OPRAH. Possibly the only word in the entire world that needs no further explanation. Oprah Winfrey has made herself a household name and is perhaps one of the most successful and beloved personalities of our time. Now named “The Queen of All Media,” she is best known for her nationally syndicated television talk show The Oprah Winfrey Show, which ran from 1986 to 2011 and was the highest rated talk show in history. She began her career in 1984 when she became the host of the low rated morning talk show AM Chicago. It wasn’t long before ratings went through the roof, even surpassing the popular Donahue. Oprah had arrived.
Oprah is far from the average talk show host. She was nominated for an Academy Award for her performance in The Color Purple. She also starred and produced the film Beloved and played the wife of Cecil Gaines in the acclaimed picture, The Butler. She created her own TV network, OWN and has published magazines including O, The Oprah Magazine and O at Home. She also established Harpo Studios, making her only the third woman in American history to own a studio. Oprah is also known for giving back to the world through her charitable efforts including “Oprah’s Angel Network.”
It is estimated that Oprah’s current net worth is roughly 2.9 billion dollars. Though Oprah is undoubtedly a smart business woman and a caring philanthropist, she is perhaps best known for the interviews she has brought us through the years. Below is a list of some of the most memorable Oprah interviews and highlights from her groundbreaking television show.
20. Liberace: 1986
The infamous pianist appeared on the first season of The Oprah Winfrey Show, and played a Christmas medley that Oprah said was “The most beautiful I’ve ever heard.” This was his last televised interview, he died six weeks later of complications from the AIDS virus.
19. Liz Taylor: 1988
Oprah says this is one of the most awkward interviews she has ever done. Elizabeth Taylor began the interview by saying, “Don’t ask me about my husbands,” which certainly put Oprah at a disadvantage.
18. Truddi Chase: 1990
Truddi Chase shared her story of sexual abuse and her subsequent multiple personality disorder (she had over 90 different personalities) with Oprah in a 1990 interview. This interview brought sexual abuse to the forefront and caused others to come forward, including Oprah herself.
17. Michael Jackson: 1993
This was an unprecedented live event, and Michael‘s first interview in fourteen years. During the interview, Michael gave Oprah a lesson on moon walking, and Oprah also asked him the burning question, “Are you a virgin?’ “I am a gentleman,” he replied. Oprah says “It was the most exciting interview I have ever done.”
16. The Book Club: 1996
In 1996 Oprah introduced the now infamous “television” book club with the book The Deep End of the Ocean, by Jacquelyn Mitchard. Before the show was over there were over 4,000 holds on the book in libraries. Oprah’s Book Club became an influential force in the publishing world taking many unknown, obscure authors into the limelight.
15. John F. Kennedy, Jr.: 1996
Oprah was thrilled. “I’ve waited all my life to interview John-John!” she said. This show kicked off the eleventh season of The Oprah Winfrey Show. During this interview, Oprah asks JFK Jr., “What’s it like to be famous every day of your life?” Oprah re-aired the footage in 2010, on what would have been his 50th birthday.
14. Mary Tyler Moore: 1997
On a show devoted to her favorite leading ladies, Oprah was reduced to tears when Mary Tyler Moore, one of Oprah’s beloved favorites surprised her, appearing on stage as Oprah was thanking her for her years of entertainment and laughs. “All of us women in television thank you very much” Oprah said as MTM makes her way to the stage. The normally calm and professional television host showed her soft side and the American audience loved it.
13. Ellen DeGeneres: 1997
Ellen openly discusses her decision to come out in this groundbreaking episode of The Oprah Winfrey Show. Oprah asks Ellen, “You nervous or what?”and Ellen replies, “Yeah. Everybody thinks I’m a freak.” When Oprah asks Ellen why it was necessary to come out and tell the public, Ellen replies, “Because it’s okay.” A huge moment in television history.
12. Sidney Poitier: 2000
Oprah says of this experience, “It was a once in a lifetime interview”. The screen legend visited the show after his autobiography was published. Oprah was so overwhelmed by his appearance that she says, “After our interview, I went into the studio’s control room and wept.”
11. David Caruso: 2003
David Caruso was a man who lost 305 pounds that Oprah truly admired. Oprah knew that one of his dreams was to be able to fit behind the wheel of a Porsche. Not only did she give him the dream of sitting in one, she actually gave him a Porsche. She says she felt a special connection with David when during the applause and confetti, he looked at her and mouthed the words, “Thank you.”
10. You Get a Car! Episode: 2004
On this show, every audience member was told to look under their chairs for a gift box, and each one held the key to a new Pontiac. “I wanted it to be bigger than Santa Claus and not to be an act of a fairy godmother, because that’s not who I am,” says Oprah. The crowd went crazy as Oprah pointed into the audience and yelled, “You get a car, and you get a car! Everybody gets a car!”
9. David Letterman: 2005
In a turn of events, Oprah was actually a guest on David Letterman‘s late night show, where she finally put to rest the rumors of a feud between the two talk show biggies. “I want you to know, it’s really over, whatever you thought was happening,” Winfrey said.
8. Tom Cruise: 2005
This was the scene of the now infamous couch jumping episode where Tom Cruise crazily declares his love for Katie Holmes. Oprah says she had no idea what was going on, “It was wilder than it was appearing to me,” Winfrey said.
7. James Frey: 2006
After choosing Frey‘s memoir A Little Million Pieces as a book club selection, Oprah had him back on the show when it came to light that parts of the book were embellished. She told him, ” I have to say it is difficult for me to talk to you because I feel really duped.”
6. Charla Nash: 2010
In 2009, Charla Nash was brutally attacked by a chimp and her face horrifically destroyed. She appeared on Oprah’s show in 2010 and for the first time revealed the horrendous aftermath of her attack. She told Oprah she tries very hard not to remember the attack.
5. Whitney Houston: 2009
This episode with the iconic star kicked off the 24th season of Oprah’s show. During the interview, Houston talked about her break up with Bobby Brown, her drug abuse and the death of Michael Jackson. In sad retrospect, Oprah asks her “Do you like being a mother?” Says Houston, “I love it.”
4. Barbara Walters: 2010
Once again the tables turned when Barbara Walters interviewed Oprah in 2010. Oprah was getting ready to end her reign as the Queen of the talk show. Oprah said, “You can’t call in sick. You can’t ever give less than 100%…” The Gayle King lesbian rumors were finally addressed in this interview, bringing in a large number of viewers.
3. Lisa Marie Presley: 2010
This was viewed as Presley‘s “One and only television interview,” and focused on her marriage to Michael Jackson and her reaction to his death. During the interview, Oprah was surprised to learn that the couple had spent four years reconciling and breaking up after the first public split. “He was like a drug for me,” Presley tells Oprah during this historic meeting.
2. President Obama and First Lady, Michelle Obama: 2011
This was very big for Oprah as it was the first time a sitting president and First lady ever appeared together on her show. She was visibly nervous as she announced “Air Force One has landed in Chicago!” Most importantly during this interview, the President shared the news that he would be running for a second term.
1. Lance Armstrong: 2013
Possibly one of her highest viewed interviews ever, a hero of our time crashed and burned in front of our eyes. Lance Armstrong told Oprah that it would not have been possible to win all the titles he did without the help of performance-enhancing drugs. This interview which was a huge coup for the OWN network, was broken into two 90 minute segments and drew over 3.2 million viewers.