Oprah Winfrey: Interesting Background Information

I have been a film buff since childhood and in recent months have reconnected with dozens of old favorites thanks to channels that include AMC, Netflix, ROKU, and TCM.

For background information, I think these are the best sources:

Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (Oscars)

American Film Institute (AFI)

Internet Movie Database (IMDb)

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For example, here is some interesting information provided by IMDb about Oprah Winfrey‘s background and the early years of her career. Moist people associate her almost entirely with network television but she has also been significantly involved with films — from The Color Purple (1987) to Becoming (2020) as an actor, producer, and promoter.

o She was born into poverty born into poverty in rural Mississippi to a teenage single mother and later raised in inner-city Milwaukee. She has stated that she was molested during her childhood and early teens and became pregnant at 14; her son was born prematurely and died in infancy. Winfrey was then sent to live with the man
she calls her father, Vernon Winfrey, a barber in Tennessee, and landed a job in radio while still in high school. 1954).
o Winfrey’s name was originally “Orpah”, after the biblical figure in the book of Ruth. Several different stories allude to the fact that either a misspelling on her birth certificate or a struggle with the pronunciation of her name eventually led to “Oprah” being adopted as her given name.
o Daughter of Vernon Winfrey by Vernita Lee (May 2, 1935 – November 22, 2018). Had two half-siblings from her mother. Her half-brother passed away from AIDS in December 1988 and her half-sister, Patricia Lee, passed away under mysterious circumstances in 2003. Her niece is Chrishaunda Lee Perez, the daughter of her late half-sister Patricia. Oprah walked her niece down the aisle at Chrishaundra’s wedding in 2005.
o Raised in abject poverty, she received her first pair of shoes at age 6 (1960). She learned to read at age 2½. In fact, when it was time for her to start kindergarten, she wrote a note to her teacher insisting she should be in first grade. The teacher agreed and after finishing that grade she was then skipped to third grade.
o Gave birth to a baby boy when she was just age 14. The baby passed away after two weeks, from complications of being born two months premature.
o Attended Nicolet High School (Glendale, Wisconsin) for a short period of time as a teenager but finally graduated from East Nashville High School, where she was voted most popular (Class of 1971). She graduated from Tennessee State University in Nashville, Tennessee, with a degree in Speech and Performing Arts (Class of 1987).
o In addition to being a news anchor on WJZ-TV13 in Baltimore, Maryland, Winfrey was co-host with Richard Sher (a reporter) on a local talk show called “People are Talking” on that station.

o Listed as one of twelve “Promising New Actors of 1985” in John Willis’ Screen World, Vol. 37.

o Is the first woman in history to own and produce her own talk show.
o Over the course of her 25 years hosting The Oprah Winfrey Show (1986), Oprah taped 217 episodes dedicated to sexual abuse, having been a survivor of such abuse herself as a young girl. She was instrumental in the passage of the Oprah Bill, in the early 1990s. The bill was signed into law by President Bill Clinton, and is aimed at stopping child abuse.\
o (1986-present) Partner is Stedman Graham.
o Her immensely popular television talk show is a Harpo Production. Harpo is Oprah spelled backwards. Harpo is also the name of a character in The Color Purple (1985) (Oprah’s film debut) played by Willard E. Pugh.
o Inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in Seneca Falls, New York. [1994]
o Chosen by People magazine as one of the 50 Most Beautiful People in the World. [1997]

o Announced that Oprah would receive $130,000,000 for continuing her talk show through the 1999-2000 television season. [September 1997]

o She was ranked first in Entertainment Weekly‘s 1998 list of the most powerful people in show business, but dropped to sixth in the 1999 list. Still, she was the highest ranking performer, as well as the highest ranking woman, and the only African-American to make the list.

o She permanently withdrew herself and her show from consideration for a Daytime Emmy Award after being awarded the Lifetime Achievement (1998). She was quoted as saying, “After you’ve achieved it for a lifetime, what else is there?”.
o (Fall 1999) She and Stedman Graham were teaching “Dynamics of Leadership” class at Northwestern University’s Kellogg Graduate School of Management.
o Given an honorary National Book Award for her “influential contribution to reading and books”. [October 1999]
Awarded (last) 50th anniversary medal by the National Book Foundation in New York City. [November 1999]
o She and her former personal trainer, Bob Greene, announced they are buying seven shoreline lots from Getty Family Trust to build several homes, including one on 102-acre lot for Oprah. They plan to put conservation first and keep site development low key. [April 2002]
o After years of publicly criticizing David Letterman‘s late-night television show, Late Show with David Letterman (1993), she and Letterman finally settled their differences when she agreed to appear on the December 1, 2005 episode, during which time she was to be in New York to promote her musical of The Color Purple (1985). During the Superbowl of 2007, they appeared in an advertisement together for Letterman’s show. In the ad, they sat together on a couch watching the Superbowl, wearing opposing team jerseys. [2005]
o Has a cameo playing herself in Throw Momma from the Train (1987). In a “clip” from her show, she interviews a writer (the ex-wife of Billy Crystal‘s character) whose plagiarized and embellished “life story” is at the top of the bestseller lists (foreshadowing the James Frey controversy twenty years later).
o Ranked #3 on the annual Forbes magazine Celebrity 100 list. [2006]
o Collapsed from heat exhaustion during a recent visit to her birthplace of Kosciusko, Mississippi. [October 2006]
o A DNA test on the show African American Lives (2006) stated that Oprah’s genetic ancestry is 89% Sub-Saharan African, 8% Native American, and 3% East Asian (which may be Native American markers). Her African genetic roots include Kpelle, Bamileke and Zambian.
o In 2006, she earned an estimated $260 million in salary from her various interests including syndication, cable television, and print magazines. That same year, she gave $58,300,000 to charity to the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy, Oprah’s Angel Network, and other groups.

o Appearing on the annual Time 100 list, Time magazine’s ranking of the 100 Most Influential People in the World, in 2007 again, she is the only person who has been on that list five times. [May 2007]

o According to Forbes.com, her 2019 net worth is $2.6 billion. In 2003, she became the first African-American woman to make the list of billionaires.
o First African American woman billionaire in history and first African American female entrepreneur to appear on the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

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The notion of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) began with Louis B. Mayer, head of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM). He said he wanted to create an organization that would mediate labor disputes without unions and improve the industry’s image. He met with actor Conrad Nagel, director Fred Niblo, and the head of the Association of Motion Picture Producers, Fred Beetson, to discuss these matters. The idea of this elite club having an annual banquet was discussed, but no mention of awards at that time. They also established that membership into the organization would only be open to people involved in one of the five branches of the industry: actors, directors, writers, technicians, and producers.

After their brief meeting, Mayer gathered up a group of thirty-six people involved in the film industry and invited them to a formal banquet at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles on January 11, 1927. That evening Mayer presented to those guests what he called the International Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Everyone in the room that evening became a founder of the Academy. Between that evening and when the official Articles of Incorporation for the organization were filed on May 4, 1927, the “International” was dropped from the name, becoming the “Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.”

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IMDb (Internet Movie Database) is an online database of information related to films, television programs, home videos, video games, and streaming content online – including cast, production crew and personal biographies, plot summaries, trivia, ratings, and fan and critical reviews. An additional fan feature, message boards, was abandoned in February 2017. Originally a fan-operated website, the database is owned and operated by IMDb.com, Inc., a subsidiary of Amazon.

As of January 2020, IMDb has approximately 6.5 million titles (including episodes) and 10.4 million personalities in its database, as well as 83 million registered users.

IMDb began as a movie database on the Usenet group “rec.arts.movies” in 1990 and moved to the web in 1993.


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