Home Celebrities 31 Inspiring Facts That You Probably Didn’t Know About Oprah Winfrey

31 Inspiring Facts That You Probably Didn’t Know About Oprah Winfrey


Oprah Winfrey, often referred to as the “Queen of Media,” in her enormously successful career has overcome the toughest of hardships since her early days. She has made history as the first black woman billionaire and the richest African-American woman. Here are a few fascinating facts about the media mogul, who is considered as one of the most influential women in the world:

  1. Winfrey, the wealthiest African-American woman of the 20th century, is a television personality, actress, and entrepreneur, best known for hosting her own internationally popular talk show from 1986 to 2011.
  2. She was born Orpah Gail Winfrey, on January 29, 1954, in Kosciusko, Mississippi, to an unwed house maid, Vernita Lee. Though her mother had named Vernon Winfrey to be her father, this was disputed by Noah Robinson. No DNA testing has been done. She has two half-sisters, and a half-brother.
  3. As a child she was raised by her maternal grandmother, Hattie Mae Lee, in abject poverty with dresses made of potato sacks. She was taught to read before the age of three and was nicknamed ‘The Preacher’ for her ability to recite Bible verses.
  4. At age six she split time with her her mother in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and with her father Vernon in Nashville, Tennessee. Living in economically troubled neighborhood she was sexually abused and she ran away at the age of 13, giving birth to a baby boy prematurely who died shortly after.
  5. She attended Lincoln High School before being transferred to Nicolet High School in Glendale, Wisconsin, thanks to Upward Bound program. She was later moved to Nashville East High School, where she was elected school president and voted Most Popular Girl.
  6. On winning an oratory contest, she earned scholarship to Tennessee State University, where she majored in speech communication and performing arts, while continuing her part-time work as a news reader at the local black radio station, WVOL.
  7. As a teenager her first job was a quiet grocery store worker at a local market where she was forbidden from chatting with customer, a cruel restriction on a communication major.
  8. Winfrey became Miss Black Nashville and Miss Tennessee during her freshman year and also became the first Afro-American female co-anchor of the evening news with Columbia Broadcasting System(CBS).
  9. In 1976, she moved to WJZ-TV, in Baltimore, to co-anchor the six o’clock news before joining Richard Sher, as co-host of WJZ’s local talk show ‘People Are Talking.’ She also hosted the local version of ‘Dialing for Dollars.’
  10. In January 1984, Winfrey took over as anchor of low-rated half-hour morning talk-show, ‘AM Chicago,’ and in few months it gained popularity as the highest-rated talk show in Chicago. She was moved to talk-show because she could be more than a news reader.
  11. On September 8, 1986, her show was renamed ‘The Oprah Winfrey Show,’ and expanded to a full hour. It brought in double the national audience as the #1 daytime talk show in America, displacing ‘The Phil Donahue Show.’
  12. The TIME magazine called the talk show a group therapy session, and The Wall Street Journal termed it ‘Oprahfication,’ meaning public confession as a form of therapy. The Newsday observed Winfrey as sharper, wittier, more genuine and far better attuned to her audience.
  13. The show started as a tabloid show targeting women before moving on to broader topics such as heart disease, geopolitics, spirituality, meditation, and interviewing celebrities on social issues into mid-1990s.
  14. The Oprah Winfrey Show was aired in around 140 countries and was seen by estimated 46 million people in the U.S. weekly. She has even become popular in the Arab world with her attitude of triumph, with many women idealizing her.
  15. In August 1986, Winfrey formed her own production company called Harpo Productions, to promoted her ideas. She went on to produce television drama ‘The Women of Brewster Place,’ in 1989 in which she co-starred.
  16. In 1985, she made her feature film debut with ‘The Color Purple,’ directed by Steven Spielberg, for which she was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress.
  17. In 1998, Winfrey co-produced and starred in the fantasy drama film ‘Beloved’ directed by Jonathan Demme. To prepare her for the role as a slave, she went through 24-hour simulation of slavery including being tied up, blindfolded, and left alone in the woods.
  18. Though her Oprah Winfrey Show earned her widespread popularity, she was accused of promoting junk science and branded as most powerful crank enabler on the planet.
  19. In 1993, she hosted Michael Jackson, in a prime-time live 90-minute interview, rated as the fourth most watched entertainment program in TV history then, with 36.5 million viewers.
  20. She is the first woman in history to own and produce her own talk show. Winfrey co-founded the women’s cable television network ‘Oxygen.’
  21. In 2006, Winfrey signed a deal with the publisher Simon & Schuster for a book about keeping weight under control. The deal announced at the annual Book Expo America in Washington was claimed to be the biggest signed for a non-fiction work.
  22. After years of publicly criticizing David Letterman’s late-night television show, she and Letterman finally settled their differences when she appeared on the show on December 1, 2005, which was hailed by some as the ‘television event of the decade’ He reciprocated by being on her show on September 10, 2007.
  23. On May 2011, the final episode of ‘The Winfrey Show’ was aired, after being on the air for 25 long years. She thanked all and said “gratitude is the single greatest treasure I will take from this experience.”
  24. On January 1, 2011, Discovery Communication, in a joint venture with Harpo Production, re-launched Discovery Health as ‘OWN: The Oprah Winfrey Network.’
  25. She permanently withdrew her show from consideration for a Daytime Emmy Award after being awarded the ‘Lifetime Achievement Award.’ She was quoted as saying “after you’ve achieved it for a lifetime, what else is there.”
  26. Winfrey currently lives on ‘The Promised Land’ a 42-acre estate with ocean and mountain views in Montecito, California. Stedman Graham has been Winfrey’s long-time love since 1986, and were engaged to be married, which never happened till this day.
  27. She was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama, in 2013. She was considered as one of the most influential, powerful, and admired women in the 20th century.
  28. Winfrey established ‘Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls,’ in Henley on Klip, Johannesburg, South Africa. Through her show, she brought to attention the plight of young children affected by poverty and AIDS and on appeal, viewers donated over $7,000,000.
  29. She has won numerous nominations and award for her works including an academy award for ‘Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award,’ for outstanding contribution to humanitarian causes in 2011, and ‘Golden Globe Cecil B. DeMille Award,’ for Outstanding Contributions to the world of entertainment in 2018.
  30. In 2018, she signed a deal with Apple’s streaming service to create original content that will include a book club, documentaries, and TV series.
  31. Oprah Winfrey Net Worth: $2.8 Billion
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