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The Oprah Story

Last updated on: November 20, 2009 16:43 IST

The Oprah Story

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Once the world's only African-American billionaire, Oprah Winfrey has planned to call her mammoth television innings to a close.

 

The Oprah Winfrey Show began in 1986 and now, it is announced, it will wind things up by the end of its 25th season, in 2011.

Here, then, is a brief look at this iconic showbusiness woman, and her enduring legacy.


Image: Oprah Winfrey displays her award at the 54th annual Emmy Awards in Los Angeles
Photographs: Mike Blake/Reuters
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Overcoming the odds

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Named after Orpah in the Bible's Book Of Ruth, Oprah's name became what it is thanks to most people's inability to pronounce Orpah.

 

Born into poverty, Oprah was raised by her grandmother for the first six years of her life, after which she moved to Wisconsin to live with her mother.

Oprah often spoke of a horrible childhood -- citing many instances of sexual and mental abuse -- but was still an exceptionally bright student, skipping grades and winning scholarships.

 

She won an oratory contest and went to Tennessee State University to study communication. Heading into the media was an obvious choice, and Winfrey became a young news anchor in a local Nashville station.


Image: Actress Halle Berry and Oprah Winfrey
Photographs: Fred Prouser/Reuters
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Star rising

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In 1983, Oprah moved to Chicago to host a morning talk show. AM Chicago was a low-rated show, but months after her arrival in January 1984, it became the highest rated talk show in Chicago, overtaking even the Donahue show.

In September 1986, the show was renamed The Oprah Winfrey Show, and expanded from 30 minutes to a full hour.

 

Famed Chicago film critic Roger Ebert persuaded her to sign a syndication deal, predicting amazingly that her show would generate 40 times as much revenue as his own show, In The Movies.

She did that and more.


Image: Hillary Clinton and Oprah Winfrey
Photographs: POOL Old/Reuters
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Most watched interview of all time

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The Oprah Winfrey Show, ubiquitously called Oprah, celebrated going national by immediately overtaking Donahue's talk show, the national leader. In fact, she pretty much started out by doubling his long-established national viewership.

At 32, she was the number one daytime talk show host in America.

Things just got bigger and bigger. In 1993, she hosted a massively promoted interview with Michael Jackson that happens to be the most watched interview of all time, with an audience of over 100 million.


Image: Michael Jackson talks with Oprah Winfrey
Photographs: STR New/Reuters
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The most influential woman in the world

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Since then, Oprah's just been a dominant force in American entertainment, ratcheting up the billions consistently, always finding a spot in the Forbes powerlist.

 

The richest and most-philanthropic African-American of the twentieth century, she has even been called the most influential woman in the world.

Known best for her intimate, confessional form of conversational interviewing, Oprah even had a brush with the movies.

 

She won an Academy Award Nomination for Best Actress for her work in Steven Spielberg's The Color Purple, and produced an adaptation of Toni Morrison's book Beloved, starring in the lead role.

Coming up next for Oprah? Her own channel called OWN, The Oprah Winfrey Network. Even if the show ends, one thing's for sure: Oprah's not going anywhere.


Image: Oprah Winfrey shares a moment with actor Tom Cruise
Photographs: Yves Herman/Reuters
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