Thursday, May 26, 2011

Oprah Trivia: A Look Back at an An American Icon as Her New Chapter Begins; The 'Oprah Effect' Has Affected Us All

For many of us, yesterday was the end of an era...a breakup of sorts...a teacher leaving her school and students after putting in her 25 years. Oprah, the show, as we know it is officially off the air. True, Oprah, the person is shifting to her own cable network. For us, her students, it just won't be the same.  But with the 'Oprah magic' maybe it will be better and we certainly shouldn't be surprised if it is.

So I thought I'd recap all things Oprah condensing lots of information into one post. Trivia.... but not trivial facts about a person who many of us consider an American icon.

The Name
Oprah is a female name a variant of the Hebrew Ophrah and Orpah meaning young deer, fawn, place of dust or gazelle. Oprah is a created name, made famous by Ms. Winfrey. Oprah's name was originally 'Orpah' on her birth certificate but after always being mispronounced by her family it was legally changed to Oprah when she was 1.

The Beginning
Oprah was born on January 29, 1954 in Kosciusko, Mississippi to teen parents.

Her mother is Vernita Lee (right) who worked as a housemaid.

Her father is Vernon Winfrey who was a coal miner, a barber and later a councilman. He was also in the Armed Forces. 

For the first six years of her she lived with her grandmother, Hattie Mae Lee (left). They were very poor and Oprah wore dresses made of potato sacks for which she was made fun of. Her grandmother took Oprah to church and taught her how to read before she was three years old. At six years of age, Oprah moved to an inner city neighborhood in Milwaukee with her mother who worked long hours. When she was nine years old Oprah was sexually abused by her cousin, her uncle, and a friend of the family.

When Oprah was seventeen years old, she was the winner of the Miss Black Tennessee Beauty Pageant. She also began to do the news part time at the local black radio station.

Her education
Despite her imperfect family life, Oprah did well educationally. She was skipped in school in the early grades and received a scholarship to Nicolet High School. After running away from home she became pregnant, losing the baby soon after birth. She was sent to Nashville to live with her father who made education a priority. Oprah became an honors student and was given a full scholarship to Tennessee State University where she studied communication.

The Show Begins
In 1983, Oprah moved to Chicago to host a half hour morning talk show, AM Chicago. The show's ratings went from being in last place to passing up Phil Donahue as the highest rated talk show from Chicago. Renamed The Oprah Winfrey Show it was expanded to an hour. In the mid 1990s, Oprah changed her format to do shows about issues like spirituality, most medical issues including her struggle with weight loss, geopolitics, decorating, substance abuse, and other issues of concern to Americans. Her interviews of regular people who have been involved in extraordinary events and current issues are a trademark. her celebrity interviews are legendary.

Oprah Firsts
Oprah became a millionaire by the time she was 32 years old and is considered the richest woman in entertainment.

At the age of 41, she was the only African American on the Forbes 400 list.

The 1993 Oprah interview of Michael Jackson was the fourth most watched television event on American television and the number one watched interview in history with an audience of a hundred million viewers.

Oprah co-founded the women's cable network, Oxygen.

Winfrey endorsed presidential candidate Barack Obama (right) in the 2008 presidential election, the first time she made such an endorsement. And oh, he won.

The Wall Street Journal coined the term "Oprahfication", meaning public confession as a form of therapy.

Winfrey was the recipient of the first Bob Hope Humanitarian Award at the 2002 Emmy Awards for services to television and film. 

Oprah Fashion
For her final show on Wednesday, May 24th, Oprah wore a coral silk L'Wren Scott dress (above) with a cascading chiffon belt, nude heels and diamond drop earrings. Over the years, Oprah has worn clothing from almost every important designer in the business today.

Harpo Studio Facts
When Oprah purchased her Chicago production facility (Harpo Studios), she became the third American woman in the entertainment business to own her own studio. The others were Mary Pickford and Lucille Ball.

The Harpo building was Chicago's Second Regiment Armory in the early 1900s and was used as a temporary morgue when the Eastland steamer capsized in the Chicago River in 1915. Some still say the Harpo building is haunted by the ghost of the "Gray Lady."

Harpo Studios was once a roller skating rink called the Roller Bowl.

In the 1950s, Harpo's building was used a a studio where TV commercials (with Muhammed Ali) and movies such as Mickey One with Warren Beatty were filmed. The TV show Wild Kingdom was also shot at this studio.

Harpo is Oprah spelled backwards!

After accepting her seventh Emmy for Outstanding Talk Show Host at the 9th Emmy for The Oprah Winfrey Show, Oprah decided to stop submitting herself and the show for Emmy consideration. To date, the show has won a total of 35 Emmy awards.

Recipient of the 33rd Kennedy Center Honor and numerous TV and movie nominations.

Favorite Things
"Oprah's Favorite Things" started in 2002 and ran annually (except for 2009) and usually airing during the holiday season. Products that Oprah felt were noteworthy or that would make a great gift were shared with her lucky audience members. "The Oprah Effect " is no more apparent than on this special show for it seems that almost everything Winfrey touches turns to gold. The "Effect” can transform an obscure company translating into dramatically increased sales with just a casual mention of a product  to her 44 million weekly viewers.

In her magazine 'O', a feature called "The O List" was similar and the two were often coordinated.

Oprah's Book Recommendations
A Tale of Two CitiesGreat Expectations by Charles Dickens, Freedom by Jonathan Franzen

Say You're One of Them by Uwem Akpan

The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski, A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle

The Pillars of the Earth (left) by Ken Follett, Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez, Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides, The Road by Cormac McCarthy, The Measure of a Man by Sidney Poitier

Night by Elie Wiesel


A Million Little Pieces by James Frey, Light in August by William Faulkner, The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner, As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner

The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck, Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy, The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers, One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez

Cry, The Beloved Country by Alan Paton, East of Eden by John Steinbeck

The Oprah's Angel Network was created in 2008 and supported charitable projects with grants to nonprofit organizations around the world. Oprah's Angel Network raised more than $80,000,000 ($1 million of which was donated by Jon Bon Jovi). and stopped accepting donations in May 2010 and was later dissolved.

Oprah personally donates more of her own money to charity than any other performer in America. 

In 2005 she became the first black person listed by Business Week as one of America's 50 most generous philanthropists.

In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, Oprah created the Oprah Angel Network Katrina registry which raised more than $11 million for relief efforts. Winfrey personally gave $10 million to the cause.

Winfrey has also helped 250 African-American men continue or complete their education at Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia.

Winfrey invested $40 million and some of her time establishing the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls (left) in Henley on Klip south of Johannesburg, South Africa. The school set over 22 acres, opened in January 2007 with an enrollment of 150 pupils (increasing to 450) and features state-of-the-art classrooms, computer and science laboratories, a library, theatre and beauty salon.

Oprah Winfrey has been involved in several films, including The Color Purple, Beloved, Their Eyes Were Watching God and lent her voice to Charlotte's Web, Bee Movie and The Princess and the Frog.

Other Media
Oprah's magazine O, The Oprah Magazine has a circulation of about 2,000,00 and was founded in 2000.  Oprah has been featured on every cover. The publisher is Hearst Magazines (Hearst Corporation). Another magazine, O at Home folded in 2008.

Oprah has co-authored five books. 

A website called, averages over 70 million page views and over six million users monthly. Around 20,000 emails are received each week on the site. Oprah has also started "Oprah's Child Predator Watch List," which has the goal of helping to track down child molesters.

Where She Lives
Oprah owns a 42 acre estate in Montecito, California, a house in Lavallette, New Jersey, an apartment in Chicago, a house in Douglasville, Georgia, a ski house in Telluride, Colorado, a property on Maui, Hawaii, an estate on Fisher Island, which is off the coast of Miami, Florida, and a home on Antigua. She also has a home in Avalon, New Jersey. Not sure if all of these are still actively owned.

The Boyfriend
Oprah has had a long term relationship with Stedman Graham (right).

Oprah's Best Friend
Oprah's best friend is Gayle King (left) . They have been best friends since they were in their twenties. Other friends include Maria Shriver and Maya Angelou who is also a mentor.

Oprah Protégés
Oprah has launched many careers and many of these people have become household names. They include:
  • Gayle King
  • Dr. Phil
  • Rhonda Byrne (The Secret)
  • Bob Greene
  • Lisa Ling
  • Charice Pempengco
  • Dr. Mehmet Oz
  • Rachael Ray
  • Nate Berkus
  • Jenny McCarthy
  • Iyanla Vanzant
The New Channel: Oprah Winfrey Network
OWN features "Oprah Presents Master Class," a series showcasing Winfrey's interviews with notable people, and behind-the-scenes happenings during the final season of "The Oprah Winfrey Show." Other Oprah favorites are also featured. Find your local station on the OWN Cable Network using a handy guide on this attached website. It's on channels 115 and 840 on Time Warner Cable in the New York area

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