The Oprah Winfrey NetworkIn 2009, Oprah Winfrey announced that she would be ending her program when her contract with ABC ended, in 2011. Soon after, she moved to her own network, the Oprah Winfrey Network, a joint venture with Discovery Communications.
Despite a financially rocky start, the network made headlines in January 2013, when it aired an interview between Winfrey and Lance Armstong, the American cyclist and seven-time Tour de France winner who was stripped of his seven Tour titles in 2012 due to doping charges. During the interview, Armstrong admitted to using performance-enhancing substances throughout his cycling career, including the hormones cortisone, testosterone and erythropoietin (also known as EPO). "I am deeply flawed ... and I'm paying the price for it, and I think that's okay. I deserve this," he stated. The interview reportedly brought in millions of dollars in revenue for OWN.
Of her interview with Armstrong, Winfrey said in a statement, "He did not come clean in the manner I expected. It was surprising to me. I would say that, for myself, my team, all of us in the room, we were mesmerized by some of his answers. I felt he was thorough. He was serious. He certainly prepared himself for this moment. I would say he met the moment. At the end of it, we both were pretty exhausted."
Activism and CharityAccording to Forbes magazine, Oprah was the richest African American of the 20th century and the world's only Black billionaire for three years running. Life magazine hailed her as the most influential woman of her generation. In 2005, Business Week named her the greatest Black philanthropist in American history. Oprah's Angel Network has raised more than $51,000,000 for charitable programs, including girls' education in South Africa and relief to the victims of Hurricane Katrina.
Winfrey is a dedicated activist for children's rights; in 1994, President Clinton signed a bill into law that Winfrey had proposed to Congress, creating a nationwide database of convicted child abusers. She founded the Family for Better Lives foundation and also contributes to her alma mater, Tennessee State University.
In September, 2002, Oprah was named the first recipient of The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences' Bob Hope Humanitarian Award.
Winfrey campaigned for Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama in December 2007, attracting the largest crowds of the primary season to that point. Winfrey joined Obama for a series of rallies in the early primary/caucus states of Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina. It was the first time Winfrey had ever campaigned for a political candidate.
The biggest event was at the University of South Carolina football stadium, where 29,000 supporters attended a rally that had been switched from an 18,000-seat basketball arena to satisfy public demand.
"Dr. (Martin Luther) King dreamed the dream. But we don't have to just dream the dream any more," Oprah told the crowd. "We get to vote that dream into reality by supporting a man who knows not just who we are, but who we can be." The power of Winfrey's political endorsement was unclear (Obama won Iowa and South Carolina, but lost New Hampshire). But she has a clear track record of turning unknown authors into blockbuster best-sellers when she mentions their books on her program.
After The Oprah Winfrey Show ended on September 9, 2011, Oprah has remained in the rapidly shifting and converging media field through The Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN), which launched on January 1, 2011.
In her final season of her talk show, Oprah made ratings soar when she revealed a family secret: she has a half-sister named Patricia. Oprah's mother gave birth to a baby girl in 1963. At the time, Oprah was 9 years old, and living with her father. Lee put the child up for adoption because she believed that she wouldn't be able to get off public assistance if she had another child to care for. Patricia lived in a series of foster homes until she was 7 years old.
Patricia tried to connect with her birth mother through her adoption agency after she became an adult, but Lee did not want to meet her. After doing some research, she approached a niece of Winfrey's, and the two had DNA tests done, which proved they were related.
Winfrey only learned of her sister's existence a few months before she made the decision to publicize the knowledge. "It was one of the greatest surprises of my life," Winfrey said on her show.
In November 2013, Winfrey received the nation's highest civilian honor, the Presidental Medal of Freedom. President Barack Obama gave her this award for her contributions to her country.
Since 1992, Winfrey has been engaged to Stedman Graham, a public relations executive. The couple lives in Chicago, and Winfrey also has homes in Montecito, California, Rolling Prairie, Indiana, and Telluride, Colorado.