Who is Oprah Winfrey? Where is she from, why she’s interviewing Prince Harry and Meghan – and how to watch in the UK

The media mogul was raised in poverty in Mississippi, and later became the first ever female black billionaire
US presenter Oprah Winfrey attended the royal wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex in 2018 (Picture: IAN WEST/AFP via Getty Images)US presenter Oprah Winfrey attended the royal wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex in 2018 (Picture: IAN WEST/AFP via Getty Images)
US presenter Oprah Winfrey attended the royal wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex in 2018 (Picture: IAN WEST/AFP via Getty Images)

US chat show host Oprah Winfrey is set to release her “tell-all” interview with Prince Harry and Meghan Markle this weekend (7 March).

Oprah With Meghan And Harry: A CBS Primetime Special will be an intimate conversation which is expected to reveal why they left their royal duties behind in the UK and set up home in California.

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In promotional clips ahead of the broadcast,Meghan talks about marriage, motherhood and how she felt as a new royal, while Harry reflects on Princess Diana’s experience of media scrutiny.

So, who is Oprah and why has she been chosen to interview the Duke and Duchess of Sussex? This is what you need to know.

Who is Oprah Winfrey?

Oprah Gail Winfrey is a 67-year-old African-American television host, producer and author who is famous for presenting her chat show, The Oprah Winfrey Show.

She was born in Mississippi in 1952 into an impoverished family and became a mother at 14 years old. Her child died in early infancy.

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Winfrey went on to live with the man she refers to as her dad, Vernon Winfrey, in Tennessee. Aged 19, she became a co-anchor on her local radio station, and is considered the reason why the show went from third-ranking local show to first.

She then left local radio to launch her own production company, and became internationally syndicated.

In 1983, she overtook Phil Donahue as the highest-rated talk show host in the US, but was not considered a professional, receiving scrutiny for her emotive interviewing approach.

Winfrey met her boyfriend Stedman Graham in 1986 and the couple have been together ever since; they were due to marry in 1992 but the wedding did not go ahead.

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She went on to be one of the most popular and critically acclaimed television hosts in US history, and was the first ever female black billionaire, and the only black billionaire in the world 2004 to 2006.

The media mogul also ranks in the top 20 of Forbes 100 Most Powerful Women in the World.

She has been described on the National Women’s Hall of Fame as “The first African-American woman to own her own production company; a talented actress nominated for an Academy Award in her first movie; television’s highest-paid entertainer; producer and actress in her own television specials; and the successful host of a syndicated television talk show that reaches 15 million people a day.”

Winfrey was considered incredibly important to President Obama’s success in 2008, as her endorsement of him was thought to have generated an estimated one million votes during the 2008 Democratic primaries.

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In 2013, Winfrey was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Obama, and honorary doctorate degrees from Duke and Harvard.

What is the Oprah Winfrey Show?

In 1983, Winfrey relocated to Chicago to host WLS-TV's low-rated half-hour morning talk show, AM Chicago.

A few months after taking over as lead host, she had taken the show from the lowest ranked in Chicago to the highest.

Despite her success, she received lukewarm reviews and was not considered as professional as her competitor, Donahue.

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At the time, TIME magazine wrote: “Few people would have bet on Oprah Winfrey's swift rise to host of the most popular talk show on TV. In a field dominated by white males, she is a black female of ample bulk.

“As interviewers go, she is no match for, say, Phil Donahue ... What she lacks in journalistic toughness, she makes up for in plainspoken curiosity, robust humor and, above all empathy.

“Guests with sad stories to tell are apt to rouse a tear in Oprah's eye ... They, in turn, often find themselves revealing things they would not imagine telling anyone, much less a national TV audience.”

In 1984, aged 32, Winfrey became a millionaire and in 1986 she launched her chat show, The Oprah Winfrey Show.

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Over the next three decades she went on to interview a plethora of celebrities, politicians and public figures. Her show was first considered a tabloid talk show, but evolved into discussing broader issues such as philanthropy, diseases, mental health, spirituality, and politics.

In January 2008, Winfrey and Discovery Communications announced they would change Discovery Health Channel into OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network - an American multinational basic cable channel.

The channel launched in January 2011 and the final episode of her CBS chat show aired in May 2011.

She then returned to CBS in 2017 as a Sunday night host for 60 Minutes, but left in 2018.

Why was she chosen to interview Harry and Meghan?

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The American TV personality and leading talk show host is a close friend of the couple, and attended their wedding in 2018 at Windsor Castle.

Jonny Dymond, the BBC's royal correspondent, described her as “a very close acquaintance” of Harry and Meghan.

Winfrey has also focused her philanthropy on education and by 2012 had donated $400 million to educational causes.

In 2004, she established the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls in Henley on Klip south of Johannesburg, South Africa. Many students at her girls' school in South Africa are AIDS orphans.

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In 2013, Winfrey donated $12 million to the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture and has also given over hundreds of scholarships to Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia.

Harry and Meghan also focus much of their philanthropic efforts in Africa and in education.

Winfrey is also well-respected among politicians and public figures in the US. Some of the other big names Oprah has interviewed include President Barackand Michelle Obama, Elizabeth Taylor, Whitney Houston, Tina Turner, and fellow talk show host, Ellen DeGeneres.

When will Oprah With Meghan And Harry: A CBS Primetime Special be on television?

Oprah With Meghan And Harry: A CBS Primetime Special will be broadcast on 7 March in the US.

The interview – Oprah with Meghan and Harry – will air for UK viewers on Monday 8th March at 9pm on ITV.