Thursday, February 10, 2011

Black Women Entrepreneurs: Oprah Winfrey

Since it's Black History Month, I've decided to highlight notable black women entrepreneurs. This week, it's all about Oprah:

Oprah Winfrey was born in 1954 in Kosciusko, Mississippi. She had a difficult childhood where she was sexually abused by male relatives and friends of her mother; she eventually moved to Nashville to live with her father. Winfrey attended Tennessee State University and started working in radio and TV broadcasting in Nashville.

After moving to Baltimore in 1976, Winfrey hosted the TV chat show, People Are Talking. The show was a huge success, and she stayed with it for eight years. After the show, she was recruited by a Chicago TV station to host her own morning show, A.M. Chicago. It only took several months for Winfrey's friendly, warm-hearted personal style to win her 100,000 more viewers than Phil Donahue (her major competitor); the show went from last place to first in the ratings.

In 1986, Winfrey launched the Oprah Winfrey Show as a nationally syndicated program. It was placed on 120 channels and had an audience of 10 million people; the show grossed $125 million by the end of its first year, and Winfrey received $30 million. Ultimately, she acquired ownership of the program from ABC, placing it under control of her new production company, Harpo Productions.

Winfrey co-founded Oxygen Media in 1999, a company dedicated to producing cable and Internet programming for women. She signed a deal with Oxygen to air a prime-time complement to her syndicated talk show in 2002, and O: The Oprah Magazine debuted in 2000. The Oprah Winfrey Network was launched January of this year, and The Oprah Winfrey Show will end this September.

Some of her accomplishments:
  • The richest African American of the 20th century, according to Forbes magazine
  • Named the most influential woman of the generation in Life magazine
  • National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences- Lifetime Achievement Award
  • Broadcasting & Cable- Hall of Fame
  • United Nations Association of the United States of America- Global Humanitarian Action
  • National Civil Rights Museum- 2005 National Freedom Award
  • The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts- Kennedy Center Honors
  • Oprah's Angel Network has raised more than $51 million for charitable programs, including girls' education in South Africa and assisting Hurricane Katrina victims.

"You only have to believe that you can succeed, that you can be whatever your heart desires, be willing to work for it, and you can have it."
- Oprah Winfrey

Sources: Oprah Winfrey Biography; Oprah Winfrey's Official Biography
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