The person I admire most is Oprah Winfrey, the famous talk show host and
actress. There is just no end to her talents, resilience and generosity.
her television career began back in 1973, she has won 34 Emmy Awards, and her
show has topped talk-show ratings for 14 consecutive seasons. The
emotionally-charged, self-help approach of her program appeals to millions, and
Winfrey regularly flattens her competitors. An accomplished actress, she won an
Academy Award nomination for her role in 'The Color Purple'. Winfrey was
recognized by Time Magazine in 1998, when it named her one of the 100 most
influential people of the 20th Century. On May 25th 1998, she received 'A
Lifetime Achievement Award' at the Emmy Awards Presentation.
Her success has not just been on screen. She is also a formidable
businesswoman with her own production company, Harpo Productions. The company
creates feature films, prime time TV specials and home videos. When she expanded
into publishing, millions of fans flocked to buy her magazine, simply called
But it is through her talk show that her influence has been greatest. When
Winfrey talks, her viewers - an estimated 14 million daily in the U.S. and
millions more in 132 other countries - listen. If she recommends a novel through
her book club, it is pretty much guaranteed to top the best-seller lists, and
she makes self-help gurus into household names.
Apart from that, she is also known for her generosity towards the poor and
needy. When she established the 'world's largest piggy bank', people all over
the country contributed spare change to raise more than $1 million to send
disadvantaged kids to college. The amount raised was matched by Oprah herself.
Her work also includes Oprah's Angel Network, which she launched in 1997. This
is a campaign to encourage people to help those in need. Winfrey's work has
extended to social change, and in 1991, she was instrumental in the National
Child Protection Act. She testified before the U.S. senate judiciary committee
to establish a national database of convicted child abusers. Two years later,
former President Bill Clinton signed the national 'Oprah Bill' into law.
Recently, she won the Bob Hope Humanitarian Award for her outstanding
Born in 1954 to unwed parents, Winfrey was raised by her grandmother on a
farm in Kosciusko, Mississippi. By the age of three, she was reading the Bible
and reciting it in church. A lonely child, she found solace in books. When a
seventh-grade teacher noticed the young girl reading during lunch, he got her a
scholarship to a better school. Winfrey's talent for public performance and
spontaneity in answering questions helped her win beauty contests and provided
her with the first taste of public attention and heady success.
Crowned Miss Fire Prevention in Nashville at 17, Winfrey visited a
local radio station where she was invited to read for fun and was hired to read
news on the air. Two years later, while a sophomore at Tennessee State
University, she was hired as Nashville's first female and first black TV news
anchor. After graduation, she took an anchor position in Baltimore, but lacked
the detachment to be a reporter. She cried when a story was sad, laughed when
she misread a word. Then, instead of firing her, they gave her a morning talk
show. She had finally found her medium.
By 1984, Winfrey was hosting WLS-TV's morning talk show in Chicago and after
just one month, it was topping the ratings. Two years later, the Oprah Winfrey
Show was born, with its host also producing the program. It went on to become
the highest-rated talk show in TV history, and 26 million viewers tune in each
week in the U.S. to watch it.
She continues to exhort viewers to improve their lives and the world. She
makes people care because she cares. That is Oprah Winfrey's genius, and will be
her legacy, as the changes she has wrought in the talk show continue to permeate
our culture and shape our lives.