Oprah’s first job as a teenager was working at a local grocery store. At age 17, Winfrey won the Miss Black Tennessee beauty pageant. She also attracted the attention of the local black radio station, WVOL, which hired her to do the news part-time. She worked there during her senior year of high school, and again while in her first two years of college. This experience would shape the rest of her life and catapult her to creating a most amazing empire.
Winfrey’s career choice in media would not have surprised her grandmother, who once said that ever since Winfrey could talk, she was on stage. As a child, she played games interviewing her corncob doll and the crows on the fence of her family’s property. Winfrey later acknowledged her grandmother’s influence, saying it was Hattie Mae who had encouraged her to speak in public and “gave me a positive sense of myself”. Working in local media, she was both the youngest news anchor and the first black female news anchor at Nashville’s WLAC-TV. She moved to Baltimore’s WJZ-TV in 1976 to co-anchor the six o’clock news. She was then recruited to join Richard Sher as co-host of WJZ’s local talk show People Are Talking, which premiered on August 14, 1978. She also hosted the local version of Dialing for Dollars there.
In 1983, Winfrey relocated to Chicago to host WLS-TV’s low-rated half-hour morning talk show, AM Chicago. The first episode aired on January 2, 1984. Within months after Winfrey took over, the show went from last place in the ratings to overtaking Donahue as the highest rated talk show in Chicago. The movie critic Roger Ebert persuaded her to sign a syndication deal with King World. Ebert predicted that she would generate 40 times as much revenue as his television show, At the Movies. It was renamed The Oprah Winfrey Show, expanded to a full hour, and broadcast nationally beginning September 8, 1986. Winfrey’s syndicated show brought in double Donahue’s national audience, displacing Donahue as the number-one daytime talk show in America.
In the early years of The Oprah Winfrey Show, the program was classified as a tabloid talk show. In the mid-1990s, Winfrey adopted a less tabloid-oriented format, hosting shows on broader topics such as heart disease, geopolitics, spirituality and meditation, interviewing celebrities on social issues they were directly involved with, such as cancer, charity work, or substance abuse, and hosting televised giveaways including shows where every audience member received a new car (donated by General Motors) or a trip to Australia (donated by Australian tourism bodies).
In addition to her talk show, Winfrey also produced and co-starred in the 1989 drama miniseries The Women of Brewster Place, as well as a short-lived spin-off, Brewster Place. As well as hosting and appearing on television shows, Winfrey co-founded the women’s cable television network Oxygen. She is also the president of Harpo Productions (Oprah spelled backwards). On January 15, 2008, Winfrey and Discovery Communications announced plans to change Discovery Health Channel into a new channel called OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network. It was scheduled to launch in 2009, but was delayed, and actually launched on January 1, 2011.
The series finale of The Oprah Winfrey Show aired on May 25, 2011.
Publishing and writing
Winfrey on the cover of Live Your Best Life, a collection of features from O, The Oprah Magazine.
Winfrey has co-authored five books. At the announcement of a weight loss book in 2005, co-authored with her personal trainer Bob Greene, it was said that her undisclosed advance fee had broken the record for the world’s highest book advance fee, previously held by the autobiography of former U.S. President Bill Clinton.
Winfrey publishes magazines: O, The Oprah Magazine; from 2004 to 2008, Oprah also published a magazine called O at Home. In 2002, Fortune called O, the Oprah Magazine the most successful start-up ever in the industry. Although its circulation had declined by more than 10 percent (to 2.4 million) from 2005 to 2008, the January 2009 issue was the best selling issue since 2006. The audience for her magazine is considerably more upscale than for her TV show, the average reader earning well above the median for U.S. women.
Winfrey’s company created the Oprah.com website to provide resources and interactive content relating to her shows, magazines, book club, and public charity. Oprah.com averages more than 70 million page views and more than six million users per month, and receives approximately 20,000 e-mails each week. Winfrey initiated “Oprah’s Child Predator Watch List”, through her show and website, to help track down accused child molesters. Within the first 48 hours, two of the featured men were captured.
On February 9, 2006, it was announced that Winfrey had signed a three-year, $55 million contract with XM Satellite Radio to establish a new radio channel. The channel, Oprah Radio, features popular contributors to The Oprah Winfrey Show and O, The Oprah Magazine including Nate Berkus, Dr. Mehmet Oz, Bob Greene, Dr. Robin Smith and Marianne Williamson. Oprah & Friends began broadcasting at 11:00 am ET, September 25, 2006, from a new studio at Winfrey’s Chicago headquarters. The channel broadcasts 24 hours a day, seven days a week on XM Radio Channel 156. Winfrey’s contract requires her to be on the air 30 minutes a week, 39 weeks a year. The 30-minute weekly show features Winfrey with friend Gayle King.
After a rocky start, Oprah Winfrey is a success—again. Winfrey’s OWN network has finally turned a profit this quarter(June 2013), and it did so earlier than expected. “OWN is now cash-flow positive and starting to pay down the investment Discovery has made in the venture,” Avid Zaslav, chief executive of Discovery Communications, said at an investor conference Tuesday. Discovery co-owns the station with Winfrey and has invested more than $500 million in it over the past few years.
When OWN launched in 77 million homes in January 2011, Discovery assumed it would be profitable within one year. But Winfrey’s loyal talk show audience didn’t follow her to the network—last year, the station was attracting an audience one 10th the size of what her syndicated show once brought in—and Discovery hoped instead it would make money by the end of 2013. But despite this initial disappointment, OWN has been climbing steadily in the ratings every year, going from 262,000 prime-time viewers in 2011 to 353,000 in the first half of 2013, according to media services company Horizon Media. That’s a jump of more than 31 percent. Tyler Perry’s two shows, The Haves and the Have Nots and Love Thy Neighbor, fared even better, averaging 1.3 million viewers each, well above OWN’s other programs. Perry has boosted OWN’s ratings nearly 40 percent among women aged 25 to 54, and according to Zaslav, most of the network’s success can be attributed this. During its April 2013 upfronts, OWN was able to sign up 30 new advertisers.
Born in rural poverty, then raised by a mother on welfare in a poor urban neighborhood, Winfrey became a millionaire at age 32 when her talk show went national. Winfrey was in a position to negotiate ownership of the show and start her own production company because of the success and the amount of revenue the show generated. At age 41, Winfrey had a net worth of $340 million and replaced Bill Cosby as the only African American on the Forbes 400. With a 2000 net worth of $800 million,
Winfrey is believed to be the richest African American of the 20th century. Owing to her status as a historical figure, Professor Juliet E.K. Walker of the University of Illinois created the course “History 298: Oprah Winfrey, the Tycoon.” Winfrey was the highest paid TV entertainer in the United States in 2006, earning an estimated $260 million during the year, five times the sum earned by second-place music executive Simon Cowell. By 2008, her yearly income had increased to $275 million.
Forbes’ international rich list has listed Winfrey as the world’s only black billionaire from 2004 to 2006 and as the first black woman billionaire in world history.
As of 2014 Winfrey has a net worth in excess of 2.9 billion dollars  and has overtaken former eBay CEO Meg Whitman as the richest self-made woman in America.
Source: Wikipedia & Forbes