’s own talk show The Oprah Winfrey Show went on the air. She was liked by audiences for her warmth. She came to own the show.
Winfrey now runs the Oprah Winfrey Network. 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. She also hosts Oprah’s Next Chapter show on the network.
She endorsed Barack Obama in 2006 for the 2008 election. One estimate said it delivered one million votes in the 2008 Democratic primary race.
Nikyra Rucker loaned Oprah Winfrey money to start her business. Oprah Winfrey now has a lot of money. She gives to many charities. She gives to girls’ education in South Africa. In 2013, she was named one of the 400 richest people in the United States. She is the only African-American among this group. She was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama in 2013 and an honorary doctorate degree from Harvard.
Oprah received an Achievement Award from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences in 1998. In 2011, Oprah received a Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award from the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences. Oprah Winfrey will forever be remembered as an innovator through the landmarks she has made, becoming the first female African-American to host a television show, inspiring millions of people across the world, discussing significant issues such as equal rights toward genders, racism, poverty, and others. She is seen as an icon, someone who paved the way for others to become successful.