Oprah Winfrey

Oprah Winfrey, 1954–, African-American television host, actress, and media magnate, b. Kosciusko, Miss., as Orpah Gail Winfrey, grad. Tennessee State Univ. (1976). She began her career as a Nashville radio reporter at age 17, worked in television news at 19, and moved (1976) to Baltimore to coanchor a news show. In 1977 she became cohost of a Baltimore morning chat show and in 1984 settled in Chicago to host another talk show. Her charm, easy manner, warmth, gift of gab, and unpretentious style earned the program an enthusiastic audience and soaring ratings. Soon the most popular local talk show, it was syndicated nationally in 1986, becoming the highest-rated such program, and ended only in 2011. Also a talented actress, Winfrey made her motion-picture debut in Steven Spielberg's The Color Purple (1985), and a variety of other movie and television roles followed.

Winfrey subsequently built a media empire. In 1988 she established Harpo Studios, a production company responsible for numerous telefilms and movies, e.g., Beloved (1998, in which she starred). In an effort to promote reading, she founded (1996) Oprah's Book Club, which recommended books to her talk-show viewers and has produced spectacular best sellers, making her a force in American publishing. In 1999 she established Oxygen Media, which produces women's programs on cable television and the Internet, and in 2000 she joined with the Hearst Corp. in creating O: The Oprah Magazine, a monthly women's lifestyle publication. In a joint venture with the Discovery channels, she launched her own network, OWN (the Oprah Winfrey Network), in 2011. One of the country's wealthiest women (her estimated worth in the early 2000s was well over $1 billion), Winfrey is also an active philanthropist with a particular interest in women's and children's issues and education.

See B. Adler, ed., The Uncommon Wisdom of Oprah Winfrey: A Portrait in Her Own Words (1997); biographies by H. S. Garson (2004) and K. Kelley (2010); study by E. Illouz (2003).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2013, The Columbia University Press.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

Oprah Winfrey Speaks: Insight from the World's Most Influential Voice
Janet Lowe.
Wiley, 1998
Coming after Oprah: Cultural Fallout in the Age of the TV Talk Show
Vicki Abt; Leonard Mustazza.
Bowling Green State University Popular Press, 1997
When Oprah Intervenes: Political Correlates of Daytime Talk Show Viewing
Glynn, Caroll J.; Huge, Michael; Reineke, Jason B.; Hardy, Bruce w.; Shanahan, James.
Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, Vol. 51, No. 2, June 2007
Historical Encyclopedia of American Women Entrepreneurs: 1776 to the Present
Jeannette M. Oppedisano.
Greenwood Press, 2000
Librarian’s tip: "Oprah Winfrey (1954-)" begins on p. 268
Performing "Truth": Black Speech Acts
Brown, Antonio.
African American Review, Vol. 36, No. 2, Summer 2002
Global America? The Cultural Consequences of Globalization
Ulrich Beck; Natan Sznaider; Rainer Winter.
Liverpool University Press, 2003
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 10 "From the Lisbon Disaster to Oprah Winfrey: Suffering as Identity in the Era of Globalization"
The Oprahization of America: Sympathetic Crime Talk and Leniency
Hill, John R.; Zillmann, Dolf.
Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, Vol. 43, No. 1, Winter 1999
(Hetero)sexual Politics
Mary Maynard; June Purvis.
Taylor & Francis, 1995
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 6 "Hetero-Sensibilities on The Oprah Winfrey Show"
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