Oprah Winfrey is the American multiple-Emmy Award winning host of The Oprah Winfrey Show, the highest rated talk show in television history. She is also an influential book critic, an Academy Award-nominated actress, and a magazine publisher. She has been ranked the richest African American of the 20th century, the most philanthropic African American of all time, and the world's only black billionaire for three straight years. She is also, according to several assessments, the most influential woman in the world.
Oprah was born in Kosciusko, Mississippi, and was raised by her grandmother on a farm. From ages of 6 to 13, she lived in Milwaukee with her mother but after suffering abuse and molestation, she ran away and was sent to a juvenile detention home at the age of 13, only to be denied admission because all the beds were filled. As a last resort, she was sent to Nashville to live under her father's strict discipline.
Oprah's broadcasting career began at age 17, when she was hired by WVOL radio in Nashville, and two years later signed on with WTVF-TV in Nashville as a reporter/anchor.
In 1976, she moved to Baltimore to join WJZ-TV news as a co-anchor, and in 1978 discovered her talent for hosting talk shows when she became co-host of WJZ-TV's "People Are Talking," while continuing to serve as anchor and news reporter.
In January 1984, she came to Chicago to host WLS-TV's "AM Chicago," a faltering local talk show. In less than a year, she turned "AM Chicago" into the hottest show in town. The format was soon expanded to one hour, and in September 1985 it was renamed "The Oprah Winfrey Show."
Seen nationally since September 8, 1986, "The Oprah Winfrey Show" became the number one talk show in national syndication in less than a year. In June 1987, in its first year of eligibility, It received three Daytime Emmy Awards. In June 1988, the show received its second consecutive Daytime Emmy Award as Outstanding Talk/Service Program, and she herself received the International Radio and Television Society's "Broadcaster of the Year" Award. She was the youngest person and only the fifth woman ever to receive the honor in IRTS's 25-year history.
Her love of acting and her desire to bring quality entertainment projects into production prompted her to form her own production company, HARPO Productions (Oprah spelled backwards), Inc., in 1986. Today, HARPO is a formidable force in film and television production. Based in Chicago, HARPO Entertainment Group includes HARPO Productions, Inc., HARPO Films and HARPO Video, Inc. In October, 1988, HARPO Productions, Inc. acquired ownership and all production responsibilities for "The Oprah Winfrey Show" from Capitol Cities/ABC, making Oprah the first woman in history to own and produce her own talk show.
In 1991, motivated in part by her own memories of childhood abuse, she initiated a campaign to establish a national database of convicted child abusers, and testified before a U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee on behalf of a National Child Protection Act. President Clinton signed the "Oprah Bill" into law in 1993, establishing the national database she had sought, which is now available to law enforcement agencies and concerned parties across the country.
Oprah was named one of the 100 Most Influential People of the 20th Century by Time magazine, and in 1998 received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. Her influence extended to the publishing industry when she began an on-air book club. Oprah Book Club selections became instant bestsellers, and in 1999 she was presented with the National Book Foundation's 50th anniversary gold medal for her service to books and authors.
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