Oprah Gail Winfrey is an American media executive, actress, talk show host, television producer, and philanthropist. She is best known for her talk show The Oprah Winfrey Show, which was the highest-rated television program of its kind in history and was nationally syndicated from 1986 to 2011 in Chicago. Dubbed the “Queen of All Media”, she was the richest African American of the 20th century and North America’s first black multi-billionaire, and has been ranked the greatest black philanthropist in American history. She has also been sometimes ranked as the most influential woman in the world.
Winfrey was born into poverty in rural Mississippi to a teenage single mother and later raised in inner-city Milwaukee. She has stated that she was molested during her childhood and early teens and became pregnant at 14; her son was born prematurely and died in infancy. Winfrey was then sent to live with the man she calls her father, Vernon Winfrey, a barber in Tennessee, and landed a job in radio while still in high school. By 19, she was a co-anchor for the local evening news. Winfrey’s often emotional, extemporaneous delivery eventually led to her transfer to the daytime talk show arena, and after boosting a third-rated local Chicago talk show to first place, she launched her own production company and became internationally syndicated. Credited with creating a more intimate confessional form of media communication, Winfrey popularized and revolutionized the tabloid talk show genre pioneered by Phil Donahue. Through this medium, Winfrey broke 20th-century taboos and allowed LGBT people to enter the mainstream through television appearances. In 1994, she was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame.
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