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“The Oprah Winfrey Show” Comes to an End

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  • Friday, May 20, 2011
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  • As all good things need to come to an end, Harpo Productions announced on Friday that the final original episode of “The Oprah Winfrey Show” will air May 25, representing the end of a show that has made television history.


    Oprah Winfrey
    January 29, 1954
    Kosciusko, Miss.
    Stedman Graham, partner (1986 to present)
    Roger Ebert (dated briefly in the 1980s)


    Hard Childhood

    Leaving her grandmother's home in Mississippi, Winfrey splits her time between her mother, Vernita, in Milwaukee, Wis., and her father, Vernon, in Nashville, Tenn. She is raped and abused by family friends in Milwaukee. Winfrey moves to Nashville permanently in 1968, secretly pregnant at 14. Her father, a strict disciplinarian, helps her rebuild her life when her week-old baby dies.


    Oprah Winfrey

    Beauty Queen

    Winfrey wins Nashville's Miss Fire Prevention contest. The pageant sponsor, a radio station, offers Winfrey a job reading the afternoon headlines on air. After being crowned Miss Black Tennessee in 1972, she competes in the Miss Black America competition, but her burgeoning news career and college studies end her pageant days. At 19, she becomes anchor of Nashville's WTVF-TV station and leaves Tennessee State University to be the first female African-American news anchor in Nashville.


    Oprah Winfrey


    Windy City Calls

    After an eight-year stint cohosting a local morning show in Baltimore, Md., a 29-year-old Winfrey cohosts the talk show AM Chicago, which she eventually takes over. Within months she beats the top-rated PhilDonahue Show in viewership and AM Chicago is renamed The Oprah Winfrey Show.


    Oprah Winfrey

    December 20

    Natural Actress

    Quincy Jones casts Winfrey in Steven Spielberg'sThe Color Purple after seeing her TV show while on a business trip to Chicago. The role earns her an Oscar nomination.


    Oprah Winfrey


    A Steady Man

    Winfrey starts dating Stedman Graham, then the executive director of Athletes Against Drugs, an organization that teaches children about the dangers of drugs. She tells PEOPLE, "He's kind, and he's supportive, and he's 6'6"!" In 1992, they get engaged.

    Oprah Winfrey


    National Phenomenon

    A month after Winfrey opens her own studio, Harpo Productions (her name spelled backwards),The Oprah Winfrey Show goes into national syndication and quickly becomes the highest-rated talk show in TV history. It goes on to attract 49 million viewers each week in the U.S. alone and is distributed to 122 other countries. In 2000, after winning more than 40 Emmys, Winfrey takes her show out of Emmy consideration.

    Oprah Winfrey


    Yo-Yo Dieting

    Winfrey wheels 67 lbs. of animal fat onstage, illustrating the weight she lost in five months on a commercial liquid diet. "My greatest failure was in believing that the weight issue was just about the weight," she tells PEOPLE in 1991. "It's about not handling stress properly." In October 1994, a fit Winfrey achieves one of her dreams: completing the 26.2-mile Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, D.C.



    A Child's Crusader

    Winfrey testifies to the Senate in favor of the National Child Protection Act, which aims to create a national database of convicted child abusers. Two years later President Bill Clinton signs the "Oprah Bill," and in 2005, Winfrey launches "Oprah's Child Predator Watch List," which shows photos of fugitive child predators and offers $100,000 rewards for their capture.


    Oprah Winfrey

    September 17

    Book Club Bonanza

    Winfrey kicks off her TV book club with Jacquelyn Mitchard's The Deep End of the Ocean. Every book selection since has become a bestseller. In 2001, Jonathan Franzen becomes the only author to turn down Winfrey's invitation to be on her show. In 2003, she revamps her book club to feature mainly classic works.


    January 19

    Southern Justice

    Winfrey heads to Amarillo, Texas, where a group of cattlemen sued her, alleging she defamed beef during a 1996 show on mad cow disease. While there, she tapes five shows a week at the Amarillo Little Theatre. The following month, the court rules in Winfrey's favor. She is sued again in April and wins her case again four years later.


    Oprah Winfrey

    October 16

    Method Acting

    Beloved, a film adapted from a Toni Morrison novel, opens with Winfrey acting as both star and producer. While prepping for the film, she gets into the mindset of her character, a former slave in a post-Civil War setting, with a real-life reenactment. The role-playing was scheduled to last 48 hours, but Winfrey calls it off after six. "The guy in the reenactment [said], 'Nigger, you belong to me,'" she tells the Bergen Record of her time toiling in fields and running through woods for a faux-escape. "I felt shock waves of pain, pain, pain."


    Oprah Winfrey


    Magazine Success

    Winfrey launches O, the Oprah Magazine. After discord arises among the editing staff, Winfrey flies them all to her home in Miami. "The retreat was to sync ourselves up," Winfrey tells The New York Times. Six years later the magazine hits a circulation of 2.6 million.


    Oprah Winfrey

    September 13

    It's a New Car!

    Winfrey launches her show's Wildest Dreams season and kicks it off by giving each of the 276 audience members a new Pontiac G6 car. A controversy arises when they have to pay almost $7,000 each in taxes for the gifts. "As soon as we heard [about the taxes,] we started working with the accountant to adjust our income taxes," Kyle Meyers, whose wife was in the audience, tells the Wisconsin State Journal. "But that's nothing compared to a new car. How could you complain about that?"


    Oprah Winfrey

    September 22

    Furious at Frey

    Winfrey chooses James Frey's memoir A MillionLittle Pieces for her book club. Four months later, she finds out parts of the book were made up and confronts in air. "I feel duped, but more importantly I feel that you betrayed millions of readers," she says on her show.

    Oprah Winfrey

    December 01

    Great Purple Way

    Twenty years after starring in the film version ofThe Color Purple, Winfrey helps bring the story to Broadway. She appears on David Letterman's show the day the play opens to promote it,ending the 16-year rift that developed because, as she told Time in 2003, a previous appearance on Letterman's show made her uncomfortable.


    Oprah Winfrey


    Just Friends

    In the August issue of her magazine, Winfrey denies rumors that she's having a romantic relationship with best friend Gayle King. "I understand why people think we're gay," Winfrey writes in O. "There isn't a definition in our culture for this kind of bond between women."


    Oprah Winfrey

    January 02

    Oprah Opens Schools

    Winfrey opens the $40 million-plus Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls. She chooses 152 of South Africa's neediest girls to attend. "This is the proudest, greatest day of my life," Winfrey says. In March, she opens a second school, and makes PEOPLE's Most Beautiful and Time's Most Influential lists. But, in October her academy is hit by allegations of abuse. Winfrey publicly apologizes to families and a former school matron is arrested on charges of physical and sexual abuse.


    Oprah Winfrey


    Oprah Hits the Big 2-0-0

    After topping the Hollywood Reporter's Women in Entertainment Power 100 list, Oprah confesses to tipping the scale of 200lbs.–a 40-lb. weight gain from her slimmer self. "I'm mad at myself," she declares on the cover of her magazine's January issue. "I can't believe that after all these years, all the things I know how to do, I'm still talking about my weight."


    Oprah Winfrey

    November 19

    End of an Era

    Winfrey announces her plans to end her highly rated talk show in 2011 after 25 years, in an effort to prepare for the launch of her cable channel, OWN: The Oprah Winfrey Network. "I love this show," a teary-eyed Winfrey tells her audience. "This show has been my life and I love it enough to know when it's time to say goodbye."


    Oprah Winfrey

    January 01

    OWN-ing It!

    With a New Year, there's a new Oprah, as the media mogul launches her TV network, OWN, to stellar ratings – a solid 1 million viewers on her inaugural evening. "I wanted to take the ideals of great television that we've established on the Oprah show and bring them to you through a variety of new shows 24/7," she says. "Every minute of this network has been hand-selected by me for you, the viewers."

    Winfrey was the first black billionaire