DREAM BIG Little Leader: Who is Oprah Winfrey?

Oprah Winfrey is a talk show host, media executive, actress and billionaire philanthropist.

Oprah rose to stardom hosting her immensely popular program, The Oprah Winfrey Show, which aired for 25 seasons, from 1986 to 2011. In 2011, Winfrey launched her own TV network, the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN).

Winfrey was born in Mississippi and was sexually abused by a number of male relatives and friends of her mother. Oprah then moved to Nashville to live with her father a barber and businessman.

In 1976, Winfrey moved to Baltimore, Maryland, where she hosted the TV chat show People Are Talking. The show became a hit and Winfrey stayed with it for eight years, after which she was recruited by a Chicago TV station to host her own morning show, A.M. Chicago. Winfrey launched The Oprah Winfrey Show in 1986 as a nationally syndicated program that ran for 25 years, until 2011. With its placement on 120 channels and an audience of 10 million people, the show grossed $125 million by the end of its first year, of which Winfrey received $30 million.

Winfrey’s success on television led to nationwide fame and a role in Steven Spielberg’s 1985 film The Color Purple, for which she was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. This is just skimming the surface of Oprah’s activities.

According to Forbes magazine, Winfrey was the richest African American of the 20th century and the world’s only Black billionaire for three years running. Life magazine hailed her as the most influential woman of her generation. In 2005, Business Week named Winfrey the greatest Black philanthropist in American history. Oprah’s Angel Network raised more than $50 million for charitable programs, including girls’ education in South Africa and relief to the victims of Hurricane Katrina.

Winfrey is a dedicated activist for children’s rights; in 1994, President Bill Clinton signed a bill into law that Winfrey had proposed to Congress, creating a nationwide database of convicted child abusers. Additionally Oprah founded the Family for Better Lives foundation.

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