Thursday, Nov. 18, 2010

Oprah Winfrey (1954-Present)

Daytime television host, businesswoman and philanthropist, Oprah Winfrey overcame an impoverished childhood in rural Mississippi to build an eponymous media empire. The Oprah Winfrey Show, which has won multiple Emmy Awards and is broadcast in 145 countries, is the most successful daytime TV program in history. Winfrey's unparalleled influence on culture — often called "the Oprah effect" — has boosted lesser-known authors onto the New York Times best-sellers list while reviving America's interest in classic literature (John Steinbeck), turned obscure products into household brands (Spanx, Ciao Bella), and helped a whole battery of other personalities become full-fledged media powers of their own (Dr. Phil, Dr. Oz, Rachael Ray). Her 2008 endorsement of Barack Obama was worth 1 million votes to the then candidate in his primary battle with Hillary Clinton, according to one study. Oprah has also dabbled in acting, garnering Golden Globe and Oscar nominations for her role as Sofia in Steven Spielberg's The Color Purple. Beyond television, Winfrey is the co-author of several books and the publisher of O, the Oprah Magazine. After 25 years as the queen of daytime talk on network television, Winfrey, in partnership with Discovery Communications, is set to launch OWN: The Oprah Winfrey Network, in January 2011. Godmother of the confessional media setting and unquestioned arbiter of self-help and spiritual trends, Oprah's influence on broader pop culture is peerless.