Oprah Winfrey is one of the most famous talk show hosts and entertainment producers in the world.
This celebrity philanthropist has made a name for herself thanks to her charismatic personality and her compassion for others.
Winfrey has done so much through her career that it is easy to lose track of where it all started.
Despite having worked in entertainment since the 1980s, Oprah Winfrey is still innovating the entertainment industry and bringing new voices to the public eye.
Why Is Oprah Winfrey Famous?
Oprah Winfrey originally became a household name when her first movie, The Color Purple, helped her get nominated for an Academy Award.
Winfrey has always been a trailblazer in the entertainment industry and was the first African American woman to own her own production company, which would later expand into an entire entertainment network.
The entertainment titan would start her career as a morning radio host in Chicago for multiple shows, which includes A.M. Chicago.
When Winfrey was added to the radio show, the show was on its last legs and barely surviving.
The morning commuters of Chicago quickly fell in love with Oprah Winfrey’s personality and A.M.
Chicago became the highest-ranking local channel in the major city.
It was during this time that she was noticed by Chicago-based movie critic Roger Ebert, who urged the young actress and host to sign a syndication deal with King World Productions.
On September 8th of 1986, The Oprah Winfrey Show aired for the first time across 120 different channels and 10 million viewers.
Only a year after the hit talk show aired, it had made $125 million and earned Winfrey $30 million for herself.
Despite having been born to a teenage mother in 1954, she became a multimillionaire and a household name around the world by the age of 32.
She found that people loved her for more than just her acting, but her strong sense of morality and her overwhelming generosity.
Although Oprah Winfrey had completely changed the trajectory of her life through her entertainment career, she never forgot where she came from and what she had been through.
Much of her career has been focused on using her star power to make crucial changes to protect vulnerable women and children.
The First African American Woman Production Company Owner
Oprah Winfrey and lawyer Jeff Jacobs founded Harpo Productions in 1986, which gets its name by spelling “Oprah” backward.
The production company was originally located in Chicago’s West Side and would later start additional offices in Los Angeles.
In 1988, Harpo Productions took over The Oprah Winfrey Show and expanded to include Harpo Film and Harpo Radio, Incorporated.
When Harpo Productions took over the popular talk show, it made Winfrey the first woman to ever own and produce her own talk show.
Winfrey proudly served as the company’s chairman and Jeff Jacobs closed his private law firm to serve as the company’s president and chief operating officer.
It was Jacobs who negotiated the deal to purchase The Oprah Winfrey Show from the American Broadcasting Company.
Harpo Productions spent $20 million to purchase and remodel a 100,000-square-foot television and film production facility.
When the company bought the facility, it featured three stages, screening rooms, a darkroom, production offices, kitchen areas, and indoor parking.
After the massive renovation, the renewed facility had an additional stage that was larger than the other ones for The Oprah Winfrey Show, a gym, additional office space, and a fresh coat of paint that helped modernize the space.
Thanks to monumental goals that Winfrey had achieved, she became the youngest person to ever receive the International Radio and Television Society’s “Broadcaster of the Year” Award and the fifth woman to ever receive the award.
By the 1990s, Harpo Productions was bringing in $150 million annually and employed a large number of Chicago natives.
As the years went by, Harpo Productions became a subsidiary of Harpo Entertainment Group and went on to employ 220 people, 68% of whom were women.
Harpo Productions’ goals have always been to “use television to transform people’s lives; to uplift, entertain, and enlighten.”
Expanding To The Oprah Winfrey Network
In August of 2010, Oprah Winfrey announced that The Oprah Winfrey Show would come to an end in May of 2011.
After hosting the same show for 25 years, Winfrey was ready to change her focus to a new dream of hers: starting her own television network and allowing a new generation of voices to be heard.
From the very beginning, Winfrey wanted to create a television network that was all about inspiring viewers to strive toward the best versions of themselves.
Although the talk show host had faith in her television network, the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) took some time before Winfrey’s faith would pay off.
When the Oprah Winfrey Network took over Discovery Health’s television block, it started by applying to a universal and vague crowd like The Oprah Winfrey Show.
After seven months, Winfrey felt the need to step in and take control of the situation herself.
The first hit show that the network had was its reality show Welcome to Sweetie Pie’s, which followed the story of Robbie Montgomery and her family as they ran their soul food restaurant.
This show greatly appealed to the Black community, which proved to be exactly what OWN needed to differentiate itself from the other established television networks.
Many loyal viewers of the network attribute Tyler Perry Productions as one of the early reasons that OWN became so successful.
Tyler Perry and Oprah Winfrey had been admirers of each other’s work for decades and would go on to become friends to this day.
His production company brought hits such as Love Thy Neighbor, If Loving You Is Wrong, and The Paynes.
Tyler Perry Productions was brought to the Oprah Winfrey Network after TBS canceled For Better or Worse and Winfrey’s network bought the rights to continue the show.
Helping Creating The National Child Protection Act
One of Oprah Winfrey’s biggest passions is ensuring better childhoods for future generations, which started after being abused by her mother as a child.
When Winfrey was born, her mother was only 18 years old, and her father was a 21-year-old military man who lived in a different state.
To help her mother adjust to life as a single, unmarried mother, Winfrey was sent to live with her grandmother for the first six years of her life.
Her mother later moved the two of them to Wisconsin and lived there for the next seven years.
Although their reunion was meant to be beneficial, Winfrey’s mother ended up being abusive toward her daughter.
This traumatized young Winfrey and caused behavioral problems at home and in school.
At 13 years old, Oprah Winfrey was sent by her mother to live with her father in Tennessee.
Her father, Vernon Winfrey, turned out to be the kind of parent that Winfrey needed.
Winfrey knows what it is like to grow up with an abusive parent and the effect that childhood trauma can have on you as an adult.
In 1991, Winfrey started a campaign to create a national database of convicted child abusers.
Former President Bill Clinton signed the National Child Protection Act, which is also known as “Oprah’s Bill.”
Her efforts to keep children safe continued when she created Oprah’s Child Predator Watch List in 2005, where she pledged $100,000 per case where someone helped capture and arrest a child predator.
In 2008, Oprah Winfrey was a vocal supporter of the PROTECT Our Children Act, United States Senate Bill 1738.
The bill developed the National Strategy for Child Exploitation Prevention and Interdiction, improve the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, and would put more resources towards combating child abuse and child pornography.
Understanding The Oprah Effect
Oprah Winfrey may not consider herself to have much of an entrepreneurial spirit, but there is no denying her magical touch which is best known as the Oprah Effect.
Winfrey has helped mold a new form of talk show, where panelists could be emotionally vulnerable and connect with the audience in a way that traditional talk shows never could.
One of the talk show hosts that Oprah Winfrey popularized was Dr. Phil McGraw, whom she met after firing his courtroom consulting firm before her trial against some Texas cattle producers.
Dr. Phil has been quoted as saying, “When you get into Oprah’s orbit, it doesn’t just affect your career, it defines your career.”
Despite the career Winfrey has helped him foster, McGraw didn’t originally want to be on television or see any reason that he should be on television.
However, Winfrey was quickly able to identify his top-level “human functioning assessment” skills and knew that he was someone people needed to hear from.
Dr. Mehmet Oz was given a show after appearing on The Oprah Winfrey Show in 2004.
He would go to appear on her show anywhere between 80 and 90 times before he was given The Dr. Oz Show.
Although Dr. Oz has been a source of both entertainment and health education, it can also be incredibly controversial and has even been condemned by United States senators for the promotion of some weight loss products.
Gayle King, co-host of CBS This Morning, is the best friend of Oprah Winfrey and the editor of O, The Oprah Magazine.
For a short time, King even had her own interview show on the Oprah Winfrey Network.
Before the famous financial advisor had her own show, Suze Orman was often a guest on The Oprah Winfrey Show during the late 1990s.
Changing The World Through The Oprah Winfrey Charitable Foundation
The Oprah Winfrey Charitable Foundation was founded by the talk show host in 1987 and has supported a vast variety of causes.
Some of the most important causes to Winfrey include child safety, the fight against poverty, education, and gender and race equality.
Through the Oprah Winfrey Charitable Foundation, $400 million has been donated, 72,000 people have been educated, and 75 million meals have gone to those in need.
Most of the foundation’s outreach occurs in Chicago, Nashville, Milwaukee, and Kosciusko, Mississippi.
One of Winfrey’s first major charity events was when Winfrey helped raise $80 million to help expand her charity’s global reach.
With the money, they were able to build 60 schools across 13 countries, support women’s shelters, and build more youth centers and homes.
The charitable foundation created the Christmas Kindness South Africa 2002 initiative, which sent Winfrey and the foundation to multiple orphanages and rural schools.
A total of 50,000 South African children received food, clothing, school supplies, books, athletic shoes, and toys for the holidays.
In 2013, Oprah Winfrey was awarded the Medal of Freedom, which is the highest civilian honor that an American citizen can receive.
She also received the Cecil B. de Mille award from the Hollywood Foreign Press Association.
Winfrey became the single highest founding donor to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture when she donated $21 million to the museum.
The museum even had an exhibit on Winfrey in 2018 called “Watching Oprah: The Oprah Winfrey Show and American Culture,” which featured artifacts from her set, outfits she wore on the show, and an interactive interview.
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, The Oprah Winfrey Charitable Foundation has been dedicated to supporting those who have been food insecure throughout the pandemic.
Winfrey personally donated $13 million towards COVID-19 relief in her hometowns.
From Television Host To Magazine Publisher
Oprah Winfrey released her first issue of O, The Oprah Magazine, also known as simply O, in the spring of 2000 and only planned on printing 850,000.
She would later have to bump that number up to one million copies when demand got much higher than anyone expected.
O, The Oprah Magazine quickly became the top-selling American women’s magazine, and it was thanks to the unique approach that the magazine took to women’s problems.
From the conception of the magazine, Winfrey wanted the publication to be rooted in “business and life principles” and to inspire people to be the best versions of themselves in a new way.
In its first year alone, 166 ad pages were sold to make the magazine company $20 million.
Winfrey has appeared on nearly every cover of O, The Oprah Magazine since its creation because understands that magazines are most often sold thanks to star power.
Oprah Winfrey was determined to shape the way that the public defined beauty and strived to be unapologetically herself.
She filled the pages of her magazine with stories about the successes and failures of women in business and entertainment.
Winfrey would later use her magazine as a way to interact with fans who were reading the books that the talk show host recommended in her book club.
She wanted to show American writers the classic books from authors they may not have learned about in school and heard about on other shows, such as Toni Morrison.
In 2020, Oprah Winfrey decided that the best move for the magazine would be to make the switch from being a physical magazine to the digital space where Winfrey could continue to interact with her fans.
Winfrey wanted her fans to see this as the next step of evolution for the magazine.
Going Digital With Oprah.Com
When Oprah Winfrey created Oprah.com, she wanted to give her fans a one-stop digital space to get everything from streaming to advice on wellness and finances.
Her website currently serves as one of the largest women’s lifestyle websites in the world.
Oprah.com has more than 13 million users and 75 million views per month and is home to the biggest book club in the world.
Oprah’s Book Club has more than 500,000 official members and many members who follow along quietly from home.
At Oprah.com, users will also be able to sign up for the “OWNers Program,” which is for dedicated fans who want the latest news about Oprah Winfrey or any of her businesses and charity events.
You can even download Oprah Winfrey’s mobile game, Bold Moves, from the website.
Bold Moves is a puzzle game that challenges the player’s mind and rewards them with inspirational quotes after beating the many puzzles featured in the game.
Players will be able to play with their friends who also download the application and share their favorite quotes on social media.
Those who wanted to listen to Oprah Winfrey’s podcasts Super Soul and Oprah’s Master Class are able to find them on Oprah.com.
Super Soul features Winfrey as she asks world leaders and celebrities about life’s biggest questions and helps the listener become more connected to the world around them.
Oprah’s Master Class is a compilation of all the best quotes from Oprah Winfrey and her celebrity guests over the years.
Those who are looking for inspiration for their lifestyle or wellness could spend hours on Oprah.com.
Her Work As A Heartfelt Author
As an avid reader, Oprah Winfrey has been deeply moved by the books she has read since she was a child.
Winfrey isn’t just the curator for the world’s largest book club, she is also a celebrated author herself.
Winfrey’s writing career started with her weight loss-themed self-help book Make the Connection: 10 Steps to a Better Body and a Better Life, which she wrote with the help of personal trainer and exercise physiologist Bob Greene.
With support from the talk show host, Greene details how a sensible diet and exercise can go further than most people expect.
The book was released alongside The Journal of Daily Renewal, which was meant to help readers go through what they learned from their book.
The journal posed questions based on the reading that allow readers to think critically about their health choices.
Journey to Beloved was a book written by Oprah Winfrey that told the story behind creating the film Beloved and featured photos by Ken Regan.
The book gave an inside account of what it was like for Winfrey to find Toni Morrison’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel Beloved and create a film based on the novel.
In Mr. or Mrs. Just Right from 2016, Oprah Winfrey gave those looking to find their future spouse the best advice when it comes to scoping out the dating scene and how to make a good relationship stay good.
Winfrey released What I Know for Sure after years of writing the “What I Know For Sure” column in her magazine which served as a collection of all her writings.
Oprah Winfrey teamed up with renowned brain and trauma expert Dr. Bruce Perry to write What Happened to You? This unique book goes over the emotional and behavioral patterns that can form in a person with trauma.