It feels like Oprah’s been on television forever. And to those born in the ‘80s, she has. She burst onto the scene, a complete departure from the white male dominated talk show style. Phil Donahue reigned, easily classified as hard-hitting, emotionally distant, and sharp; Oprah’s style was bold, emotionally charged, and empathetic. It wasn’t uncommon to see Oprah shed a tear, laugh uproariously, or even dance. She was an open book, often candid about how she felt and brutally honest with her guests and audiences. Over the years, she has interviewed a range of both ordinary people and celebrities and her unwavering curiosity has made her a formidable journalist, asking the hard-hitting questions with warmth and genuine concern. She has even had time to make a few movies and garner an Oscar nomination along the way. Now, nearly thirty years after her debut, she owns and operates her own television network, inspiring and encouraging the audience to live their best lives.
Most are familiar with her life’s hardships. Born in rural Mississippi, sexually abused at age nine and at 14, gave birth to a son who died in infancy. She was an unlikely candidate to be the influential billionaire she is today. Even during her years of ascension, she was the target of some of the most aggressive criticism. She was even sued by the epicenter of the beef industry in Texas for defamation after airing a show enlightening viewers to the danger of Mad Cow Disease. When, in the late 90’s, she completely reinvented her brand to celebrate the “live your best life” concept, she came under sever scrutiny for propagating the teachings of spiritual healers and giving platform to alternative forms of medicine. She has also been the target of some of the most aggressive tabloid rumors.
However, through it all, Oprah remains one of the most influential figures of the century. Her platform has managed to launch the careers of countless personalities and lifestyle experts. She is also founding benefactor of the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy in South Africa. Her network is soaring and her wealth doesn’t stop growing. The criticism never seems to bother her.
Most significant of note is that she is one of the few celebrities who has been able to completely change her look and reinvent her brand time and time again and remain relevant and interesting. We’ve seen her fat, skinny, happy, sad, up, and down. We’ve seen her take on a range of issues from drag queens and skinheads to Spirituality and financial freedom. She is even basking in the afterglow of her latest film foray, The Butler, being in the top box office spot for 3 weekends in a row. She is unstoppable. It’s obvious that Sesame Street had it wrong, O is for invincible.