Oprah Winfrey has already left an indelible mark on the face of television. From her humble beginnings in rural Mississippi, Oprah's legacy has established her as one of the most important figures in popular culture. Her contributions can be felt beyond the world of television and into areas such as publishing, music, film, philanthropy, education, health and fitness, and social awareness. As producer and host of "The Oprah Winfrey Show," Oprah enlightens, entertains and empowers millions of viewers around the world. Oprah has been honored with the most prestigious awards in broadcasting, including the George Foster Peabody Individual Achievement Award (1996), the IRTS Gold Medal Award (1996) and the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences' Lifetime Achievement Award (1998). In January 2001 Oprah was dubbed Newsweek's "Woman of the Century." In November 1999, Oprah received one of the publishing industry's top honors, the National Book Foundation's 50th Anniversary Gold Medal, for her influential contribution to reading and books. In June 1998, she was named one of the 100 most influential people of the 20th Century by Time Magazine. In 1997, Oprah was named Newsweek's most important person in books and media and TV Guide's "Television Performer of the Year." She has also received seven Emmy Awards for Outstanding Talk Show Host and nine Emmy Awards for Outstanding Talk Show.
Oprah is the chairman of Harpo, Inc., Harpo Productions, Inc., Harpo Films, Inc., Harpo Video, Inc. and Harpo Studios, Inc. Oprah began her broadcasting career at WVOL radio in Nashville while still in high school. At the age of 19, she became the youngest person and the first African-American woman to anchor the news at Nashville's WTVF-TV. She then moved to Baltimore's WJZ-TV to co-anchor the six o'clock news and moved on to become co-host of their local talk show, People Are Talking.
In 1984, Oprah moved to Chicago to host WLS-TV's morning talk show, AM Chicago, which became the number one talk show just one month after she began. In less than a year, the show expanded to one hour and was renamed The Oprah Winfrey Show. In 1986, The Oprah Winfrey Show entered national syndication and has remained the number one talk show for fifteen consecutive seasons**, receiving 34 Emmy Awards. Oprah produces and hosts The Oprah Winfrey Show through Harpo Productions. It is seen by 26 million viewers a week in the United States*, broadcast in 106 countries and is the highest-rated talk show in television history.
In September 1996, Oprah began Oprah's Book Club, an on-air reading club designed to get the country excited about reading. Each of the books selected for Oprah's Book Club to date has become an instant bestseller. In September 1997, Oprah launched Oprah's Angel Network, a campaign encouraging people to open their hearts a little wider and help those in need. Since its launch, Oprah's Angel Network has collected over $3.5 million in spare change to create college scholarships for students in need and has funded nearly 200 Habitat for Humanity homes. In April 2000, Oprah's Angel Network began the Use Your Life Award, and now gives $100,000 every Monday on The Oprah Winfrey Show to people who are using their lives to improve the lives of others.
Oprah made her acting debut in 1985 as "Sofia" in Steven Spielberg's The Color Purple, and received both an Academy Award nomination and a Golden Globe nomination for her efforts. In 1998, Oprah starred as "Sethe" in the critically acclaimed Beloved based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Toni Morrison. Oprah has been lauded for her performances in the ABC made-for-television movies The Women of Brewster Place, There Are No Children Here and Before Women Had Wings with Ellen Barkin.
Through Harpo Films, Oprah has a long-term deal with the ABC Television Network to produce Oprah Winfrey Presents telefilms. Projects under the Oprah Winfrey Presents banner include: Amy and Isabelle, based on the best-selling novel by Elizabeth Strout and starring Academy Award-nominee Elisabeth Shue; the award-winning Tuesdays With Morrie, based on the best-selling novel by Mitch Albom and starring Academy Award-winner Jack Lemmon and Emmy Award-winner Hank Azaria; David and Lisa, starring Academy Award-winner Sidney Poitier; the mini-series The Wedding, based on Dorothy West's novel; and Before Women Had Wings, adapted from a novel by Connie May Fowler. In September 2000, Tuesdays With Morrie received four Emmy Awards — Outstanding Made for Television Movie, Lead Actor (Jack Lemmon), Supporting actor (Hank Azaria), and Single-Camera Picture Editing (Carol Littleton). The movie has also received awards from the Screen Actors Guild (Jack Lemmon), Producers Guild of America (Oprah Winfrey and Kate Forte), and Directors Guild of America (Mick Jackson). Both Before Women Had Wings and The Wedding were among the highest-rated, critically acclaimed television movie broadcasts of the 1997-1998 season.
In addition, Oprah also has an exclusive agreement to produce feature films for the Walt Disney Motion Pictures Group. The first of these films was Touchstone Pictures' Beloved in which she also starred.
In April 2000, Oprah, along with Hearst Magazines, introduced O, The Oprah Magazine, a monthly magazine that is the personal-growth guide for the new century. Oprah's magazine is credited as being the most successful magazine launch in recent history. O, The Oprah Magazine gives confident, smart women the tools they need to explore and reach for their dreams, to express their individual style, and to make choices that will lead to happier and more fulfilled lives. O, The Oprah Magazine is another medium through which Oprah can connect with her viewers and provide possibilities for transforming their lives.
In November 1998, Oprah announced the formation of a company, Oxygen Media LLC, which includes Harpo Group LLC, GBL LLC — controlled by Geraldine Laybourne and CWM LLC — Carsey-Werner-Mandabach. Oxygen Media includes a women's cable network which launched on February 2, 2000, and is integrated with Oxygen's online properties for women. Oprah's first production for Oxygen was Oprah Goes Online, a 12-part "course" giving a step-by-step look at all things online. Oprah was joined by her friend Gayle King, and millions of women viewing across the country, to experience first hand the way the Web will change women's lives.
In September 1999, Oprah joined Stedman Graham as an adjunct professor at The J.L. Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern University to co-teach "Dynamics of Leadership." The course curriculum, developed by professors Winfrey and Graham, shares insights into how students can cultivate their own leadership skills and develop an approach to management, leadership and organizational issues suited to their individual circumstances. "Dynamics of Leadership" was offered at Kellogg again in the fall of 2000.
Oprah's commitments extend to her initiation of the National Child Protection Act in 1991; she testified before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee to establish a national database of convicted child abusers and on December 20, 1993, President Clinton signed the national "Oprah Bill" into law. She has established scholarships for hundreds of students, and has donated millions of dollars to higher education institutions, such as Morehouse College, Spelman College and Tennessee State University. Oprah also serves as the National Spokesperson for A Better Chance, an organization that provides students, predominantly from inner city school districts, the chance to attend many of the nation's finest schools.