If you’ve watched television in the past thirty years, you’re bound to know a little something about Oprah Winfrey. After all, she is one of the most easily recognizable faces in the world, thanks to her long-running daytime talk show, “The Oprah Winfrey Show.” At one time, her show was watched by 40 million Americans each week. Although she kept us informed, made us cry, and gave us a few laughs over the two and a half decades of her stint as a talk-show host, Oprah is more than just a sounding board for the issues of our time. She’s also a talented actress whose acting career began almost simultaneously with her career as America’s most beloved queen of daytime TV.
It was at the same time that Oprah gained a national audience with her talk show that she also garnered the attention of the nation by playing the role of Sofia in 1985’s “The Color Purple,” a movie that was adapted from a novel by Alice Walker. Her fledgling performance in this Steven Spielberg film won her nominations for both a Golden Globe Award and Oscar as Best Supporting Actress. Oprah’s freshman performance in this film alongside such greats as Whoopi Goldberg and Danny Glover is considered by many to be among her best.
The following year, Oprah starred in her second role in film, appearing alongside Elizabeth McGovern and Matt Dillon in “Native Son,” a film that received some critical acclaim. The story is set in 1940s Chicago and follows a series of events centering around an African-American chauffer who accidentally kills the daughter of his employer and then tries to cover it up to avoid an unfair trial.
Oprah’s love of the silver screen and acting itself caused her to form her own production company, Harpo Productions, in 1986. The production company would eventually buy “The Oprah Winfrey Show” and remains formidable even today. Harpo would produce a TV miniseries in 1987 that was quite well received, “The Women of Brewster Place,” which starred and was executive produced by Oprah. Oprah would also star in and produce two TV movies from Harpo, 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 movie based on one of Oprah’s favorite Toni Morrison novels. In “Beloved,” Oprah would reunite with her “The Color Purple” costar, Danny Glover. The movie was a flop at the box office, premiering the same weekend as “Bride of Chucky,” an anticipated addition to the “Child’s Play” series of horror movies. Oprah would go on to say that the failure of “Beloved” was one of the worst moments of her career and has stated it caused her to become majorly 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 seen some success in voiceover performances for some of the most beloved children’s films of our time, including her voice performance as Gussie the Goose in the 2006 animated adaptation of “Charlotte’s Web.” She would go on to voice the judge in the Benson vs. the World case in 2007’s “Bee Movie.” Her third voiceover deal came as Eudora, Princess Tiana’s mother in 2009’s “The Princess and the Frog.”
Oprah’s love of acting spills over into producing great works, too. Two decades after establishing herself nationally, Oprah still devoted much of her time to television and film production, producing a 2005 film adaptation of “Their Eyes Were Watching God” based on the Zora Neale Hurston book. Also in 2005, she produced a musical Broadway production of “The Color Purple.” It was her love of production that led her to launch her own television network, OWN (Oprah Winfrey Network), in 2011.
Oprah was once referred to as the most powerful woman in the world and is the richest self-made woman in the US as well as the wealthiest 20th-century African-American, male or female. In 1995, she became the first and only woman and only African-American to be listed on the Forbes 400, and she was also listed as the world’s sole black billionaire. She owes all of this success to her diverse set of skills that has 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 several Daytime Emmy wins under her belt to actress to television and movie producer to television network owner, Oprah’s remarkable career is incredibly diverse, and we can only expect more good things from her going forward.