Oprah Winfrey Biography

Oprah Winfrey, born in 1954, American talk-show host and actor, whose nationally syndicated program became one of the most popular on television. A major factor in the show's success is Winfrey's ability to connect emotionally with her guests.

Oprah Winfrey: Oprah Winfrey’s broadcasting background led her to a talk-show position with “A.M. Chicago,” which, after becoming extremely popular, was renamed “The Oprah Winfrey Show” in 1985. Much of the show’s success rests on Winfrey’s empathic, open discussion of controversial issues. Winfrey has also achieved fame as an actor. She is shown here with feminist Gloria Steinem (right).

Born in Kosciusko, Mississippi, to unmarried parents who separated after her birth, Winfrey had a troubled childhood, experiencing neglect and sexual abuse. At the age of 13 she went to live with her father in Nashville, Tennessee. There she became an excellent student, winning a full scholarship to Tennessee State University. While in college Winfrey became the first black woman to anchor the news on the local Nashville television station.

After graduating from college in 1976, Winfrey worked as a television newscaster and then as a talk-show host in Baltimore, Maryland. In 1984 she became the host of the talk show A.M. Chicago. In 1985 the show was renamed The Oprah Winfrey Show. Dealing openly with controversial subjects, it achieved national syndication in 1986. That same year, Winfrey formed Harpo Productions to produce her show and other projects. One of her show’s most popular segments is “Oprah’s Book Club.” Beginning in 1996 this book discussion aired several times a year, each time centered around a work chosen by Winfrey.

In addition to her work on her long-running talk show, Winfrey appeared in several motion pictures. The most prominent were adapted from well-known novels by African American writers. Winfrey’s role as Sofia in The Color Purple (1985; adapted from the book by Alice Walker) won her a 1986 Academy Award nomination as best supporting actress. She also appeared in Native Son (1986; from the book by Richard Wright) and produced and costarred in the television miniseries The Women of Brewster Place (1989; from the book by Gloria Naylor). In 1998 Winfrey appeared as the character Sethe in the film Beloved, which was adapted from the novel by Toni Morrison.

Winfrey has demonstrated her longstanding interest in the written word in other ways as well. In 2000 the periodical O: The Oprah Magazine debuted, with Winfrey as its guiding force.

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