Oprah Winfrey had one of the great successes in television history with the long-running The Oprah Winfrey Show, a cultural phenomenon and ratings winner. Winfrey ended the show in 2011 after 25 years on the air.
Forbes Magazine puts her personal wealth at $3 billion in 2017, making her the world’s richest African-American.
Her show wasn’t the first successful or influential daytime talk show, but Winfrey’s warmth, intimacy, and personal confessions changed daytime talk shows. Her show provided much needed high impact media visibility for LGBTQ people, making them more mainstream and socially acceptable than any other development of the 20th century. In April 1997, Winfrey played the therapist in The Puppy Episode on the sitcom Ellen where the character, and the real-life Ellen DeGeneres, came out of the closet.
Winfrey starred in Steven Spielberg’s film version of Alice Walker’s The Color Purple (1985). She was nominated for an Academy Award for her performance. The Walker novel went on to become a Broadway musical in 2005, with Winfrey as a producer. In 1998, Winfrey produced and starred in the film Beloved, based on Toni Morrison’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel. To prepare for her role as a former slave, Winfrey experienced a 24-hour simulation of the experience of slavery, which included being tied up and blindfolded and left alone in the woods.
Other brave film performances include The Butler (2013), Selma (2014), and last year’s The Immortal Life Of Henrietta Lacks.
With Oprah’s Book Club, O Magazine, Oprah.com, the OWN television network, Oprah Radio, and Harpo Productions, her influence is vast.
By the way, if you are rooting for her possible presidential run, The Ethics Reform Act Of 1989 forbids government officials from allowing their names to be used by any enterprise that ”provides professional services involving a fiduciary relationship”. Like that orange blob that she would presumably trounce in 2020, Winfrey would seem to be a prime candidate for this statute, since much of her considerable success is tied to her brand.