Oprah Winfrey

Oprah Winfrey Sunglasses

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Biography

Oprah Gail Winfrey was born on January 29, 1954 in Kosciusko, Mississippi. She spent the first years of her life living with her grandmother, then moved into her mother's home in Milwaukee, Wisconsin when she was six years old. She lived there until age fourteen, then went to live with her father in Nashville, Tennessee. Although she didn't have a stable home-life and often faced both poverty and abuse throughout her childhood, she managed to keep her grades up and eventually won a full scholarship to Tennessee State University, where she received her degree in Speech and Performing Arts.

Oprah began her career at the age of seventeen at a small radio station in Nashville before moving on to an equally small television station as a reporter and news anchor. She then moved to Baltimore, Maryland where she was given her first talk show co-hosting opportunity. In 1984, she moved to Chicago, Illinois to pick up a vacant hosting spot on a small television network show called "AM Chicago". Within her first year onboard, the show became a resounding success and was renamed "The Oprah Winfrey Show" the following year. Two years later, Oprah formed her own production company, HARPO Productions, Inc., and in 1988 she received an award for Broadcaster of the Year by the International Radio and Television Society.

By the mid 1990s, Oprah changed the format of her show to incorporate more serious and far-reaching topics. She began using her show as a forum to tackle the larger and more controversial issues of the day, such as the use of Ebonics in schools, heart disease in women, and poverty. In addition, her highly popular book club encourages her viewers to read and discuss many wonderful, and often educational, books they might otherwise have overlooked. She also brings lighter fare to her ever-growing audience, with shows about home decorating and healthy eating habits. Her show has been incredibly successful and in 1998 she received the Daytime Emmy Lifetime Achievement Award.

Oprah picked up her first movie credit playing the part of Sofia in the 1985 movie, The Color Purple. Although she has not made acting a focus, she has been known to occasionally pick up small roles throughout the years. More recently, she has lent her voice to the cartoon movies Charlotte's Web (2006) and Bee Movie (2007).

Off-screen, Oprah publishes two magazines and is active in politics and public policy. Through her efforts, "The Oprah Law" was passed in 1993, establishing the first national sex offender database. She has supported many charities, including Free The Children, Charlize Theron African Outreach Project, and The Clinton Foundation. In addition she has started her own non-profit organization, Oprah's Angel Network, to encourage others to give whatever they can to help those less fortunate. The charity collects monetary donations and then awards grants to community-improving organizations throughout the world. In addition, Oprah frequently opens her personal checkbook for worthy causes and has been one of the most financially charitable celebrities in the United States. In 2007 she completed a forty million dollar project, opening the doors to the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls outside of Johannesburg, South Africa. Although she continues to focus on her responsibilities here in the United States, she stays in close contact with the school and its students, sometimes even teaching via satellite.

Trivia

  • Was the first woman in history to produce her own talk show.
  • Was voted "Most Popular" in High School.
  • Was was given the name Orpah at birth, after the Biblical character in the book of Ruth, but this was later changed to Oprah.
  • Was the first black woman in the United States to become a billionaire.
  • Co-hosted the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize Concert with Tom Cruise.


Quotes

  • "I don't think of myself as a poor deprived ghetto girl who made good. I think of myself as somebody who from an early age knew I was responsible for myself, and I had to make good."
  • "My idea of heaven is a great big baked potato and someone to share it with"

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