The high­s and lows of Oprah Winfrey’s 25 years

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Super Oprah comes into the world on Jan. 29, 1954, in Kosciusko, Miss.

1976
» Oprah gets her start, meets Gayle
After three years of anchor news reporting, in 1976, Winfrey hosts the 6 o’clock news at Baltimore’s WJZ-TV, where she meets future bestie-for-life, Gayle King, who was working there as a production assistant.

1985
» “The Color Purple”
Early indications of Winfrey’s multitalented can-do spirit are apparent when she stars as Sofia in Steven Spielberg’s “The Color Purple,” in 1985 and scores a Best Supporting Actress nod by the Academy Awards. She lost to Anjelica Huston.

1986
» The big break
Since her move to Chicago in 1983, Winfrey was hosting localized version of what was to become “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” which first nationally broadcast on Sept. 8, 1986. The topic of her first show? Marrying the right person.

1987
» Critical praise
In 1987, Winfrey receives her first of more than 45 Daytime Emmy Awards that she would collect before removing the show from consideration in 2000.

1988
» If we could only warn her then
Winfrey starts what would become a 20-plus year discussion about her weight fluctuation with the “Diet Dreams Come True” episode of Nov. 15, 1988, in which the talk show host came on stage as a skinny size 10, carting a wagon behind her loaded with 67 pounds worth of groceries behind her.

1992
» The engagement that would last a lifetime
In 1992, Oprah Winfrey gets engaged to businessman Stedman Graham whom she has yet to actually marry.

1993
» The Queen of Daytime and the King of Pop
In 1993, it was only Winfrey who could get the suspiciously pale Michael Jackson to explain that he had not bleached his skin, but that he had skin-pigment disorder known as vitiligo. This was to become one of Winfrey’s highest rated episodes, with 62 million viewers watching.

1996
» Reviving the publishing industry
Oprah Winfrey launches her book club in 1996. More than 60 selections have instantaneously earned a lucky author boatloads of money and an immediate spot on The New York Times’ best-sellers list.

1997
» Ellen’s out
In 1997, Winfrey is host to actress and comedian Ellen DeGeneres, who comes out of the closet on the show.

1998
» Forming an empire and defending free speech
In 1998, Winfrey forms Oxygen Media, which would spawn the Oxygen cable channel. In the same year, she wins a “food disparagement” case against Texas cattlemen after her comments in a 1996 episode about Mad Cow disease.

2000
» Let the lifestyling begin
Winfrey expands her reach with “O” Magazine, which offers advice on personal finance, fitness and spiritual wellness. Oprah.com says this is credited as being the most successful magazine launch in recent history.

2002
» Paging Dr. Phil
Winfrey may be leaving but her self-help posse remains: “Dr. Phil” debuted in 2002, “Rachael Ray” in 2006, “The Dr. Oz Show” in 2009 and “The Nate Berkus Show” just last year.

2004
» “You get a car!”
On Sept. 12, 2004, Winfrey shocked the audience: Each one of those lucky, well-deserving, loyal SOBs got a Pontiac G6 — 276 in all. In November 2010, she gave away VW Beetles.

2005
» Tom Cruise gets excited talking about Katie Holmes
Remember May 23, 2005? According to the Urban Dictionary: “Jump the couch (n), a defining moment when you know someone has gone off the deep end.”

2005
» James Frey
His memoir of drug abuse, “A Million Little Pieces,” was selected for her Book Club in 2005—and later revealed to be partly fabricated. “I feel that you betrayed millions of readers,” she told him on Sept. 22 of that year, before flaying him live.

2005
» Opens school in South Africa
The Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls debuts Jan. 2, 2007, lauded by humanitarians, and nearly overshadowed when a female employee is later accused of molestation.

2010
» Denies being gay
After years of dogged rumors about her sexuality, and questions about her relationship with friend Gayle King, Winfrey opened up to Barbara Walters. “I’m not lesbian. I’m not even kind of lesbian,” she said, soon tearing up while praising King. “She is … the mother I never had. She is … the sister everybody would want.”

2011
» Launches OWN network
On Jan. 1, 2011, an entire network launches devoted to Winfrey’s self-help philosophy. The buzz is high but the ratings soon drop, and Winfrey vows to focus more on the programming when her syndicated show ends.

Today
» The final show
Today, the final episode of “The Oprah Winfrey Show” will air. Grab the tissues. Call your mom! She needs you now!

Follow along with Metro’s own TV critic Amber Ray as she live blogs the final episode. Visit the homepage at 4 p.m. and chat about the emotional finale.

Follow Heidi Patalano on Twitter
@HeidiatMetro.


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