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Oprah Through the Years

The launch of her groundbreaking show 30 years ago catapulted her to fame and fortune

  • Oprah Winfrey as a co anchor of Eyewitness News on WJZ in Baltimore
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    Baltimore Bound

    A 22-year-old Oprah Winfrey left her job as a news anchor in Nashville and moved to Baltimore to coanchor WJZ-TV’s 6 p.m. news. The station promoted her with the tagline, "What's an Oprah?" She made her debut on Aug. 16, 1976.

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  • Oprah Winfrey as host of the show People Are Talking
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    Talk of the Town

    After a disastrous eight months as a Baltimore news anchor, Oprah was demoted to the morning news. But in August 1978, she  reluctantly became cohost of a new local talk show called People Are Talking. She immediately connected with the audience and was an instant hit.

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  • Oprah as host of 'AM Chicago'
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    Windy City Charmer

    In 1984, Oprah headed west to Chicago to host WLS-TV's morning talk show, AM  Chicago. In less than a year it was renamed The Oprah Winfrey Show and entered national syndication on Sept. 8, 1986. The award-winning program became the highest-rated talk show in television history.

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  • Oprah Winfrey in 'The Color Purple'
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    Screen Queen

    Music producer Quincy Jones spotted Oprah on her show and brought her to the attention of director Steven Spielberg. He cast her as Sofia in the 1985 film The Color Purple, snagging her Oscar and Golden Globe nominations. Since then she has appeared in other TV and big-screen films, including The Women of Brewster Place, Beloved, Lee Daniel’s The Butler and Selma, and has produced several movies.

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  • Harpo Studios in Chicago
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    Smart Move

    With the success of her show, Oprah was able to negotiate ownership of it from ABC, which put her on the road to becoming a billionaire. In 1988, she established her production company, Harpo Studios, in Chicago and became the third woman in the U.S. entertainment industry — after Mary Pickford and Lucille Ball — to own her own studio.

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  • Book Club
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    An Open Book

    A lifelong book lover, Oprah launched a book club on her show in September 1996, making her a juggernaut in the publishing world. Her picks landed on best-sellers’ lists and put little-known authors in the spotlight. In 2000, she introduced O, The Oprah Magazine, one of today’s leading women’s lifestyle publications. She became a best-selling author herself with the 2014 release of What I Know for Sure, a compilation of her O magazine columns.

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  • Remember the past, help shape the future.
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    AARP Offer: Remember the past, help shape the future

    Share your stories and help advocate for political support to protect your future. Join AARP to support living with dignity and purpose.

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  • Weight Loss
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    Weighty Issues

    A woman who has long battled her weight, Oprah shocked the world in 1988  by revealing on her show that she lost 67 pounds in four months through a liquid diet. She regained the weight but still works at it. In 2015, she bought a 10 percent stake in Weight Watchers and now serves as a spokeswoman.

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  • Oprah Winfrey Radio City Taping
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    Change in the Air

    In the late 1990s, the Oprah show changed its focus from so-called “trash TV” to what Winfrey dubbed “Change Your Life TV.” She introduced viewers to a team of experts to help them live their best lives, including spiritual teacher Iyanla Vanzant, psychologist Phil McGraw, cardiologist Mehmet Oz and financial guru Suze Orman.

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  • OWN Network
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    On Her OWN

    On New Year’s Day 2011, the talk titan launched her cable network, OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network. After a rocky start grappling to find viewers in a crowded media marketplace, the network found its footing with popular shows such as Super Soul Sunday, The Haves and the Have Nots and Welcome to Sweetie Pie’s.

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  • President and Michello Obama on Oprah
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    The Long Farewell

    The final season of Oprah kicked off Sept. 30, 2010, and included a host of notable guests such as President Barack and Michelle Obama, and cast reunions of The Color Purple and The Sound of Music. After 25 years of philanthropic endeavors, glitzy giveaways and hot topics such as child abuse and race relations, the media mogul said goodbye to the show on May 25, 2011.

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  • AARP Baby Boomers (Sean McCabe)
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