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, 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 remained the number one talk show for 24 consecutive seasons. Produced by her own production company, the show reached more than 40 million viewers a week in the United States and was licensed to 150 countries internationally.
In 2008, Oprah and Discovery Communications announced plans to create OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network, a multi-platform media venture designed to entertain, inform and inspire people to live their best lives. OWN debuted on January 1, 2011, in 67 percent of homes in the United States and 80 percent of cable homes. Effective Fall 2011, Oprah assumed the positions of Chief Executive Officer and Chief Creative Officer for the network.
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 2.35 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 December 2008, Harpo Films announced an exclusive deal with HBO to produce scripted television programming.
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 was 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 lifestyle website, offering advice on everything from the mind, body and spirit to food, home and relationships. It provides comprehensive resources related to OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network, The Oprah Winfrey Show, O, The Oprah Magazine and Oprah Radio. 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 2 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 87 million page views and more than 7 million unique users per month and has 2.8 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 and now serves grades 7 through 12. 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 percent 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. The Angel Network distributed its final grants, six $1 million donations to U.S. charter schools, in September 2010.
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.
With a track record of hits including The Oprah Winfrey Show, Dr. Phil, Rachael Ray, The Dr. Oz Show and The Nate Berkus Show, Oprah owns the most successful production company in daytime talk and is also the Chief Executive Officer of OWN: The Oprah Winfrey Network.
From Harpo Studios, her company also creates, develops and produces original programming for network, syndication, cable and digital platforms. 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). Cable series include Season 25: Oprah Behind the Scenes (2011) and Oprah Presents Master Class (2011), as well as The Rosie Show (2011), Oprah's Lifeclass (2011), Oprah's Next Chapter (2012) and Oprah and the Legendary Cast of Roots 35 Years Later (2012).
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.