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Profile of Oprah Winfrey: Activist & Philanthropist


Oprah Winfrey attends LEE DANIELS' THE BUTLER Los Angeles premiere, hosted by TWC, Budweiser and FIJI Water, Purity Vodka and Stack Wines
Mike Windle/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

Oprah Winfrey, Influential Leader and Billionaire:

Oprah Gail Winfrey is the host of The Oprah Winfrey Show, the highest-rated talk show in U.S. TV history. Time magazine named Oprah as one of the 100 most influential people of the 20th century.

She's won numerous Emmy Awards, is an Academy Award-nominated actress, film and play producer and magazine publisher. She's regarded as the richest African American of the 20th century, and the world's only black billionaire for three straight years.

In 2009, Oprah will take control of the Discovery Health cable TV network, and convert it to Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN).

Oprah Winfrey's Support of Barack Obama in the 2008 Presidential Race:

Oprah said that as she watched Obama deliver his famed 2004 convention speech, she thought, "This is something above and beyond politics."

When Barack and wife Michelle Obama appeared on the Oprah show in October 2006, Oprah urged him to run for the White House. In Fall 2007, Oprah hosted a 1,500-guest Obama fundraiser, and made 4 campaign appearances with him on Dec 8-9, 2007. (For more, see Oprah's Support Made the Difference for Obama.)

Oprah and the Obamas live in Chicago, and have been acquainted for many years.

Is Oprah Liberal Or Conservative?:

Oprah believes that the causes and sole candidate she champions transcend liberal or conservative labels. Oprah Winfrey has never publicly endorsed any political party, although more Democratic (Al Gore, John Kerry, Elizabeth Edwards, Bill and Hillary Clinton) than Republican leaders (George and Laura Bush) have appeared on her show over the last two decades.

Said Oprah in 2004, "I don't consider myself political." Some detractors charge that her show has a liberal slant.

The Oprah Winfrey Show:

The first Oprah Winfrey Show was broadcast on September 8, 1986. The show, which will end in 2011, is the highest-rated talk show in U.S. TV history, and the longest-running daytime talk show

The show is a major influencer of women on a broad range of social issues including child abuse, education, health care, racism, human rights and poverty. The show also includes interviews and fashion/beauty tips. Mention of a book or product on Oprah's show often guarantees best-seller status.

In 2009, Oprah will take control of the Discovery Health cable TV network, and convert it to Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN).

Oprah Winfrey, Philanthropist:

Founded in 1998, Oprah's Angel Network (OAN), makes "grants to organizations... in underserved communities that provide educational initiatives" and "assist people in fulfilling basic human needs and regaining dignity." OAN has raised over $50 million which is all given out, since Oprah pays for all administrative costs. Oprah personally donated $10 million to rebuild homes after Hurricane Katrina.

Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls:

Inspired by her 2004 South Africa trip when she distributed Christmas gifts to 50,000 children, and encouraged by Nelson Mandela, Oprah established a Leadership Academy for Girls "to nurture, educate and turn gifted South African girls from impoverished backgrounds into the country's future leaders." The academy's doors opened in January 2007 with 152 students.

Limited criticism has been voiced of the academy's plush campus, and several administrators were terminated due to sexual abuse allegations.

Oprah's Broadcast Career:

  • 1970-73 - Worked at WVOL radio station while attending Tennessee State University
  • 1973 - TV news anchor with WTVF-TV in Nashville, TN
  • 1976 - Host of WJZ-TV 6 PM news in Baltimore, MD
  • 1976 - Moved from news anchor to morning talk show host at WJZ-TV
  • 1976 - Reporter for local ABC news affiliate
  • 1984 - Host of talk show A.M. Chicago, which drew very high ratings
  • 1986 - Launched The Oprah Winfrey Show
  • 2007 - The Oprah Winfrey Show is the highest-rated talk show in U.S. TV history, and the longest-running daytime talk show.

Honors and Accolades:

  • 1986-Academy Award nomination, Best Supporting Actress in The Color Purple
  • 1986-NOW Woman of Achievement
  • 1986-Emmy Awards, Best Talk Show, Best Host
  • 1988-Broadcaster of the Year, Int'l TV & Radio Society
  • 1989-NAACP Entertainer of the Year
  • 1989-1992-4-time winner, NAACP Image Award
  • 1994-1995-Daytime Emmy Awards, Best Talk Show, Best Host
  • 1996-Peabody Award, excellence in broadcasting
  • 1998-Daytime Emmy Awards, Lifetime Achievement
  • 2002-Emmy Award, Bob Hope Humanitarian Award
  • 2004-One of the 100 most influential people of the 20th century, by Time
  • 2005, 2006-One of year's 100 most influential people, by Time

Personal Data:

  • Birth - Born Oprah Gail Winfrey on January 29, 1954 in Kosciusko, Mississippi to Vernita Lee, an unwed teenage housemaid, and Vernon Winfrey, a coal miner.

  • Education - Graduated with honors from East Nashville High School, 1968. B.A. in speech/performing arts from Tennessee State University, 1973, which she attended on scholarship.

  • Family - Unmarried partner of 20 years, businessman Stedman Graham. No children. Close friends with Gayle King for over 20 years. Gayle is editor-at-large for O, The Oprah Magazine

Memorable Oprah Quotes about Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton & Politics:

"I don't consider myself political and I seldom interview politicians. So when I decided to talk with you [Barack], people around me were like, 'What's happened to you?' I said, 'I think this is beyond and above politics.' It feels like something new."

----- Oprah Winfrey in the November 2004 issue of Oprah magazine

"I have great respect for Hillary Clinton. I think I’ve said this before and it’s true: Because I am for Barack does not mean I am against Hillary or anybody else. So the fact that I would endorse Barack Obama and the fact that I would support Barack Obama. I have not one negative thing to say about Hillary Clinton."

--- Oprah Winfrey on May 1, 2007 on CNN's Larry King Show

"(I thought) What is the cost to me for doing it? Am I going to lose viewers? I made the decision that I have the right to do it as an American citizen. But I will not use my platform. I can use my own personal voice. I know him well enough to believe in his moral authority. And that is the number one reason why I am supporting him."

--- Oprah Winfrey to the New York Post, as reported on November 28, 2007 in the Irish Examiner.

"I call my home the Promised Land because I get to live Dr. King's dream. I haven't been actively engaged before because there hasn't been anything to be actively engaged in. But I am engaged now to make Barack Obama the next president of the United States."

--- Oprah Winfrey on September 9, 2007 at an Obama campaign fundraiser she hosted at her Santa Barbara, California home

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