With a massive media empire which includes television, radio, movies and magazines, the omnipresent Oprah Winfrey is the reigning 'Queen of All Media.' Oprah Gail Winfrey was born on January 29, 1954 in Kosciusko, Mississippi and spent the first six years of her life living with her grandmother in extreme poverty. She then moved to Milwaukee, Wisconsin with her mother. Oprah was a bright student, skipping two grades and earning a scholarship to attend the prestigious Nicolet High School. Oprah later left school, hit the streets and ended up pregnant, losing the baby shortly after childbirth. Oprah's frustrated mother sent her to live with her father in Nashville, Tennessee. While attending East Nashville High School, she was an honors student, was chosen as her class' most popular girl and excelled on the school's speech team, placing second in the nation in dramatic interpretation. Thanks to her skill in public speaking, she won an oratory contest which secured her a full scholarship to Tennessee State University. At 18, she won the Miss Black Tennessee pageant and, during her senior year, she landed a part-time gig as a reporter at local station WVOL, where she continued to work through her first two years of college, where she studied communications. Oprah continued to work her way up through the ranks in the news media, becoming the youngest and the first black female news anchor at Nashville TV station WLAC. In 1976, she moved to Baltimore's WJZ-TV to co-anchor the six o'clock news and later co-hosted the station's local talk show People Are Talking and hosted the station's Dialing for Dollars show. It was her move to Chicago in 1983 that started Oprah on the fast track to stardom. She was tapped to host the low-rated half-hour morning talk-show, AM Chicago on WLS, making her debut on January 2, 1984. Within months the show was the top-rated talk show in Chicago and the show was expanded to an hour and renamed The Oprah Winfrey Show. The new show made its national broadcast debut on September 8, 1986 and almost instantly became a success. In 1985, Oprah was cast in the role of 'Sofia' in Steven Speilberg's The Color Purple, which earned her an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress. In 2005, Oprah helped bring a musical adaptation of the film to the Broadway stage, serving as one of the show's producers. Oprah made her second film appearance in 1998's Beloved, which she also produced through her Harpo Productions. Her media empire also includes O magazine, Oprah.com and the Oprah and Friends channel on XM satellite radio. In 2008, she launched the reality competition Oprah's Big Give, which only ran for one season on ABC. Oprah is no stranger to philanthropy. In 2007, she opened the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls - South Africa south of Johannesburg and has raised over $51 million for Oprah's Angel Network, which she started in 1998. According to Forbes, as of September of 2007, Oprah is worth over $2.5 billion and is the richest self-made woman in America and in July 2007, TV Guide reported that with earnings of $260 million, she was also the year's highest paid TV entertainer in the United States. With all of this, it's easy to see how Oprah has become one of the most powerful and influential women in the world.
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