What you never knew about talk show icon Oprah Winfrey

THIS week marks 30 years since The Oprah Winfrey Show debuted on screens.

For the ensuing 25 years, until Oprah herself made the decision to bow out while she was on top in 2011, Winfrey’s talk show made her a television icon.

Celeb confidante, self-help guru, charity worker — Oprah did it all, and beamed it into lounge rooms five days a week.

Here’s a few things you probably didn’t know about the 62-year-old talk show queen who rose from humble beginnings to become one of the world’s most influential women.

OPRAH’S NOT HER REAL NAME

Her parents had named her Orpah, after a biblical character from the Book of Ruth, but it was misspelled on her birth certificate, and it somehow stuck. During her earliest years in television, working on a Baltimore TV station, a producer suggested she go by the more run-of-the-mill ‘Suzy’. She refused.

HER TEEN YEARS WERE TOUGH

She gave birth to a baby boy at the age of 14. He died shortly after birth. In her teens she was sent to a juvenile hall for wayward girls, but she was turned away because there weren’t enough beds.

SHE STARTED OUT AS A NEWS ANCHOR

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Winfrey appeared as a co-anchor on local news programs in Nashville and Baltimore, before being moved to local talk show People Are Talking. Her next move, to Chicago to host talk show AM Chicago, saw the program rise from last to first in the ratings within a matter of months.

HER FIRST-EVER EPISODE OF THE OPRAH WINFREY SHOW WAS ABOUT ...

How to land a boyfriend. Girl Power!

SHE CHALLENGED STIGMAS AT THE HEIGHT OF THE AIDS PANIC

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In 1987, the tiny town of Williamson, West Virginia, became the focus of intense national attention. Local gay man Mike Sisco had tested positive for HIV, and the news quickly spread through the town.

One day he took a dip in the local pool, and by the next day the pool had been closed. Ridiculous rumours and misinformation spread, even making it into the local newspaper. This was AIDS panic at its most damaging, as a small town ostracised one of their most vulnerable.

Oprah entered the fray, filming a special episode where Mike and other residents from the town were able to voice their concerns in an open forum.

SHE’S ALWAYS SHOWN HER WEIGHT BATTLES PUBLICLY

In 1988, Oprah revealed her new slimline figure and wheeled out a wagon filled with 67 pounds of fat to represent the weight she’d lost. It was to be the first of many times she flaunted a dramatic weight loss on the show — only to put it all back on again. She later described the infamous “fat wagon” as her biggest on-air mistake.

SHE SANG THE OPRAH WINFREY SHOW THEME TUNE

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... Well, for one season at least. Winfrey took voice lessons to sing a specially-written theme song for her 1998 season. A devout Tina Turner fan, Winfrey later admitted that trying to ape her idol was perhaps not her smartest move, and the new theme was dropped after a season.

SHE’S GROUNDBREAKINGLY RICH

Not only was she named the first African-American female billionaire in history in 2003 on the Forbes list, she remains the only African-American female billionaire on the list.

ANOTHER FIRST ...

She was the first African-American star to appear on the cover of Vogue, gracing the front of the mag for a stunning 1998 shoot. She later admitted to crash dieting before the shoot — and bingeing afterwards.

SHE WINGS IT

Oprah has insisted she never prepares a list of questions before an interview. “I just kind of sit and have a conversation,” she said.

SHE HELPED ELLEN COME OUT

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When DeGeneres came out on her hit 1990s sitcom, she enlisted Oprah’s help. Winfrey plays a key role in Ellen’s groundbreaking “coming out” episode, helping a deeply closeted Ellen admit that she has feelings for women.

SHE’S NOT ONE TO CALL IN SICK

During her 25 years hosting the Oprah Winfrey Show, she never missed a single episode.

SHE WAS ALWAYS AN ENTHUSIASTIC AUDIENCE MEMBER FOR MUSICAL GUESTS

... even when she didn’t actually know the words. Look, Mariah’s We Belong Together has a lot of lyrics.

SHE HAD AN ... INTERESTING INTERVIEW WITH BARBRA STREISAND

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Streisand’s 2003 appearance on the show was a barely-concealed clash of egos, as these two titans tussle it out for a whole hour. Look, we can’t do it justice – comedian Kathy Griffin details the episode with glee in the eight-minute bit above. Well worth a watch.

SHE HELPED COIN A NEW PHRASE

The Wall Street Journal dubbed it “Oprahfication”: the public confession as a form of therapy she ushered in with her talk show.

Oprah’s famous and everyday guests would appear on the show to confess their secrets, and in turn, Oprah herself would open up about everything from her weight problems to her childhood sexual abuse. Time magazine credited her with creating a new form of talk show interviewing: “rapport talk.”

SHE’S BEEN ENGAGED FOR A LONG TIME

She started dating longtime partner, Stedman Graham, in 1986, and he proposed in 1992. She said yes, but they’ve never got round to tying the knot.

50 CENT IS A FAN ... WE THINK

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The gangsta rapper named his dog Oprah ... and his cat Gayle, after her longtime best friend. We think that’s a compliment.

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