Birth Date: January 29, 1954 / Age: 59
Birth Place: Kosciusko, Mississippi, USA
Biography: Oprah Gail Winfrey (born January 29, 1954 in Kosciusko, Mississippi) is one of the most successful entrepreneurs in the United States. She is currently involved in many business ventures, but is most identified with her massively popular and eponymous talk show.
Youth and early career
An African American woman, Winfrey was born to a poor family — her unmarried teenage parents were a housemaid, Vernita Lee, and a soldier, Vernon Winfrey. Her birth certificate has Orpah, after the Moabite woman in the Book of Ruth of the Bible, but family and neighbors transposed the R and the P when pronouncing and writing her name. Eventually, Oprah became the accepted name.
Winfrey began her career in broadcasting at age 19. She was both the youngest news anchor and the first African-American female news anchor at Nashville's WTVF-TV. She moved to Baltimore's WJZ-TV in 1976 to co-anchor the six o'clock news. She was then recruited to join Richard Sher as co-host of WJZ's local talk show, People Are Talking, which premiered on August 14, 1978.
Success in television and movies
In 1983, Winfrey relocated to Chicago to take over as host of WLS-TV's low-rated half-hour morning talk show, AM Chicago, which premiered on New Year's Day, 1984. The show was so successful with Winfrey as host that it was renamed The Oprah Winfrey Show, expanded to an hour, and debuted nationally on September 8, 1986. Originally, the show followed traditional talk show formats. By the mid 1990s, however, the format became more serious, addressing issues that Winfrey thought were of direct importance and of crucial consequence to women. Winfrey began to do a lot of charity work, and her show featured people suffering from poverty or the victims of unfortunate accidents.
In 1985, Winfrey co-starred in Steven Spielberg's epic adaptation of Alice Walker's award-winning novel The Color Purple. She earned immediate acclaim as Sofia, the distraught housewife. The following year Winfrey was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress, but she lost to Anjelica Huston. Many think this was due in part to the AMPAS's "Anti-Spielberg" bias, thinking the film would've been better if directed by an African-American director.
Winfrey has often discussed openly various aspects of her life, including those more unpleasant ones, with the media, including a sexually abusive childhood and a problem with drugs as an adult. In 1990, while filming the series Brewster Place (a spin-off of her TV movie The Women of Brewster Place), her half-sister Patricia Lee-Lloyd revealed that Winfrey had become pregnant at age 14 and delivered a stillborn boy. Winfrey's weight fluctuations have caused her to be considered a weight-loss guru. In the late 1990s, Winfrey introduced her book club on television. Whenever Winfrey introduced a new book as her book-club selection, the book instantly became a best-seller, a powerful demonstration of Winfrey's influence. For example, when she selected the classic John Steinbeck novel East of Eden, it soared hundreds of thousands of places to the top of the book charts, again.
During a show about Mad Cow disease with Howard Lyman aired on April 16, 1996, Winfrey exclaimed, "It has just stopped me cold from eating another burger!" Texas cattlemen sued her and Lyman in early 1998 for "false defamation of perishable food" and "business disparagement," claiming that Winfrey's remarks subsequently sent cattle prices tumbling, costing beef producers some $12 million. After a trial spanning over two months in a court in the thick of Texas cattle country, the jury found on February 26 that Winfrey was not guilty, did not act with malice, and was not liable for damages. After the trial, she received a postcard from Rosie O'Donnell reading, "Congratulations, you beat the meat!" It was during this trial that Winfrey hired Dr. Phil McGraw's company (Courtroom Sciences, Inc) to help her analyze and read the jury. Dr. Phil made such an impression on Winfrey that she invited him to be on her show. He accepted the invitation and the rest is history. Winfrey's production company, Harpo Productions, produces Dr. Phil's show. In 2004, despite her celebrity status, the billionaire Winfrey was chosen to serve on a murder trial jury in Chicago, Illinois. The trial ended with the jury voting to convict a man of murder in a case involving an argument over a conterfeit $50 bill. (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/tv_and_radio/3572136.stm)  (http://news.elitestv.com/pub/2004/Aug/EEN41246835e91bd.html)
Winfrey has started The Angel Network (http://www.oprah.com/uyl/oan_landing.jhtml), an organization that collects millions of dollars a year for charities. She publishes her own magazines, O, The Oprah Magazine and O at Home, and cofounded the women's cable television network Oxygen. She is the president of Harpo Productions (Oprah spelled backwards), which, among other things, produced the screen adaptation of the Toni Morrison novel Beloved. Winfrey has also ventured into acting, most notably in the screen adaptation of the Alice Walker novel The Color Purple (for which she received an Oscar nomination) and in her own production Beloved. Winfrey is also a published author, and was the recipient of the first Bob Hope Humanitarian Award at the 2002 Emmy Awards. Winfrey is based in Chicago, Illinois but has a home in Montecito, California; she is reported to have recently been buying property on Maui.
Winfrey recently made a deal to extend her show until the 2010-2011 season, by which time it will have been on the air twenty-five years. She also plans to host 140 episodes per season, until her final season, when it will return to its current number, 130.
Oprah Winfrey is believed to be worth over $1.3 billion according to the 2005 Forbes Magazine Issue. She currently lives on her 42 acre (170,000 m²) ocean view estate in Montecito, California. Allegedly Winfrey was at a party the previous owners were throwing and fell in love with the estate such that she offered to buy it for $50 million, although it was not for sale. Winfrey also owns a house in Lavalette, New Jersey.
Winfrey has never married, but has lived with her partner Steadman Graham for nearly 20 years. She recently told audiences that she was going to reveal a deep dark secret -- that she and Steadman have a daughter. She even used this as the tease for an upcoming episode. It turns out that this "daughter" is her cocker spaniel.
Oprah Winfrey was criticized by conservatives for allegedly championing liberal causes. One critic, Myrna Blyth, editor-in-chief of Ladies' Home Journal magazine from 1981 to 2002, charges in her book Spin Sisters: How the Women of the Media Sell Unhappiness— and Liberalism—to the Women of America, that the "elite women of the media" allegedly sell unhappiness to women and tout false advice. (http://www.700club.com/cbnnews/news/040423a.asp)
Additionally, some believe there to be a clear gender bias in many of her shows, and a double standard about certain behaviour. Shows about infidelity, for example, focus either on the cheating men, or on the cheated-on wives. She never talks about cheating women, and only ever mentions it in a throwaway, dismissive manner. Likewise, she has done several shows about abusive men, including child molesters, but has had on her show women who've had "affairs" with boys as young as 12 talking to them in a very candid, friendly manner about their "forbidden love" story, as well as women who admit to killing their husbands, often resulting in cheering from the female audience at the conclusion of telling their story.
She also has had everything from her book club to her interviewing style mocked by TV sketch comedy shows, including Saturday Night Live (where she has been lampooned by Jan Hooks, Tim Meadows and Maya Rudolph); MADtv (where Debra Wilson and Daniele Gaither have impersonated her); In Living Color (where she had been impersonated by Kim Wayans and T'Keyah K'Meyah); and Chappelle's Show.