Sunday, March 10, 2013

Women Who Shaped Women’s History – Oprah

Oprah at the Premiere of Beyonce's film "Beyonce: Life Is But a Dream" February 2013
Note: This is the second part of our series celebrating Women’s Month. Each week we will feature a woman who has helped pave the way as strong and independent role models.

Oprah Winfrey, born in 1954, is known around the world as not just a talk show host of her multi-award winning television show “The Oprah Winfrey Show” from 1986 to 2011, but a media proprietor, producer, actress, and philanthropist. In many circles, she is ranked as one of the richest African Americans of the 20th century, one of the greatest African American philanthropists, and one of the most powerful women around the globe. When looking for women who have not only made their mark in the world, but have also looked to change it, no one needs to look farther than Oprah.

Oprah is no newcomer when it comes to fame. In 1985 she costarred in “The Color Purple,” which garnered her an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress for her portrayal of Sofia. She has co-authored five books, published her own magazine, “O, The Oprah Magazine,” runs the Oprah Book Club, and has her own film company, Harpo Productions.

But it is her daytime television talk show that she is best known for. The Oprah Winfrey Show has proved over the years to be one of the most highly watched, successful television programs of all time. The show has not only hosted a myriad of television and movie stars, politicians, leaders, and other important people, but has been able to break down numerous cultural and social barriers, including homosexuality, poverty, religion, and obesity. (Oprah struggling herself for many years with diet issues that were made public on her television show and in her books.) And of course, everyone knows her “Things I Like” yearly episode, where, one year, everyone in the audience went home in a brand new car!

Oprah also does a lot of philanthropic work. Her work has led her receive the first Bob Hope Humanitarian Award in 2002. She created the Oprah’s Angel Network in 1998 (closed now since 2010), and since then has raised over 80-million dollars used to support charitable projects and nonprofit organizations. She also established the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls in Johannesburg, South Africa as part of her plight to bring disadvantaged youth out of poverty and give them an opportunity to grow and become something.

A quote in Vanity Fair said it best – “Oprah Winfrey arguably has more influence on the culture than any university president, politician, or religious leader […] except perhaps the Pope.”

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