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Oprah Winfrey > Wiki

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Oprah Gail Winfrey was born January 29, 1954, in Kosciusko, Mississippi. After a troubled adolescence in a small farming community, where she was sexually abused by a number of male relatives and friends of her mother, Vernita, she moved to Nashville< to live with her father, Vernon, a barber and businessman. She entered Tennessee State University in 1971 and began working in radio and television broadcasting in Nashville.

In 1976, Winfrey moved to Baltimore, where she hosted the TV chat show, People Are Talking. The show became a hit and Winfrey stayed with it for eight years, after which she was recruited by a Chicago TV station to host her own morning show, A.M. Chicago. Her major competitor in the time slot was Phil Donahue. Within several months, Winfrey's open, warm-hearted personal style had won her 100,000 more viewers than Donahue and had taken her show from last place to first in the ratings. Her success led to nationwide fame and a role in Steven Spielberg's 1985 film, The Color Purple, for which she was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress.

Winfrey launched the Oprah Winfrey Show in 1986 as a nationally syndicated program. With its placement on 120 channels and an audience of 10 million people, the show grossed $125 million by the end of its first year, of which Winfrey received $30 million. She soon gained ownership of the program from ABC, drawing it under the control of her new production company, Harpo Productions ('Oprah' spelled backwards) and making more and more money from syndication.

In 1994, with talk shows becoming increasingly trashy and exploitative, Winfrey pledged to keep her show free of tabloid topics. Although ratings initially fell, she earned the respect of her viewers and was soon rewarded with an upsurge in popularity. Her projects with Harpo have included the highly rated 1989 TV miniseries, The Women of Brewster Place, which she also starred in. Winfrey also signed a multi-picture contract with Disney. The initial project, 1998's Beloved, based on Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Toni Morrison and starring Winfrey and Danny Glover, got mixed reviews and generally failed to live up to expectations.

Winfrey, who became almost as well-known for her weight loss efforts as for her talk show, lost an estimated 90 pounds (dropping to her ideal weight of around 150 pounds) and competed in the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, DC, in 1995. In the wake of her highly publicized success, Winfrey's personal chef, Rosie Daley, and trainer, Bob Greene, both published best-selling books.

The media giant contributed immensely to the publishing world by launching her "Oprah's Book Club," as part of her talk show. The program propelled many unknown authors to the top of the bestseller lists and gave pleasure reading a new kind of popular prominence.

 

With the debut in 1999 of Oxygen Media, a company she co-founded that is dedicated to producing cable and Internet programming for women, Winfrey ensured her place in the forefront of the media industry and as one of the most powerful and wealthy people in show business. In 2002, she concluded a deal with the network to air a prime-time complement to her syndicated talk show. Her highly successful monthly, O: The Oprah Magazine debuted in 2000, and in 2004, she signed a new contract to continue The Oprah Winfrey Show through the 2010-11 season. The show is seen on 212 U.S. stations and in more than 100 countries worldwide.

According to Forbes magazine, Oprah was the richest African American of the 20th century and the world's only Black billionaire for three years running. Life magazine hailed her as the most influential woman of her generation. In 2005, Business Week named her the greatest Black philanthropist in American history. Oprah's Angel Network has raised more than $51,000,000 for charitable programs, including girls' education in South Africa and relief to the victims of Hurricane Katrina.

Winfrey is a dedicated activist for children's rights; in 1994, President Clinton signed a bill into law that Winfrey had proposed to Congress, creating a nationwide database of convicted child abusers. She founded the Family for Better Lives foundation and also contributes to her alma mater, Tennessee State University. In September, 2002, Oprah was named the first recipient of The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences' Bob Hope Humanitarian Award.

Winfrey campaigned for Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama in December 2007, attracting the largest crowds of the primary season to that point. Winfrey joined Obama for a series of rallies in the early primary/caucus states of Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina. It was the first time Winfrey had ever campaigned for a political candidate.

The biggest event was at the University of South Carolina football stadium, where 29,000 supporters attended a rally that had been switched from an 18,000-seat basketball arena to satisfy public demand.

"Dr. (Martin Luther) King dreamed the dream. But we don't have to just dream the dream any more," Oprah told the crowd. "We get to vote that dream into reality by supporting a man who knows not just who we are, but who we can be."

Winfrey also confronted Obama's chief perceived weakness: his lack of experience.

"Experience in the hallways of government isn't as important to me as the experience on the pathway of life," Winfrey said, citing the Illinois senator's achievements outside Washington.

The power of Winfrey's political endorsement was unclear (Obama won Iowa and South Carolina, but lost New Hampshire). But she has a clear track record of turning unknown authors into blockbuster best-sellers when she mentions their books on her program.

 

For Oprah, the campaign swing provided a much-welcomed respite from some controversies that put her in the news.

Recently, she was criticized by the victim of a vicious sexual attack in Central Park. Trisha Meili, then a 28-year-old investment banker, nearly died in the April 19, 1989, attack. She suffered a traumatic brain injury and spent five months at a rehabilitation hospital.

Meili broke her silence 13 years later and published a book, I Am the Central Park Jogger: A Story of Hope and Possibility. But while still concealing her identity, she was interviewed by Winfrey for the April 2002 edition of O, the talk show host's magazine. Winfrey asked Meili why she was running alone in the park at night (shortly before 10 p.m.). Meili told Winfrey she realized it was "not a smart thing to do," but that didn't justify the attack in which she was raped and severely beaten.

Fast forward five years.

Meili told New York 1 Nov. 14, 2007, that if she were asked the question again, she would say "If that isn't a blame the victim question, I don't know what is."

"It's like, 'Okay, so it's my fault that I was out there?'" said Meili, who has become an advocate for victims of sexual violence. "I think that's still one of the most difficult battles that sexual assault survivors and those who support them need to fight."

Five men convicted in the assault served prison time before DNA evidence confirmed the confession of another man, Matias Reyes, in 2002. He was already serving a life sentence on unrelated convictions.

A representative for Winfrey said the magazine was sorry to hear Meili's sentiments about the interview, saying that Winfrey "is and has always been an advocate for victims of sexual abuse of any kind."

Meili's criticism immediately followed "one of the most devastating, if not the most devastating," experience of Oprah's life. Winfrey told reporters on Nov. 5, 2007, that she cried when she heard allegations that a dormitory matron was abusing students at the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls in South Africa.

The matron, 27-year-old Virginia Makopo, was freed Nov. 5 on $450 bail. She faces 14 charges of indecent assault, assault and criminal injury committed against at least six students aged 13-15 and a 23-year-old at the school.

Winfrey said the woman's contract with the school wouldn't be renewed, and that the academy's screening process will be revised. Though she wasn't directly in charge of the screening process, Oprah said "the buck always stops" with her.

Winfrey had recently flown to South Africa for an emergency meeting with parents and school administrators at the campus near Johannesburg. A tearful Winfrey asked parents to forgive her for letting them down.

"I've disappointed you. I'm sorry. I'm so sorry," she said, according to numerous South African media reports.

The $40 million academy has been dogged by controversy since it opened in January 2007 with a star-studded launch attended by actor Sydney Poitier, singers Mariah Carey, Tina Turner and Mary J. Blige, comedian Chris Rock and filmmaker Spike Lee.

 

In March 2007, some parents complained the school was too strict and access was comparable to prison rules. Two months later, some parents complained that when they visited the school they had to go through a security gate.

Winfrey hand-selected the first class of 152 poor, mostly black pupils to attend the posh school, where tuition and board is free. The academy also provides its 450 students with textbooks, uniforms and meals.

Since 1992, Winfrey has been engaged to Stedman Graham, a public relations executive. The couple lives in Chicago, and Winfrey also has homes in Montecito, California, Rolling Prairie, Indiana, and Telluride, Colorado.

© 2009 A&E Television Networks. All rights reserved.

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FilmographyCharlotte's Web (1973 movie), Beloved, Emmanuel's Gift, The Color Purple
Nationality:  American
Birth Date:  January 29, 1954, Jan 29, 1954 12:00 A
Height:  66 inches
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Quick Tip by . January 07, 2012
posted in Inspirations
I can't say I'm a fan. I respect that she was able to rise up from a childhood no one should ever have to endure, and she's a longtime champion of literacy and a cunning businesswoman. But during the last decade, she's been caught getting swept up in too many bad trends, and she's taken a life as a ubiquitous pseudo-spiritual guru which she appears to be taking a bit too seriously.
review by . December 23, 2008
Oprah Winfrey is perhaps the best know talk show host, philanthropist, and activist the United States has seen in modern times. I love how she does her research, and if she feels it truly affects her viewers, not just her, she'll do a whole episode on it to inform us about the benefits or dangers of a certain product or aspect of our lives.    Oprah is genuinely a good person. I know MAD TV loves to make fun of her all the time, and I always laugh, but even when the cameras are …
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