The Oprah Winfrey Show debuts nationally
Oprah Winfrey had already overtaken Phil Donahue in Chicago but critics from Time to Newsday to The Wall Street Journal debated her national appeal when the show debuted September 8, 1986.
Showdown with the racists of Forsyth County
On February 9, 1987, Winfrey courageously, or idiotically, depending on what side of the debate you stood, confronted an all-white community where a black person had not lived in 75 years.
The wagon of fat
Back when Winfrey shared the American female obsession to be thin at any cost, on November 5, 1988, she celebrated her new size 10 frame by rolling out a red wagon weighted down by a representation of the amazing 67 pounds she lost.
Michael Jackson talks to Oprah
One of Winfrey’s rare prime-time shows, her February 10, 1993 interview with Michael Jackson at Neverland, remains among the most watched in television history. During the show, Jackson attributed his whitened skin to vitiligo.
Revealing her rape
Speaking with Truddi Chase, who purportedly suffered Multiple Personality Disorder, as she discussed her book, When Rabbit Howls, largely about her childhood sexual abuse on May 21, 1990, Winfrey broke down, revealing her own childhood sexual abuse.
Mad cow disease
Winfrey’s April 16, 1996 show about the outbreak of mad cow disease in Britain, which was linked to several deaths, was cited as the genesis of lagging beef sales in a suit four Texas ranching families brought against Winfrey, who won the suit in 1998.
Oprah against the Iraq War
From November 2002 to March 2003, Winfrey aired a series of shows raising questions about the U.S. rushing blindly to war when many Americans were pro-war. A President Bush press conference even pre-empted her February 6, 2003 show “The World Speaks Out On Iraq.”
Terry McMillan battles with gay ex-husband
Once down-low brother J.L. King’s April 16, 2004 appearance fueled the black community’s down-low hysteria but bestselling author Terry McMillan’s heated November 9, 2005 appearance with her ex Jonathan Plummer gave it a public face.
Oprah’s car giveaway: “You get a car! And you get a car…”
Fully flexing the power of Oprah, Winfrey surprised her studio audience of 276 by giving each of them a new Pontiac G6 sedan for her 19th season opener on September 13, 2004. Later, the IRS killed the high.
Tom Cruise’s couch jump
Instead of shouting out his love for Katie Holmes from a rooftop or a mountain, Tom Cruise chose to jump up and down on Oprah’s couch on May 23, 2005 and it made national and international headlines.
Oprah lashes out at rappers
When his responses to questions regarding his music and that of other rappers was edited out of an October 6, 2005 appearance with the cast of Crash but Winfrey’s comments remained, Ludacris, later joined by other rappers, called the talk show queen out for her anti-rap bias.
Oprah vs. James Frey
The Oprah’s Book Club 2005 selection of James Frey’s A Million Little Pieces imploded when The Smoking Gun revealed that Frey lied extensively in the memoir, prompting Winfrey to grill both him and publisher Nan Talese on her January 26, 2006 show.
For her September 6, 2005 and September 7, 2005 shows, Winfrey addressed her audience from New Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf Coast respectively with strong words and images about a disaster she proclaimed “should not have happened.”
Oprah’s South African school
Opening her Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls in South Africa, which Winfrey shared on both January 17, 2007 broadcast as well as her February 27, 2007 primetime special, ignited a debate about why she didn’t open a school in the U.S.
Endorsing Barack Obama
Winfrey tagged Barack Obama as the one on Larry King Live and her own show months before he officially announced. Because she publicly endorsed him, she refused to invite any political candidates to her show.
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Shattering the glass ceiling for women in general, and black women specifically, Oprah Winfrey – born poor in Civil Rights-era Kosciusko, Mississippi – defied the odds to become a globally -recognized brand. Next year, this time, The Oprah Winfrey Show will no longer exist in the form in which we have recognized it for 25 seasons. Even with its many wild successes, The Oprah Winfrey Show has not been without its “Oprah-Gates,” some big and some small, but all definitely provocative. These are just 15 of the most intriguing.