"I just pretended to be Barbara Walters," she says, and soon was off to Tennessee State University, double-majoring in speech and drama and landing, during her sophomore year, her first job on TV, as a reporter at the local CBS affiliate.
After graduating, she was recruited to Baltimore's CBS affiliate (it was there that she, Gayle King and Maria Shriver became close friends), arriving after much hype, initially failing to gain traction as a nightly news co-anchor but then finding her strength as a daytime talk show host, where she was not reading off a teleprompter, but interacting with people and speaking from the heart.
Over the course of more than 37,000 interviews spread across 4,400 episodes, Winfrey strived to help others live their best life, becoming known for her immense empathy and generosity and firmly establishing herself as "the Queen of Daytime Television." "We had a higher vision," she says, citing the show's "intention" ("to serve the viewer") and "mission" ("to uplift, enlighten, encourage and entertain"), and revealing that she spoke to God before every show: "My prayer was, 'God, use me and protect me.'" Winfrey's "empire" soon expanded to include a number of other major initiatives, both within and beyond the show itself, among them: Oprah’s Book Club (1996), Oprah’s Angel Network (1997), O!
"I, in the beginning, made a lot of mistakes.
She appeared in front of a camera as someone other than herself only once during the show’s run, in the 1998 Jonathan Demme film Beloved, and has done so only reluctantly since, partly out of keen awareness of her own lack of experience ("I love this acting thing, I find that it opens me up and stimulates me in a way that absolutely nothing else does...