31 Open Facts About Oprah Winfrey

Oprah Winfrey is easily one of the most famous people of all time. Her successes, influence, and public image cannot be undervalued! She’s the queen of TV talk – but did you know she’s also an extremely talented actor and a powerful advocate for several worthy causes?

Yet, how much do you know about this prominent public figure? Here are some of the most interesting facts about Oprah Winfrey.

1. Oprah was not originally her name.

Although most of us know this world-famous lady mostly by her first name, we’re actually all wrong! And, no, Oprah isn’t a stage name – it is, in fact, based on her actual first name. So, what’s the story behind it?

Oprah was originally and officially named “Orpah” from the Book of Ruth in the Bible. However, a spelling error on her birth certificate resulted in the name we all now know as “Oprah.” Guess it stuck – and who hasn’t heard of Oprah?

2. She was born in a small town.

Oprah was born on January 29th, 1954, in the small town of Kosciusko, Mississippi, US. In case you don’t know it, Kosciusko is a very small town. However, this small town played a big role in Oprah’s journey from rural poverty to global fame.

One of the most famous things about Oprah is that despite her huge success now, she did come from a very humble background. In fact, she grew up in extreme poverty.

For example, she used to have to wear dresses made from potato sacks, which led to teasing from other children and led to bullying.

3. She was abused from an early age.

Tragically, Oprah was sexually abused from a young age. This abuse reportedly began when she was nine years old and continued for several years – and she has openly spoken about her trauma.

Later in life, Oprah would also say that her grandmother abused her physically and verbally, sometimes even by whipping her as punishment.

4. She was raised by her grandmother.

Oprah was indeed raised by her grandmother for at least the first six years of her life. It was her grandmother who taught her to read before she was three years old!

In fact, her reading talent earned her the nickname “The Preacher” when she attended church. This was because she could flawlessly recite entire Bible verses by heart – it seems she had the knack of oration and presenting from a very early age.

Her reading also helped her to excel in school, which would later come in very handy!

5. She attended university.

Thanks to her hard work and talent, Oprah was indeed able to attend university despite her traumatic and impoverished childhood.

She studied communication and performing arts at Tennessee State, and was able to continue her education via full scholarship. Things were certainly looking up!

6. Oprah started her career in radio.

Oprah started working in the media by working at a local radio station. In 1971, she was offered a job at WVOL radio station, where she read the afternoon headlines on air.

Her talents for radio quickly broke through, and by the age of 19, she became the youngest and first black female news anchor at WLAC-TV, a station in Nashville.

It was this turn of events that would help convince Winfrey to leave her studies and pursue a career in broadcasting. That turned out to be a great choice!

7. A beauty pageant win changed everything for Oprah.

In 1971, at the age of just 17, Oprah won Miss Black Tennessee – another event that would start putting her name and image in the spotlight.

Winning this particular pageant not only helped her gain confidence but also recognition! In fact, it was thanks to this win that the pageant’s sponsor, WVOL radio station, found their new news anchor.

8. By the late 1980s, Oprah was a household name across America.

Of course, most people know Oprah Winfrey thanks to her hit television show, where she became the queen of daytime talk. Without Oprah, the talk show format would’ve looked a lot different!

The Oprah Winfrey Show premiered back in 1986 – and, as you may well know by now, it became a huge success. In fact, the show became the highest-rated talk show in American television history!

The show ran for 25 seasons – but that didn’t mean an end to Oprah’s stratospheric career.

9. Oprah became a billionaire by the early 00s.

Thanks to her hard work and perseverance, it may come as no surprise to you that Oprah is indeed a billionaire. In fact, she became the first black female billionaire ever in 2003!

She owes her fortune to her multiple television shows, magazines, and a production company. Of course, her empire has only grown since then!

10. She launched an incredibly popular book club.

In 1996, Winfrey launched Oprah’s Book Club, where she would choose books for fans and viewers to buy and share opinions on. Having your book picked for Oprah’s Book Club was an immense honor, and often a huge career booster.

This is due to the fact that books chosen for and by her club often became bestsellers! In 2012, following online trends, she launched “Oprah’s Book Club 2.0.”

Oprah's book club

11. Oprah co-founded her own media company.

Only two years later in 1998, Oprah co-founded Oxygen Media, a firm that strived to provide high-quality programming aimed at women. Oxygen Media was so successful, it was eventually acquired by NBCUniversal.

Yet, it wasn’t Oprah’s first foray into business ownership! Back in 1986, she also created Harpo Productions. You may have noticed that Harpo spells Oprah backward – simple, but clever.

12. Oprah is a well-known philanthropist.

Despite the fact that she is a billionaire, Oprah has always strived to donate money to worthy causes and programs. In fact, believe it or not, she has donated more than a staggering $400 million to educational causes alone!

She has also funded scholarships and school programs around the world, as well as funds to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, COVID-19 relief efforts, and more!

13. Winfrey also opened her own school.

Oprah is famously involved in education and engaging young people’s developing minds. This is why she opened the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls back in 2007 in South Africa! This school provides education to disadvantaged girls.

14. She has set multiple records throughout her career.

Oprah has definitely spent her fair share of time in the spotlight, some of that time simply receiving awards!

For example, in 2018, she received the Cecil B. DeMille Award at the Golden Globes. This was not only a huge moment for her career but also for women of color everywhere!

By winning the award, Oprah became the first black woman ever to receive this award for outstanding contributions to the entertainment world.

15. She started her own network.

Beyond her other business ventures, Oprah also launched her own network back in 2011. In fact, it was known as OWN, or the Oprah Winfrey Network.

The network features a mix of lifestyle, drama, and documentary programming and proved to be very popular among viewers. It continued the ideals Oprah always strived for in broadcasting – to create thoughtful entertainment!

Oprah Winfrey Network

16. She is one of the world’s most influential people.

Unsurprisingly, Oprah Winfrey has been selected as one of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People multiple times! Her influence spans across media, culture, and philanthropy.

17. She received one of the highest honors in the nation.

In 2013, Oprah Winfrey famously received one of the highest honors a citizen can receive in the US. She was famously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by then-US President Barack Obama.

18. She has been nominated many times, too.

We’ve talked about her ability to win awards, but Oprah’s also been nominated for her skills many times without winning through. These are still incredible achievements in their own right!

For example, in 1985, Oprah was nominated for the award for Best Supporting Actress for her part played in The Color Purple in 1985. This role and subsequent nomination marked her triumphant entrance into Hollywood, one that would start a whole new career for her as a coveted actress!

She has also won multiple Daytime Emmy Awards. Her awards include Outstanding Talk Show and Outstanding Talk Show Host.

19. She is a talented voice actor.

Oprah’s talents as an actor are not limited to her in-person projects. In fact, she has also voiced characters in animated films, some that you most likely recognize!

For example, she performed in films such as Disney’s The Princess and the Frog in 2009 and The Star in 2017. Many feel that her distinctive voice makes her characters feel recognizable and warm.

20. She featured in her own passion project.

Acting has long been a passion for Oprah. And, in 1998, she produced and starred in a film adaptation of Toni Morrison’s novel, Beloved.

However, the film did not have the huge box office success that was expected. That being said, Oprah maintained that she was glad to have made the movie as a passion project!

21. She’s literally made the news (and newsstands).

In 2017, Oprah joined the CBS newsmagazine 60 Minutes, but long before that, she launched her own magazine.

O, The Oprah Magazine, became one of the most successful women’s magazines on the stands!

22. She has been very open about her health and weight.

Oprah has long been open about her struggles with her weight. Iin 2015, she became a spokesperson for the weight loss focused company, Weight Watchers. It remains one of the world’s most popular diet food suppliers.

She has also become quite the fitness enthusiast and often shares her journey to health and fitness and promotes a healthy lifestyle. Oprah is no longer associated with Weight Watchers, but she was a face of the brand for some time.

23. She is a Broadway producer, too.

In keeping with her passion for the film The Color Purple, Oprah co-produced the Broadway musical of the film by the same name. The revival was so good it won the Tony Award for Best Revival of a Musical back in 2016!

A remake of the film was also released in 2023, with Oprah returning as a co-producer.

24. She has a massive social media following.

Being as popular and influential as she is, it is only natural that Oprah has such a massive following on social media platforms. On Instagram alone, she currently has more than 22 million followers!

She uses her social media feeds to promote social causes that are important to her, her multiple professional projects, and certain personal insights into her life.

25. She is also known for her Favorite Things.

Every year on her talk show, Oprah featured a segment called Oprah’s Favorite Things. The segment allowed her to showcase all of her favorite products from the year just past.

This segment also naturally meant a great deal to the brands featured, as simply being on the list helped significantly boost sales! In fact, there is even a name for it. The Oprah Effect describes Oprah’s effect on consumer behavior – and that also applies to the boom author’s experience through her book club.


26. Oprah has an undeniable influence on politics.

Winfrey’s influence seriously matters in commerce and politics – Oprah Winfrey’s endorsement is highly sought after by most US politicians!

For example, her endorsement of President Barack Obama back in 2008 is believed to have significantly impacted his campaign and helped lead him to his victory.

27. She is a very spiritual person.

Oprah is known for being a very spiritual person. She has long discussed her spirituality on her shows, and in her writings. She has even helped launch the careers of certain spiritual guides, such as that of Marianne Williamson in 1992!

She’s been very open about separating spirituality from religion, too. She writes via Oprah.com: “Spirituality is not religion. You can be spiritual and not have a religious context. The opposite is true too: You can be very religious with no spiritual dimension, just doctrine.”

28. She has some very famous friends.

Millions of people know that Gayle King is Oprah Winfrey’s best friend. They have famously been very close friends for over 40 years, working together over the decades!

However, her list of friendships with the rich and famous is pretty lengthy. She is famously good friends with Beyoncé, Tom Cruise, Dakota Fanning, Bono, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, and many more!

29. She has a unique and effective interview style.

Oprah’s interviews are popular for many reasons, but for many, it’s the way she interviews people that leaves such a positive impact.

She is known for being empathetic while also being direct and asking uncomfortable questions without making her guests feel ill at ease. This technique appears to have helped her receive honest and genuine responses from her guests, making her interviews that much more impactful.

30. She has been open about her struggles with mental health.

Oprah has also been very open about her struggles with depression. She has long spoken about it to her to reduce the stigma involving mental health and to inspire others to seek out the help that they need.
And, her influence has clearly helped many people. Her recommendations and endorsements have propelled many self-help books to bestseller status in particular!

In 2021, Winfrey and Prince Harry joined forces to present a documentary series, “The Me You Can’t See,” for Apple TV+. The series explored different stories about mental health and well-being, laying many uncomfortable feelings bare.

31. She is in a committed relationship.

Oprah has officially been in a relationship with Stedman Graham since 1986. The two have been very open about never wanting to marry or have children.

She speaks a bit about it in her book “The Life You Want.” This autobiography offers insights into Oprah’s life, the lessons she has had to learn, and her personal journey.

Oprah and Stedman

FAQs About Oprah Winfrey

How did Oprah lose her weight?

Oprah famously dedicated herself to physical activity and better nutrition. However, she also used weight loss medication to help her in her journey.

Is Oprah Winfrey diabetic?

In 2019, Oprah Winfrey announced that she was pre-diabetic ahead of joining the board of Weight Watchers, where she remained for several years.

Her diagnosis helped motivate her to get her health back on track and inspired many to check on their current conditions!

Is Oprah the richest woman in the world?

No, Oprah is not the richest woman in the world, though she is a billionaire and therefore one of the wealthiest people on the planet. The current title of world’s richest woman belongs to Françoise Bettencourt Meyers. She’s said to be worth almost $100 billion at the time of writing.

Do you know any fun facts about Oprah Winfrey? Share them in the comments below!

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This page was last modified on June 3, 2024. Suggest an edit

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