If an influential African American media figure of the 20th century comes to mind, then a top 5 list worldwide would without a doubt have Oprah Winfrey in it. Born on this date of January 29, 1954, Oprah worked hard from the bottom to become one of the most powerful women in the world. She was America’s first lady long before Michelle Obama got into the White House, and there are many who would have probably voted for Oprah if she ran! Oprah has had a complicated journey to the top, but in the end it was well worth it.
From 1986 to 2011, she hosted the most popular talk show on TV, the self-titled Oprah. In order to become Queen of daytime TV, she had to win out against the long running Phil Donahue, who was also in the same time slot. This was long before the Oprah Winfrey show, when she was hosting the less popular “A.M. Chicago.” It didn’t take long for her to overtake Donahue and get worldwide recognition for her talk show talents. This is around the time that daytime “trash TV” was popular, so for Oprah to manage to stand out from the rest is a big compliment to her personality. Even the Jerry Springer Show at its peak couldn’t reach the ratings success of the Oprah show.
Oprah isn’t just about being a talk show host. She has been in several movies throughout her life. Her performance in The Color Purple resulted in a nomination for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. This is a major accomplishment when you consider that acting wasn’t her forte, and she was starring alongside other great actresses like Whoopi Goldberg in her prime. However, Oprah’s true genius is in gaining ownership of her talents, something that even the most successful business people struggle to do.
At the height of her talk show fame, she gained more and more control of her show, including side projects which included producing movies. Of the many side projects that caught fire, Oprah’s Book Club, Oxygen Networks, and O Magazine became immensely popular. Oprah maintained a magnetic persona through the media, to the point where anyone in the business that appeared within her stratosphere gained instant success. She always received top billing and got the guests she wanted, and even when she ended the Oprah Winfrey Show, her powered continued to grow in the industry. Believing in giving back to the community, Oprah’s Angel Network has raised over $51 million for charitable programs, which is one of the many reasons Oprah is considered to be the one of the most influential woman of her generation.