Winfrey began her broadcasting career at WVOL radio in Nashville, Tennessee, while still in high school.Â In 1984, she was offered the opportunity to revive a fledgling morning show called A.M. Chicago at ABC affiliate WLS-TV in Chicago. However, she told Tim Bennett, the station’s anxious promotions manager (who would become Harpo’s president years later), that she would not be involved in any promotions, particularly because she believed the promotional campaign in Baltimore created a misleading expectation of her performance there. “For me, the most important thing has been to get the lesson,” Oprah explained in a 2008 interview with BE’s Sonia Alleyne. “That is the mantra for my life. Get the lesson and then you can move on.” Her strategy: speak at local events to increase her visibility and spread the word about the Windy City’s latest talk show phenom.
It worked. Within six weeks of her debut, she was beating the award-winning king of daytime talk shows, Phil Donahue, in his own city.
With her seeming golden touch, Winfrey, who’s net worth is valued at $2.7 billion by Forbes, has launched the careers of Drs. Oz and Phil, who both appeared as experts on her show and now are hosts of their own programs. She has even dipped her toe into politics, Winfrey endorsing and campaigning for Sen. Barack Obama in his successful bid for president.
HIGHLIGHTS FROM “THE OPRAH WINFREY SHOW”
1988: Oprah drags a trolley of meat on stage to illustrate the amount of weight she has lost. She later regrets the move, calling it her “biggest, fattest” mistake, according the AP.
1996: Oprah’s Book Club is launched.
2004: “You get a car! You get a car!â€ Oprah surprises nearly 300 audience members with a brand new Pontiac.
2005: Oprah Winfrey lauds author James Frey’s autobiography “Million Little Pieces.â€ When she later finds out that it was a work of fiction, she excoriates the writer on her show.
2005: Tom Cruise proclaims his love for Katie Holmes by enthusiastically jumping up and down on Oprah’s couch.
2006: On-air comments about mad cow disease lead a group of cattlemen, who accuse her of maligning the beef industry, to sue her for $10 million. She wins the lawsuit.
2009: Interviews former Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin about the campaign and her new book, “Going Rogue.”
Source: BE research, Associated Press