At the heart of Oprah Winfrey's media empire is her powerhouse television talk show, which will fade to black after 25 seasons on the air in 2011. But Ms. Winfrey's reach extends far wider than the afternoon airwaves: The wealthy entrepreneur is regarded as one of the most influential opinion-makers in the United States.
The Oprah Winfrey Show :
Once a local Chicago morning program, the production evolved into television's top-rated talk show for more than two decades, watched by an estimated 42 million viewers a week in the U.S. and airing in 145 countries worldwide. The Oprah Winfrey Show is one of the TV industry's biggest money-makers.
The program's 24th season opened this year with a bang, as Ms. Winfrey, 55, drew more than 20,000 fans to Chicago's Magnificent Mile for a block party with the Black Eyed Peas. She followed with a series of blockbuster interviews - Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield and singer Whitney Houston, and just this week, former Alaska governor and Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin.
In past seasons, Ms. Winfrey scored the final TV interview with pianist-showman Liberace in 1986, just six weeks before he died. In a 1993 prime-time special, Michael Jackson told her he suffered from a skin condition that produces depigmentation. Movie star Tom Cruise gave a notorious madcap couch-hopping demonstration of affection for the much-younger actor Katie Holmes in 2005.
Ms. Winfrey unveiled her most famous giveaway in 2004, when nearly 300 members of the studio audience opened a gift box to find the keys to a new car inside. The stunt became a classic show moment as much for Ms. Winfrey's reaction - "You get a car! You get a car! You get a car! Everybody gets a car!" - as its $7-million (U.S.) price tag. Her generous gifts became a punchline in the film Ocean's Thirteen .
Ms. Winfrey's fans have long tracked her weight, as it climbed and fell. In 1988, she wheeled a wagon loaded with fat onto the show's set to represent her 67-pound weight loss, a move she later called her "biggest, fattest" mistake.
Ms. Winfrey's comments have also landed her in hot water, including when a group of cattlemen sued her for $10-million for allegedly maligning the beef industry in 2006. She moved her show to Texas for several episodes during the trial, which she won.
Oprah's Book Club:
Ms. Winfrey used her show to launch Oprah's Book Club in 1996, which single handedly boosted the publishing industry and vaulted her picks to the top of best-seller lists. Writer Jonathan Franzen dismissed her selections in 2001, saying they include "schmaltzy" works after she picked his novel, The Corrections, losing his invitation to the show. He later expressed regret. Ms. Winfrey selected A Million Little Pieces, James Frey's memoir of addiction and recovery, in 2005. After learning it contained extensive fabrications, she chewed out Mr. Frey on her show, later apologizing for being so rough on him.
O, The Oprah Magazine, was the U.S.'s 7th most popular magazine in the first half of 2009. She has co-authored several books.
Ms. Winfrey owns a production company, Harpo Inc., which produces shows hosted by Dr. Phil McGraw and chef Rachael Ray. (Harpo is Oprah spelled backwards.) She co-founded Oxygen, a cable television network geared to women's lifestyle topics. She also has a cable network OWN (which stands for Oprah Winfrey Network), a much-delayed joint venture with Discovery Communications Inc. that will debut in more than 70 million homes. She is widely expected to start a new talk show on OWN.
Ms. Winfrey regularly ranks at the top of lists of the most powerful women in media. This year, she was number 45 on financial magazine Forbes 's list of the world's most powerful people. She is among the world's wealthiest individuals, with a net worth estimated at more than $2.3 billion.
In her first public endorsement, Ms. Winfrey gave Barack Obama's presidential campaign her seal of approval, which a University of Maryland study found may have netted him one million votes. During the election campaign, she was seen as snubbing Ms. Palin by not inviting her to be on her show. But in a cordial interview this week, Ms. Palin joined Ms. Winfrey to launch her memoir Going Rogue .
Television and movies:
Ms. Winfrey co-starred in The Color Purple , Steven Spielberg's film adaptation of Alice Walker's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, in 1985, earning an Oscar nomination for her portrayal of a distraught housewife. On the sitcom, Ellen, star Ellen DeGeneres' character confides that she's a lesbian to a therapist played by Ms. Winfrey in 1997. The following year, she starred in Beloved, a film based upon Toni Morrison's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, playing a former slave. Ms. Winfrey is an executive producer for Precious, the just-released movie about an obese, illiterate Harlem teenager who is abused by her mother and raped by her father.
Ms. Winfrey donates millions through Oprah's Angel Network, a charity for the underprivileged. She also established the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls, near Johannesburg, South Africa, which opened in 2007.
With reports from The Associated Press and ReutersReport Typo/Error