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Oprah Winfrey Bio
Oprah Winfrey's Biography

Oprah Winfrey was born on January 29, 1954 in Kosciusko, Mississippi. Her mother was Vernita Lee, a maid. The man whom she long thought of as her father was Vernon Winfrey, a coal miner who was in the military when she was born, and whom she never saw until she was 14. Years later, a man named Noah Robinson Sr. claimed to be her biological father.

Oprah lived for her first six years in grinding poverty with her grandmother, Hattie Mae Lee, who nevertheless was a better parent to her than her mother would later be, according to Oprah – she encouraged her love of learning and her belief in herself. When she was six, Oprah and her mother moved to an inner-city neighborhood in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. They lived with family members, and this was a very difficult time for her, as she was molested by her cousin, her uncle, and a family friend.

She ran away from home at age 13. She was pregnant at age 14, and gave birth to a son, who died soon after birth. She then went to live with Vernon Winfrey in Nashville, Tennessee. Vernon was a strict father, even if he was not her biological father, but encouraged her to make something of herself and work hard at her education.

Oprah became an honors student at East Nashville High School, and participated in many school activities. When she was 17, she won the Miss Black Tennessee beauty pageant. A local black radio station, WVOL, hired her as a news reader. She worked there during her senior year of high school, and again while in her first two years of college – Tennessee State University.
Oprah had earned a full scholarship to Tennessee State University, a historically black college. There, she earned a degree in communications.
After receiving her degree, Oprah became the youngest news anchor and the first black female news anchor at Nashville's WLAC-TV. In 1976, she moved to Baltimore and co-anchored the six o’clock news at WJZ-TV.
On August 14, 1978, she became the co-host, with Richard Sher, of a local talk show People Are Talking, on WJZ. In addition, she hosted the local version of Dialing for Dollars.

In 1983, at age 29, Oprah moved to Chicago. There she became the host of a half-hour morning talk show, AM Chicago, produced by WLS-TV's. A low-rated show before she took it over, within months, it became the highest ranked talk show in Chicago.

Two years later, it was expanded to an hour, renamed The Oprah Winfrey Show, and broadcast nationally. Oprah became the chief rival of Phil Donahue, who had been the number one daytime talk show host in the US. The publicity between their ratings race helped them both.

As a reviewer stated, “In a field dominated by white males, she is a black female of ample bulk. As interviewers go, she is no match for, say, Phil Donahue... What she lacks in journalistic toughness, she makes up for in plainspoken curiosity, robust humor and, above all empathy. Guests with sad stories to tell are apt to rouse a tear in Oprah's eye ... They, in turn, often find themselves revealing things they would not imagine telling anyone, much less a national TV audience. It is the talk show as a group therapy session."

The success of her TV show turned Oprah into a millionaire at age 32.
Oprah parlayed her success into some movie roles. In 1985, she co-starred in Steven Spielberg's film, The Color Purple. She was nominated for an Academy Award but did not win. In 1998, she produced and starred in the film Beloved, based upon Toni Morrison's novel. Since that time she has produced, but not starred in, other TV movies.

Oprah began dating Stedman Graham in 1986. Prior to this time, she had had relationships with many men. They didn’t last, for a variety of reasons. The emotional roller-coaster of these relationships affected her weight throughout these years. Also until her late 20s she experimented with drugs, but never became addicted and quickly gave up the destructive practice.
Originally, Oprah’s show was rather tabloid-oriented, like her competitors. In the mid-1990s, she changed her format to emphasize uplifting and inspirational topics and themes. The show became more popular than ever.
Stedman Graham and Oprah were engaged to be married in November 1992, but eventually did not get married (and have yet to marry, although they are still together). Late in 1996, Oprah introduced a new segment on her television show: Oprah's Book Club. It was immediately a hit – any book Oprah selected almost instantly became a best-seller.

In 1998, Oprah began Oprah's Angel Network, a charity that attempts to encourage people around the world to make a difference in the lives of underprivileged others. Oprah herself pays for all administrative costs associated with the charity, so 100% of all funds raised go to charity programs. (Indeed, Oprah is one of the world’s most philanthropic celebrities: In 2005 she became the first black person listed by Business Week as one of America's top 50 most generous philanthropists, having given an estimated $303 million. Winfrey was the 32nd most philanthropic. She has also been repeatedly ranked as the most philanthropic celebrity.
In 2002, her magazine – O, the Oprah Magazine, debuted. In 2006, she signed a three-year, $55 million contract with XM Satellite Radio to establish a new radio channel, Oprah Radio. In 2011, her own cable channel is scheduled to make its debut.

In January 2007, Oprah opened the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls near Johannesburg, South Africa. Nelson Mandela praised Winfrey for overcoming her own disadvantaged youth to become a benefactor for others and for investing in the future of South Africa.
Winfrey endorsed presidential candidate Barack Obama in the 2008 presidential election and is thought to be a major reason why Obama was elected. Indeed, Governor Blagojevich stated (when suggesting that Oprah should step into Obama’s senatorial seat):

“ To begin with, she was perhaps the most instrumental person in electing Barack Obama president. She is a larger-than-life figure in America and around the world. She has a huge bully pulpit and tremendous support across America... She has a voice larger than all 100 senators combined. And if she was a U.S. Senator, she would be a voice for the Obama program, which she supports, and she would be in a position to be able to use an unbelievable bully pulpit to be able to get it done. She obviously can't be bought. And she's actually a very, obviously, in my judgment, a very impressive and a very nice person. On the other hand, how likely is it she'd give up what she's doing for that? I mean, being a senator's a big deal, but it ain't Oprah.”

Although Oprah broadcasts from Chicago, her main residence is an estate in Montecito, California. She also owns houses in New Jersey, Chicago, Fisher Island off the coast of Miami, Douglasville, Georgia, Telluride, Colorado, and Maui, Hawaii.

See also: Oprah Quotes, Famous Celebrities, Famous Women, Famous Authors, Famous Americans, Famous Black Women, Famous American Authors, Famous People Born in the Fifties, Famous Aquarians
Famous People Born in January
, Famous Women Activists,
Famous People Born in the Year of the Horse
, Famous Self-help Authors
Famous American Women, Famous African Americans,
Famous Female Writers, Famous American Activists, Famous Actresses
Famous Philanthropists, Famous Christians

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Oprah Biography

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