Oprah Winfrey: Snapshot

Oprah Winfrey
Date of Birth
January 29, 1954
Birth Place
Kosciusko, Miss.
When young Oprah Winfrey dated movie critic Roger Ebert, he persuaded her to take her successful Chicago talk show into syndication. By 1986, The Oprah Winfrey Show had become the highest-rated talk show in TV history.

Now worth more than a billion dollars, Winfrey has succeeded on many fronts – as an Oscar-nominated actress (The Color Purple), magazine editor, literary ring leader, radio host and network owner.

The Queen of Talk has raised and personally donated millions of dollars to victims of poverty and disease and openly speaks about her own experience with abuse as a child. But, according to Winfrey, none of her achievements make her more proud than the two schools she opened for South Africa's neediest girls and the 2011 launch of OWN: The Oprah Winfrey Network.

Oprah Winfrey: Five Fun Facts

  1. Oprah Winfrey's first name was supposed to be Orpah, after Ruth's sister-in-law in the Bible, but it was misspelled Oprah on her birth certificate. The name stuck.
  2. Oprah Winfrey was taught to read at age 3 by her grandmother, helping her develop her knack for public speaking. "[People] would say to my grandmother, 'Hattie Mae, this child sure can talk. She is the talkingest child," Winfrey told CNN.
  3. Embarrassed by her butterfly-rimmed eyeglasses as a teen, Oprah Winfrey asked her mother to replace them. When she wouldn't, Oprah Winfrey broke them and called the cops. "The story was that someone broke in, hit me on the head and knocked off my glasses," she told the Washington Post. "I lay down and faked amnesia."
  4. Barbara Walters shaped the budding Oprah Winfrey's interviewing style. "For the first six months I was on the air, I imitated her like crazy," Winfrey told the Los Angeles Times in 1987.
  5. Oprah Winfrey is the first African-American celebrity to land on the cover of Vogue, in the October 1998 issue. She loses 20 lbs. for the photo shoot. "If you want to be on the cover of Vogue and [editor-in-chief] Anna Wintour says you have to be down to 150 lbs. – that's what you gotta do," Winfrey tells the BBC.

Oprah Winfrey: Biography


Hard Childhood

Leaving her grandmother's home in Mississippi, Winfrey splits her time between her mother, Vernita, in Milwaukee, Wis., and her father, Vernon, in Nashville, Tenn. She is raped and abused by family friends in Milwaukee. Winfrey moves to Nashville permanently in 1968, secretly pregnant at 14. Her father, a strict disciplinarian, helps her rebuild her life when her week-old baby dies.


Oprah Winfrey

Beauty Queen

Winfrey wins Nashville's Miss Fire Prevention contest. The pageant sponsor, a radio station, offers Winfrey a job reading the afternoon headlines on air. After being crowned Miss Black Tennessee in 1972, she competes in the Miss Black America competition, but her burgeoning news career and college studies end her pageant days. At 19, she becomes anchor of Nashville's WTVF-TV station and leaves Tennessee State University to be the first female African-American news anchor in Nashville.


Oprah Winfrey


Windy City Calls

After an eight-year stint cohosting a local morning show in Baltimore, Md., a 29-year-old Winfrey cohosts the talk show AM Chicago, which she eventually takes over. Within months she beats the top-rated Phil Donahue Show in viewership and AM Chicago is renamed The Oprah Winfrey Show.

Read More on Oprah Winfrey's Life

Photo Credits

Top Left: John Spellman/Retna

BIOGRAPHY (top to bottom): Tennessean; Harrison Jones

Edited by Julia Wang

Oprah Winfrey

Celebrity Central / Top 25 Celebs