If you’ve watched television for the last thirty years, you probably know something about Oprah Winfrey. After all, she’s one of the most recognizable faces on earth thanks to her long-running talk show, The Oprah Winfrey Show. Her show used to be seen by 40 million Americans every week. Though she’s kept us informed, made us cry, and given us a few laughs in her two-and-a-half decades as a talk show host, Oprah is more than a sounding board for the issues of our time. She is also a talented actress whose acting career began almost simultaneously with her career as America’s favorite daytime television queen.
At the same time that Oprah was gaining a national audience with her talk show, she also caught the nation’s attention by playing the role of Sofia in 1985’s The Color Purple, a film adapted from an Alice Walker novel. Her burgeoning performance in this Steven Spielberg film earned her nominations for both a Golden Globe Award and an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. Oprah’s performance as a newcomer in this film alongside the likes of Whoopi Goldberg and Danny Glover is considered by many to be one of her best.
The following year, Oprah starred in her second film role alongside Elizabeth McGovern and Matt Dillon in Native Son, a film to critical acclaim. Set in 1940s Chicago, the story follows a series of events revolving around an African American chauffeur who accidentally kills his employer’s daughter and then tries to cover it up to avoid an unfair trial.
Oprah’s love of the screen and of acting itself led her to start her own production company, Harpo Productions, in 1986. The production company would eventually buy The Oprah Winfrey Show and remains impressive to this day. Harpo produced a reasonably well-received 1987 TV miniseries, The Women of Brewster Place, which starred Oprah and served as executive producer. Oprah also starred in and produced two Harpo made-for-TV movies, including 1993’s There Are No Children Here and 1997’s Before Women Had Wings.
Harpo Productions would be behind Oprah’s next role in 1998’s Beloved, a film based on one of Oprah’s favorite Toni Morrison novels. In Beloved, Oprah reunited with her The Color Purple co-star Danny Glover. The film was a box office flop and premiered the same weekend as Bride of Chucky, a highly anticipated addition to the Child’s Play horror film franchise. Oprah went on to say that the failure of “Beloved” was one of the worst moments of her career and explained that it left her severely depressed. Nonetheless, Oprah was nominated for Outstanding Actress in a Motion Picture by the NAACP Image Awards for her performance in the film.
Oprah has also had some voiceover success for some of the most popular children’s films of our time, including her singing performance as Gussie the Goose in the 2006 animated adaptation of Charlotte’s Web. She voiced the judge in 2007’s Bee Movie Canceled Benson vs. the World. Her third voice acting deal came in 2009 as Eudora, Princess Tiana’s mother in The Princess and the Frog.
Oprah’s love of acting also translates into producing great works. Two decades after establishing herself nationally, Oprah still devotes much of her time to television and film production, and in 2005 she produced a film adaptation of Their Eyes Were Watching God, based on the book by Zora Neale Hurston. Also in 2005, she produced a Broadway musical production of The Color Purple. It was her love of production that led her to start her own television network, OWN (Oprah Winfrey Network), in 2011.
oprah was once dubbed the most powerful woman alive and is the richest self-made woman in the United States, as well as the wealthiest African American woman of the 20th century, male or female. In 1995, she became the first and only woman and only African American to be listed in the Forbes 400, and she was also listed as the world’s only black billionaire. She owes all of this success to her diverse skill sets that have made her a force to be reckoned with in the entertainment industry. Oprah Winfrey is a woman of many talents. From talk show host extraordinaire with multiple Daytime Emmy wins under her belt, to actress, television and film producer, to television station owner, Oprah’s remarkable career has been incredibly diverse, and we can only expect more good things from her.