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Oprah Winfrey

Oprah Winfrey has risen from poverty and a troubled youth to become the most powerful and influential woman in television and, according to Forbes Magazine, the world's most highly paid entertainer. Though primarily recognized as a talk show hostess, Winfrey also occasionally acts in television movies and feature films.

Winfrey's parents were teens when she was born in rural Mississippi and never married. She was originally named Orpah after a woman from the "Book of Ruth" but a spelling mistake on the birth certificate changed it to Oprah. She spent her childhood growing up in abject poverty on her deeply religious grandmother's farm. When she was older, Winfrey moved in with her mother in Milwaukee, WI. This proved a difficult time as Winfrey alleges she was repeatedly sexually molested by male relatives. Winfrey became a bit of a wild child during her early teens, experimenting with sex and drugs until at age 14 she gave birth to a premature baby. It died shortly after, and upon recovering, Winfrey chose to live with her father in Nashville. It was under his stern guidance, that Winfrey found discipline, stability and the inspiration to excel in school and change her life.

When she was 19, Winfrey became a part-time radio reporter for station WVOL, Nashville and also began studying speech and performing arts at Tennessee State University. She dropped out in 1972 during her sophomore year to become an Anchor at Nashville's WTVF-TV. She was the first black woman to hold that position. In 1976, she moved to WJZ-TV and after a stint as a reporter was promoted to co-anchor. Two years after her arrival, Winfrey was slotted (with some trepidation by producers who weren't sure how audiences would respond to a host who was neither white nor thin) to host their talk show People Are Talking. Their worries were unfounded for the charming, empathetic Winfrey's show was a hit and remained so for eight years.