Through the power of media, Oprah Winfrey has created an unparalleled connection with people around the world. As supervising producer and host of the top-rated, award-winning “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” she has entertained, enlightened and uplifted millions of viewers for the past two decades. Her accomplishments as a global media leader and philanthropist have established her as one of the most respected and admired public figures today.
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 relocated to Baltimore’s WJZ-TV to co-anchor the “Six O’Clock News” and later went on to become co-host of its 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 local talk show—surpassing ratings for “Donahue”—just one month after she began. In less than a year, the show expanded to one hour and was renamed “The Oprah Winfrey Show.” It entered national syndication in 1986, becoming the highest-rated talk show in television history. In 1988, she established Harpo Studios, a production facility in Chicago, making her the third woman in the American entertainment industry (after Mary Pickford and Lucille Ball) to own her own studio.
“The Oprah Winfrey Show” has remained the number one talk show for 23 consecutive seasons*. Produced by her own production company, Harpo Productions, Inc., the show is seen by an estimated 42 million viewers a week in the United States** and is broadcast internationally in 144 countries.
In 2008, Oprah and Discovery Communications announced plans to create “OWN: The Oprah Winfrey Network.” The new multi-platform media venture will be designed to entertain, inform and inspire people to live their best lives. OWN will debut in 2011 in approximately 80 million homes.
Magazine Founder and Editorial Director
In April 2000, Oprah and Hearst Magazines introduced “O, The Oprah Magazine,” a monthly magazine that has become one of today’s leading women’s lifestyle publications. It is credited as being the most successful magazine launch in recent history and currently has a circulation of 2.3 million readers each month. In April 2002, Oprah launched the first international edition of “O, The Oprah Magazine” in South Africa, extending her live your best life message to another broad audience.
Through her company’s film division, Harpo Films, she has produced projects based on classic and contemporary literature that have garnered the highest industry honors for quality acting and production. Telefilms under the “Oprah Winfrey Presents” banner have included 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; “Their Eyes Were Watching God,” based on the Zora Neale Hurston novel and starring Academy Award®-winner Halle Berry; and “Mitch Albom’s For One More Day,” based on his best-selling novel and starring Emmy Award®-winner Michael Imperioli and Academy Award®-winner Ellen Burstyn.
In 1998, Harpo Films produced the critically acclaimed “Beloved,” a Touchstone Pictures feature film based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Toni Morrison, which co-starred Oprah Winfrey and Danny Glover and was directed by Jonathan Demme. On Christmas Day 2007, co-producers Harpo Films and The Weinstein Company released “The Great Debaters,” which is directed by Academy Award®-winner Denzel Washington who also stars in the film with Academy Award®-winner Forest Whitaker. “The Great Debaters received a Golden Globe® nomination for Best Motion Picture. In fall 2009, Oprah Winfrey and Tyler Perry supported Lionsgate’s distribution of “Precious,” based on the novel by Sapphire.
Oprah made her acting debut in 1985 as “Sofia” in Steven Spielberg’s “The Color Purple,” for which she received both Academy Award® and Golden Globe® nominations. She also has been lauded for her performances in the made-for-television movies “Before Women Had Wings” (1997), “There Are No Children Here” (1993), and “The Women of Brewster Place” (1989). She also has lent her voice to animated feature films, including Charlotte’s Web (2006), Bee Movie (2007) and The Princess and the Frog (2009).
Oprah.com is a premier women’s lifestyle website, offering advice on everything from the mind, body and spirit to food, home and relationships. It provides comprehensive resources related to “The Oprah Winfrey Show”, “O, The Oprah Magazine”, and “Oprah & Friends.” In addition, the website has unique original content, including Oprah’s Book Club, which offers free in-depth reading guides for each book selection, online discussion groups and Q&A sessions with literary experts. Oprah’s Book Club quickly became the largest book club in the world, presently attracting approximately two million members.
In March 2008, Oprah.com launched the first international interactive webinar series in conjunction with the Book Club selection “A New Earth.” The groundbreaking live multimedia sessions taught by Oprah and author Eckhart Tolle, have been downloaded or streamed more than 35 million times. For each chapter, Oprah.com users could capture their thoughts and new perspectives within their own personal online workbook.
Oprah.com averages 81 million page views and 7.5 million unique users per month and has more than 2 million newsletter subscribers.
Oprah has long believed that education is the door to freedom, offering a chance at a brighter future. Through her private charity, The Oprah Winfrey Foundation, she has awarded hundreds of grants to organizations that support the education and empowerment of women, children and families in the United States and around the world. Amongst her various philanthropic contributions, she has donated millions of dollars toward providing a better education for students who have merit but no means. She also created “The Oprah Winfrey Scholars Program,” which gives scholarships to students determined to use their education to give back to their communities in the United States and abroad.
In December 2002, The Oprah Winfrey Foundation expanded its global humanitarian efforts with her “ChristmasKindness South Africa 2002” initiative that included visits to orphanages and rural schools in South Africa where 50,000 children received gifts of food, clothing, athletic shoes, school supplies, books and toys. Sixty-three schools received libraries and teacher education.
During a December 2000 visit with Nelson Mandela, Oprah pledged to build a school in South Africa. As that commitment broadened, she established The Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy Foundation, to which she has contributed more than $40 million toward the creation of the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls – South Africa, which opened in January 2007. Located in a 28-building campus in Henley-on-Klip, the Leadership Academy is a state-of-the-art independent school that engenders high standards of academic achievement and service leadership for girls from all nine South African provinces who show outstanding promise despite their impoverished backgrounds and social circumstances. Her vision is that the Leadership Academy will help develop the future women leaders of South Africa.
In a 1997 episode of “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” Oprah encouraged viewers to use their lives to make a difference in the lives of others, which led to the creation of the public charity Oprah’s Angel Network in 1998. Oprah’s Angel Network has raised more than $80 million, with 100% of the donations funding charitable projects and grants across the globe. Oprah’s Angel Network has helped establish 60 schools in 13 countries, create scholarships, support women’s shelters, and build youth centers and homes—changing the future for people all over the world.
Oprah’s commitment to children also led her to initiate the National Child Protection Act in 1991, when she testified before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee to establish a national database of convicted child abusers. On December 20, 1993, President Clinton signed the national “Oprah Bill” into law.
Television Programming Creator
With a track record of hits including “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” “Dr. Phil,” “Rachael Ray” and “The Dr. Oz Show,” Harpo Productions is the most successful production company in daytime talk. In September 2002, Harpo Productions, Inc. created “Dr. Phil,” a syndicated daytime talk show now produced by Peteski Productions in association with CBS Television Distribution. “Dr. Phil,” which had the highest-rated talk show launch since “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” consistently ranks second among all U.S. talk shows.
Dynamic television personality and best-selling author Rachael Ray announced a partnership with Harpo Productions, Inc., King World Productions (now CBS Television Distribution), and Scripps Networks to host a daily one-hour talk show that began airing in September 2006.
In September 2009, Harpo Productions and Sony Pictures Television—which distributes the program—created and co-produced “The Dr. Oz Show,” a daily one-hour talk show starring “Oprah” health expert and best-selling author Dr. Mehmet Oz. The program premiered in syndication as the best first-run talk show debut in seven years (since the launch of “Dr. Phil”) and is the #3 series in daytime syndication.
Harpo Productions, Inc. also creates and produces original television programming. Past primetime specials include “Oprah Winfrey’s Legends Ball” (2006), the “Oprah Winfrey Oscar® Special” (2007), “Building A Dream: The Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy” (2007), “Christmas at the White House: An Oprah Primetime Special” (2009) and “The Oprah Winfrey Oscar® Special” (2010).
Satellite Radio Programmer
Through a joint venture, Oprah launched “Oprah & Friends” satellite radio channel in September 2006, which was renamed “Oprah Radio” in 2009. “Oprah Radio,” which airs on Sirius XM Radio, features a broad range of original daily programming from Harpo Radio, Inc., including regular segments hosted by popular personalities from “The Oprah Winfrey Show” and “O, The Oprah Magazine” and her exclusive radio program, “Oprah’s Soul Series.”
Twenty years after she made her movie debut as “Sofia” in “The Color Purple,” Oprah made her Broadway debut as a producer for the Tony Award®-winning hit musical “The Color Purple,” which opened on December 1, 2005 at the Broadway Theatre in New York City. The show continues to tour throughout the United States.
*Nielsen Cassandra Ranking Report – Nov’86 to July ’99 and Wrap Sweeps+, Nov ’99 to May ‘09. Wtd Avg DMA HH Rtg, Primary Telecasts Only.
**Nielsen/NPower/P2+ unique viewer average: 1-minute qualifier, L+7, 10/30/08-11/26/08, 3/5/09-4/1/09, 4/23/09-5/20/09.
In recognition of her extraordinary achievements and contributions, Oprah has received numerous honors, including the most prestigious awards and highest industry acknowledgments.
“TIME Magazine” – 100 Most Influential People in the World
She is the only person to have been included in all six of TIME’s 100 Most Influential People in the World lists, from 2004-2009.
The Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity – 2007 Humanitarian Award
The New York Public Library – Library Lion 2006
National Association for the Advancement of Colored People – Hall of Fame
National Civil Rights Museum – 2005 National Freedom Award
International Academy of Television Arts & Sciences – 2005 International Emmy Founders Award
United Nations Association of the United States of America – Global Humanitarian Action Award
National Association of Broadcasters – Distinguished Service Award
Association of American Publishers – AAP Honors Award
54th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards® – Bob Hope Humanitarian Award
“Broadcasting & Cable” – Hall of Fame
National Book Foundation – 50th Anniversary Gold Medal
National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences – Lifetime Achievement Award
The following year, after accepting this pinnacle honor, Oprah removed herself from future Emmy consideration and the show followed suit in 2000. Oprah and “The Oprah Winfrey Show” received more than 40 Daytime Emmy Awards®: seven for Outstanding Host; nine for Outstanding Talk Show; more than 20 in the Creative Arts categories; and one for Oprah’s work as supervising producer of the ABC After School Special “Shades of Single Protein.”
“TIME Magazine” – 100 Most Influential People of the 20th Century
“Newsweek” – Most Important Person in Books and Media
“TV Guide” – Television Performer of the Year
International Radio & Television Society Foundation – Gold Medal Award
George Foster Peabody Awards – 1995 Individual Achievement Award