“The more you praise and celebrate life, the more there is in life to celebrate,” says the most influential black woman alive in the world, Oprah Winfrey. The ‘Queen of all media’ as she is called, Winfrey is ranked the richest African-American, the greatest black philanthropist in American history, and is currently North America’s first and only multi-billionaire black person. All because of her best talk show –The Oprah Winfrey Show. The show has garnered the highest ratings in a television program of its kind in history. It started its journey in 1986 and ran for 26 seasons  till 2011.

Oprah did not just interview celebrities on her show, but also hosted common people with extraordinary stories and gave away products that she liked to the audience that came to watch her. The giveaways were so huge that once she gave away iPads to 300 people in the audience and another time each person in the audience received a new car from General Motors ,costing the company eight million dollars in total. The show had a great impact on people’s lives because they could connect with Oprah as a person.

Oprah Winfrey
Oprah Winfrey speaks after accepting the Minerva award at “The Women’s Conference 2010” in Long Beach (Pic by Enstraz)

To take you through the powerhouse that Oprah Winfrey is, here are 14 milestones that were the most influential in her life:

  • She was born to a teenage single mother on January 29, 1954 in a state of extreme poverty in rural Mississippi. She suffered sexual abuse as a child and she became pregnant at the age of 14. The child did not survive for long and died as an infant.
  • Winfrey won the Miss Black Tennessee beauty pageant which earned her a lot of attention from the people in her city.
  • At 19, Winfrey got her first job at a radio station in Tennessee. At her job, she co-anchored a local news evening show, which also made her the first black female news anchor at Nashville’s WLAC-TV. Her improvisation on the show while reading the news connected with the viewers.
  • She landed herself a daytime talk show on TV which in addition to being the first black female news anchor, also made her the youngest anchor at Nashville’s WLAC-TV.
  • In 1983, Winfrey moved to Chicago to host a low-ranking half-hour morning talk show, AM Chicago. Her presence on the show overwhelmed the audience and the show jumped to first rank in just a few months.

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  • Winfrey went into acting in 1985, with her debut movie The Colour Purple which was based on the famous book by Alice Walker. The film was directed by Steven Spielberg and showcased the horrors faced by the African-American women in the 20th century. She was nominated for the Academy Awards and the Golden Globes for her portrayal of Sofia in the movie.
  • Oprah went on to start her own Production company called Harpo Productions in 1986 in Chicago.
  • The same year, her legendary show The Oprah Winfrey Show began airing in America. The way Oprah used emotional confessions on the show transformed the way talk shows worked in the country and gave way to a new form of interview format that really tugged at audience’s heartstrings.
  • In 1989, Winfrey produced and starred in a drama mini series titled The Women of Brewster Place.
  • She spent the 90s reinventing The Oprah Winfrey Show where she included various segments which focused on literature, self-improvement, and spirituality. Celebrity intervention in understanding social issues was the new format now.
  • The show was a massive hit and the episode with Michael Jackson, which aired in 1993 became the most-watched interview in television history. Jackson had not done any interviews in his 14 years of career by then and this was the first time the famous singer sat down to talk. He talked about the rumours surrounding his cosmetic surgery, his relationship with his father, and his skin-pigment disorder known as vitiligo.
  • Winfrey went on to start a women’s-oriented TV channel called Oxygen in 2000 and in 2011, transformed the Discovery Health Channel into a new channel called OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network.
  • 2005 saw Oprah appear on Late Show with David Letterman to promote the music al based on The Colour Purple. This was the first time he had promoted a musical in 16 years
  • Winfrey has co-authored five books in total. The advance she got for her  weight loss book in 2005, co-authored with her trainer Bob Greene, brought in an undisclosed advance fee that had broke the record for the world’s highest book advance fee.

Feature Picture credit- Hooked On Everything