Childhood & Early Life
Oprah Gail Winfrey was born on January 29, 1954 in Kosciusko, Mississippi. Her mother was Vernita Lee, who lived on a small family farm. Oprah's biological father, Vernon Winfrey, was a soldier temporarily stationed at a nearby base. Oprah was raised by her grandmother, Hattie Mae Lee.
Oprah stated that as a child her "only friends" were the animals on her family farm. She gave her first public recital at a local church when she was just 3 years old.
She shuttled between different caregivers throughout her childhood, and attended Nashville East High School in Nashville, Tennessee. In her senior year, Oprah was chosen to read the news on a local radio station. In the same year, she won the Miss Black Tennessee contest.
When she was still a teenager, the local CBS television station in Nashville, Tennessee offered her a job as a co-anchor. She turned it down three times. At age 19, Oprah Winfrey said yes after the fourth offer.
She failed the interview, but instead was offered a job as a full-time reporter for a Baltimore television news channel. She did poorly as a reporter, and by age 22 she was fired from the news division.
The director of the station gave Winfrey a boost by selecting her to anchor a morning talk show entitled ‘People are Talking’. For the next seven years, her talk show enjoyed excellent ratings.
In 1981, she moved to Chicago to host a talk show entitled ‘A.M. Chicago’. Four years later, after a tremendous boost in the ratings, the producers changed the name to ‘The Oprah Winfrey Show’.
In 1985, Winfrey performed as an actress in the movie 'The Color Purple'.
On September 8, 1986, ‘The Oprah Winfrey Show’ was broadcast nationally. In the same year, she founded ‘Harpo Studios’.
In June of 1987, her show won three ‘Daytime Emmy Awards’. The following year, it won an additional ‘Daytime Emmy for Outstanding Talk Show’.
In 1989, she produced and co-starred in the miniseries 'The Women of Brewster Place' and 'Brewster Place'. In the same year, her company ‘Harpo Productions’ began producing ‘The Oprah Winfrey Show’.
In 1993, she conducted an interview with Michael Jackson. The episode became the most watched interview ever, and fourth most watched event in American television.
In 1996, she launched ‘Oprah's Book Club’, a talk show meant for book discussions. Books recommended by Winfrey sold millions of additional copies.
In 1997, she played the role of a therapist in an episode of the sitcom 'Ellen'.
In 1998, she produced and starred in the movie 'Beloved'. In the same year, she was sued by Texas cattlemen for allegedly making defamatory remarks about hamburgers.
The same year this talk show host started ‘Oprah’s Angel Network’ which provided funds to charitable and non-profit organizations.
In 2002, she launched ‘O, the Oprah Magazine’. It was later confirmed as the most successful start-up ever in the magazine industry.
On December 1, 2005, she was a guest on the 'Late Show with David Letterman', which some critics proclaimed was the 'television event of the decade'.
In 2006, she provided the voice for the animated film 'Charlotte's Web'. In the same year, she launched ‘Oprah Radio’, a channel on ‘XM Satellite Radio’.
In 2007, she provided the voice for Judge Bumbleden in the film 'Bee Movie'.
In 2008, the talented artist endorsed Barack Obama in the presidential election. Her public support was considered a key factor in Obama's ultimate victory.
In 2009, she provided the voice for Eudora in the film 'The Princess and the Frog'.
Personal Life & Legacy
Winfrey has publicly disclosed that she was raped by a family relative when she was 9 years old. She also disclosed that she gave birth at age 14, and that her child died in infancy. Winfrey has used her personal experience to campaign for support groups to help survivors of sexual abuse.
She lives on a property named ‘The Promised Land’ in California. She has dated several celebrities, including John Tesh and Roger Ebert, but has never married. She has officially been in a relationship with her long-time boyfriend Stedman Graham since 1986.
The philanthropic talk show host has given over 400 scholarships to Morehouse College. She has also been ranked as among the 50 most generous Americans.