How Oprah Winfrey built her business empire

By CNN Staff

Published January 28, 2020

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As a black woman, Oprah Winfrey broke barriers to become a self-made billionaire and the host of the highest-rated talk show in history.

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In honor of Winfrey’s birthday on Jan. 29, here’s a look at some of her milestones in the entertainment and media business.

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Her early life…

  • Oprah Gail Winfrey was born Jan. 29, 1954, in Mississippi.

  • She studied at Tennessee State University. The 19-year-old was the youngest and first African-American anchor for WTVF-TV in Nashville.

From Oprah.com

Winfrey continued her journalism career, working as a co-anchor in Baltimore and went on to host a morning show in Chicago. "A.M. Chicago" was later renamed “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” which went into syndication in 1986.

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But Winfrey isn't just a stellar interviewer. She's also made appearances on the big screen. In 1985, she made her film debut in "The Color Purple." Recent roles include "The Butler"and "Wrinkle in Time."

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Together, Winfrey and "The Oprah Winfrey Show" received a total of 16 Daytime Emmy Awards for "Outstanding Talk Show Host" and "Outstanding Talk Show."

She's also received honorary awards, including the Cecil B. DeMille Award at the 2018 Golden Globes.

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The book club that launched careers was started in 1996 on Winfrey’s show. "Oprah's Book Club" became influential in the publishing industry, with her selections skyrocketing to the top of bestseller lists.

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Winfrey is also a philanthropist. She started Oprah's Angel Network, a charitable foundation, in 1997. And in 2007, she opened The Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls in South Africa.

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Expanding her media empire, Winfrey launched "O, The Oprah Magazine," and the Oxygen Network in 2000. Seven years later, NBC bought the TV network.


In 2003, Winfrey was the first African-American woman on Forbes’ list of "World's Richest People" with a net worth of about $1 billion. In 2019, the magazine estimated her net worth at $2.5 billion.

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Winfrey dove into a new TV venture, announcing in 2008 that the Discovery Health Channel would be renamed OWN: The Oprah Winfrey Network.

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In 2009, Winfrey announced that she will discontinue her talk show. The last episode aired May 25, 2011.

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The end of her talk show turned out the be a new beginning. Winfrey's new show, "Oprah's Next Chapter," premiered on the OWN network in 2012.

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Winfrey and Weight Watchers announced in 2015 a partnership in which Winfrey bought a stake in the company and took a seat on its board of directors.


Winfrey signed a multiyear deal with Apple to create new original programming in 2018. She’s set to partner on a mental health documentary series with Prince Harry, airing on Apple TV in 2020.