Oprah Winfrey (born January 29, 1954 in Kosciusko, Mississippi) is one of the most successful entrepreneurs in America. The name on her birth certificate is Orpah, a character from the Bible chosen by her Aunt Ida, but over time, people used Oprah instead.
A black woman born to humble beginnings, she started as a Baltimore news anchor. Soon she had her own daytime talk show, called "The Oprah Winfrey Show" (and later abbreviated to "Oprah") which originally followed traditional talk show formats. By the late 1990s, however, the format became more serious, addressing issues that Winfrey thought were of direct importance and of crucial consequence to women. Winfrey began to do a lot of charity work, and would feature persons suffering from poverty or the victims of unfortunate accidents on her show.
Winfrey has often discussed openly various aspects of life, including those more unpleasant ones, with the media, including a sexually abusive childhood and a problem with drugs as an adult. Her own weight fluctuations have caused her to be considered a weight-loss guru. In the late 1990s, Winfrey introduced her "book club" on television. After introducing a book, it would instantly become a best-seller, something that can only be considered a powerful demonstration of Winfrey's influence.
During a 1996 aired show about Mad Cow disease, Winfrey exclaimed, "It has just stopped me from eating another burger!" Due to this comment, Oprah was sued in 1998 by Texas cattle ranchers in a defamation lawsuit, claiming that Winfrey's remarks subsequently sent cattle prices tumbling, costing beef producers some $12 million. In the end, the jury found that Oprah could not be considered liable for damages. After the trial, Oprah received a postcard from Rosie O'Donnell reading, "Congratulations, you beat the meat!".
Winfrey has started The Angel Network, an organization that collects millions of dollars a year for charities. She publishes her own magazines, called "O" and "O At Home," and has her own cable television network, called Oxygen. She is the president of Harpo Productions (Oprah spelled backwards), which, among other things, produced the screen adaptation of the Toni Morisson novel Beloved. Winfrey has also ventured into acting, most notably in the screen adaptation of the Alice Walker novel The Color Purple (for which she received an Oscar nomination) and in her own production Beloved. Winfrey is also a published author, and was the recipient of The Bob Hope Humanitarian Award at the 2002 Emmy Award. Winfrey is based in Chicago, Illinois but has a home in Montecito, California; she is reported to have recently been buying property on Maui.