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Oprah Winfrey Fast Facts

CNN Editorial Research

Here is a look at the life of Oprah Winfrey, who hosted the award-winning “The Oprah Winfrey Show.”


Birth date: January 29, 1954

Birth place: Kosciusko, Mississippi

Birth name: Oprah Gail Winfrey

Father: Vernon Winfrey, a barber

Mother: Vernita Lee, a maid (parents never married)

Education: Tennessee State University, B.A., Speech and Performing Arts, 1976

Other Facts

At age 19, while still a sophomore in college, becomes the youngest and first African-American anchor for WTVF-TV in Nashville.

Winfrey’s first name is spelled Orpah on her birth certificate but there was confusion over how to pronounce the name, so the spelling was changed to Oprah. In an interview with the Academy of Achievement, Winfrey explained that her aunt chose the name Orpah as a bible reference. Winfrey said that she’s happy the spelling got switched to Oprah because backwards it spells Harpo.

Stedman Graham has been her companion for more than 30 years.

Together, Winfrey and “The Oprah Winfrey Show” received a total of 16 Daytime Emmy Awards for “Outstanding Talk Show Host” and ” Outstanding Talk Show,” and one for her work as supervising producer of the “ABC Afterschool Special: Shades of a Single Protein.” Winfrey was also presented with two honorary awards.

After removing her name from competition in the Daytime Emmy Awards in 2000, “The Oprah Winfrey Show” won Emmy awards in the technical categories only.

Winfrey has been involved in various projects that have garnered many Primetime Emmy Award nominations, she has won one, and was also presented with an honorary award.

Two Academy Award nominations. Received one honorary award.

Two Tony Award nominations with one win.


1976 – Becomes a news co-anchor at WJZ-TV in Baltimore.

January 1984 Becomes the anchor of “A.M. Chicago,” which airs opposite Phil Donahue.

September 1985 – The show is renamed “The Oprah Winfrey Show.”

1985-2011Host of “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” the highest-rated talk show in history.

1985 – Makes her film debut in “The Color Purple,” for which she is nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Oscar.

November 8, 1986“The Oprah Winfrey Show” goes into national syndication.

1987, 1988, 1989, 1991-1992, 1994-1996 and 1997 – Wins the Daytime Emmy Award for Best Talk Show for “The Oprah Winfrey Show.”

1987, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995 and 1998 – Wins the Daytime Emmy Award for Best Talk Show Host for “The Oprah Winfrey Show.”

1988 – Forms her own production company, Harpo Inc.

December 20, 1993 – President Bill Clinton honors Oprah by signing into law the “Oprah Bill,” following her 1991 testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee advocating for a national database to search for child abusers. This bill, officially called the National Child Protection Act, creates a national criminal history background check system.

1993 – Wins the Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Children’s Special, “ABC Afterschool Special: Shades of a Single Protein.” Oprah is also inducted into the Television Academy Hall of Fame.

1996Starts “Oprah’s Book Club” on her show. The book club becomes very influential in the publishing world as selected books rise to the top of bestseller lists.

1997Starts Oprah’s Angel Network, a charitable foundation.

1998 – Winfrey is presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Daytime Emmy Awards.

1998Produces the movie “Beloved.”

1998 – Partners with Oxygen Media, which plans to operate a 24-hour cable channel for women.

1999 – Withdraws her name for consideration in the Daytime Emmy Awards.

2000 – Wins the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Made for Television Movie for “Oprah Winfrey Presents: Tuesdays with Morrie.”

April 2000 – Launches “O, The Oprah Magazine,” and the Oxygen Network.

2002 – Accepts the Bob Hope Humanitarian Award from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.

February 2003 Becomes the first African-American woman on Forbes magazine’s “World’s Richest People” list, with a net worth of about $1 billion.

September 13, 2004 Begins a new season of her talk show by giving each member of the audience a brand-new car.

September 26, 2005 Winfrey announces that she is investing more than $1 million to bring the musical “The Color Purple” to Broadway in December 2005.

September 25, 2006-January 1, 2015 – Oprah and Friends (renamed Oprah Radio) airs on SiriusXM Radio.

January 2, 2007 – The Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls opens in Henley-on-Klip, South Africa. The school houses 152 girls from deprived backgrounds and provides them with an education. Winfrey has reportedly spent $40 million opening the school.

September 8, 2007 – Hosts a fundraiser for presidential hopeful Barack Obama at her California home.

October 2007NBC buys the Oxygen Network for $925 million.

January 15, 2008 Winfrey and Discovery Communications announce that beginning in 2009 the Discovery Health Channel will be renamed OWN: The Oprah Winfrey Network.

November 20, 2009 – Announces on her show that she will discontinue her talk show in 2011. She will then move to California and launch OWN.

December 5, 2010 Winfrey is honored at the Kennedy Center as part of the 33rd annual Kennedy Center Honors gala.

January 1, 2011 – OWN: The Oprah Winfrey Network debuts.

May 25, 2011 – The last “Oprah Winfrey Show” airs. There are no guests for this episode.

June 19, 2011 – Receives the Chairman’s Crystal Pillar Award for her decades of work in network television from the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.

November 12, 2011 – Winfrey receives an honorary Oscar, the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award, from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

January 1, 2012 Winfrey’s new show, “Oprah’s Next Chapter,” debuts on the OWN network.

November 20, 2013 – Is awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Obama.

October 19, 2015 – Winfrey and Weight Watchers announce a partnership in which Winfrey is buying a 10% stake in the company and taking a seat on its board of directors.

June 12, 2016 – Wins a Tony Award for Best Revival of a Musical for “The Color Purple.”

January 3, 2017 – Releases a cookbook, “Food, Health, and Happiness: 115 On-Point Recipes for Great Meals and a Better Life.”

January 31, 2017 – CBS announces that Winfrey will be a special contributor to “60 Minutes,” starting in the fall of 2017.

August 9, 2017 – Partners with the Kraft Heinz Company to produce a line of refrigerated comfort food called O, That’s Good!, available in stores beginning October 2017.

January 7, 2018 – Winfrey receives the 2018 Golden Globes’ Cecil B. DeMille Award, which is given “to a talented individual for outstanding contributions to the world of entertainment.”

February 20, 2018 – Announces she is donating $500,000 to March For Our Lives, an event formed in the aftermath of the deadly shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

June 15, 2018 – Apple announces Winfrey has signed a multi-year deal with the company to create new original programming.

July 11, 2018 – Winfrey invests in True Food Kitchen, a Phoenix-based healthy restaurant chain.

November 1, 2018 – Delivers a speech in support of Georgia Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams. “For anybody here who has an ancestor who didn’t have the right to vote, and you are choosing not to vote — wherever you are in this state, in this country — you are dishonoring your family,” Winfrey said in Marietta, Georgia.

April 8, 2019 – The Hispanic Federation and the Flamboyan Arts Fund announce that Winfrey is donating $2 million to help Puerto Rico recover from Hurricane Maria.

April 10, 2019 – It is announced that Winfrey and Prince Harry are partnering on a multi-part documentary series focusing on mental health. The series is set to air on the Apple TV platform in 2020.

October 7, 2019 – While at Morehouse College celebrating its 30th anniversary, Winfrey announces a $13 million donation to its scholarship fund. This brings her total donation to $25 million. It is the largest endowment in the college’s history, according to the school.

January 10, 2020 – Withdraws as executive producer of a documentary expose concerning allegations of sexual misconduct against Russell Simmons. “On the Record” was being produced for air on the Apple TV streaming platform as part of Winfrey’s multi-year content partnership with the company.

April 2, 2020 – Announces that she has donated $10 million “to help Americans during this pandemic in cities across the country.” Of her total donation, $1 million will go toward America’s Food Fund to alleviate food insecurity. The rest will be donated to other groups helping Americans during the pandemic.

July 30, 2020 – “The Oprah Conversation” debuts on Apple TV+.

July 30, 2020 – It’s announced that Breonna Taylor will be featured on the cover of O magazine. The first time in the magazine‘s 20 year history that Winfrey hasn’t been on the cover.

March 7, 2021 – “Oprah With Meghan and Harry: A CBS Primetime Special” airs on CBS, and draws over 17 million viewers in the United States.

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