Thursday, May 26, 2011


Oprah Winfrey (born Orpah Gail Winfrey; January 29, 1954) is an American television host, actress, producer, and philanthropist, best known for her self-titled, multi-award winning talk show, which has become the highest-rated program of its kind in history and was nationally syndicated from 1986 to 2011. She has been ranked the richest African American of the 20th century, the greatest black philanthropist in American history, and was for a time the world's only black billionaire. She is also, according to some assessments, the most influential woman in the world.

Winfrey was born into poverty in rural Mississippi to a teenage single mother and later raised in an inner-city Milwaukee neighborhood. She experienced considerable hardship during her childhood, claiming to be raped at age nine and becoming pregnant at 14; her son died in infancy. Sent to live with the man she calls her father, a barber in Tennessee, Winfrey landed a job in radio while still in high school and began co-anchoring the local evening news at the age of 19. Her emotional ad-lib delivery eventually got her transferred 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, she is thought to have popularized and revolutionized the tabloid talk show genre pioneered by Phil Donahue, which a Yale study claims broke 20th century taboos and allowed LGBT people to enter the mainstream. By the mid 1990s, she had reinvented her show with a focus on literature, self-improvement, and spirituality. Though criticized for unleashing confession culture and promoting controversial self-help aids, she is often praised for overcoming adversity to become a benefactor to others. From 2006 to 2008, her support of Barack Obama, by one estimate, delivered over a million votes in the close 2008 Democratic primary race.

Winfrey was called "arguably the world's most powerful woman" by CNN and, "arguably the most influential woman in the world" by the American Spectator, "one of the 100 people who most influenced the 20th Century" and "one of the most influential people" from 2004 to 2010 by Time. Winfrey is the only person in the world to have appeared in the latter list on all eight occasions.

At the end of the 20th century Life listed Winfrey as both the most influential woman and the most influential black person of her generation, and in a cover story profile the magazine called her "America's most powerful woman". In 2007 USA Today ranked Winfrey as the most influential woman and most influential black person of the previous quarter century. Ladies Home Journal also ranked Winfrey number one in their list of the most powerful women in America and senator Barack Obama has said she "may be the most influential woman in the country". In 1998 Winfrey became the first woman and first African-American to top Entertainment Weekly's list of the 101 most powerful people in the entertainment industry.[99] Forbes named her the world's most powerful celebrity in 2005, 2007, 2008 and 2010 In 2010 Life magazine named Winfrey one of the 100 people who changed the world, along side such luminaries as Jesus Christ, Elvis Presley and Lady Mary Wortley Montagu. Winfrey was the only living woman to make the list.

Columnist Maureen Dowd seems to agree with such assessments: "She is the top alpha female in this country. She has more credibility than the president. Other successful women, such as Hillary Clinton and Martha Stewart, had to be publicly slapped down before they could move forward. Even Condi has had to play the protegĂ© with Bush. None of this happened to Oprah — she is a straight ahead success story. Vanity Fair wrote: "Oprah Winfrey arguably has more influence on the culture than any university president, politician, or religious leader, except perhaps the Pope. Bill O'Reilly said: "this is a woman that came from nothing to rise up to be the most powerful woman, I think, in the world. I think Oprah Winfrey is the most powerful woman in the world, not just in America. That's — anybody who goes on her program immediately benefits through the roof. I mean, she has a loyal following; she has credibility; she has talent; and she's done it on her own to become fabulously wealthy and fabulously powerful.

In 2005 Winfrey was named the greatest woman in American history as part of a public poll as part of The Greatest American. She was ranked #9 overall on the list of greatest Americans, however polls estimating Winfrey's personal popularity have been inconsistent. A November 2003 Gallup poll estimated that 73% of American adults had a favorable view of Winfrey. Another Gallup poll in January 2007 estimated the figure at 74%, although it dropped to 66% when Gallup conducted the same poll in October 2007. A December 2007 Fox News poll put the figure at 55%. According to Gallup's annual most admired poll, Americans consistently rank Winfrey as one of the most admired women in the world. Her highest rating came in 2007 when she was statistically tied with Hillary Clinton for first place. In a list compiled by the British magazine New Statesman in September 2010, She was voted 38th in the list of "The World's 50 Most Influential Figures 2010".

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