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Oprah Winfrey: It's good to talk

Oprah Winfrey
Oprah Winfrey is expected to launch her own cable TV network in 2011

The Oprah Winfrey Talk Show will come to an end in 2011 after more than two decades on air.

From her early career as Nashville's first African-American TV correspondent to global superstar, Oprah Winfrey has well and truly conquered the United States.

Since her TV career began back in 1973, 55-year-old Winfrey and her talk show have won more than 40 Emmys

The emotionally-charged, self-help nature of the show draws viewers from around the world and remains the US highest-rated talk show - though audiences have slumped in recent years.

She can attract the biggest names in showbusiness, and her intimate interviewing style often draws responses to highly personal issues.

Nicole Kidman and Oprah Winfrey
Winfrey's personal touch delivers some revealing interviews

Tom Cruise famously declared his love for Katie Holmes while leaping about on Winfrey's sofa, but he has also spoken candidly about Scientology and his divorce from Nicole Kidman.

Earlier this year, harangued reality show star Susan Boyle chose to bear her soul on the Oprah show - rather than face the British media.

And singer Whitney Houston opened a new season of the chat show, with a comeback appearance that followed years of drug addiction.

Winfrey's own confessional approach has also won the show legions of fans. Early in her career, she revealed she had been sexually abused as a child, and she has spoken openly of her ongoing struggle with weight.

She is equally vocal about her private life, explaining that she chose never to have children "because I wasn't mothered well".

"I never felt compelled to do it. I always felt that I don't even know how to do that," she has said.

Local radio

Winfrey began life in 1954 in Kosciusko, Mississippi, and while she was still at school she began working for local radio.

She enrolled in Tennessee State University in 1971, to study speech and performing arts, and was named Miss Black Tennessee the following year.

Leapfrogging ahead of her competitors, she became the youngest person - and the first African-American woman - to anchor the news at Nashville's WTVF-TV aged 19.

She went on to co-anchor Baltimore's WJZ-TV six o'clock news, before co-hosting their local talk show, People Are Talking.

By 1984, Winfrey was hosting WLS-TV's morning talk show in Chicago and after just one month it was topping the ratings.

Two years later, the Oprah Winfrey Show was born, with its host also producing the programme.

It went on to become the highest-rated talk show in TV history, with some 26 million viewers tuning in each week in the US to watch it.

Oprah Winfrey in The Color Purple
Winfrey won an Oscar nomination for her acting debut in The Color Purple

In 1998, she won the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences' Lifetime Achievement Award.

But Winfrey's success is not limited to the small screen.

She has also proved an accomplished actress, winning an Oscar nomination for her 1985 debut in Steven Spielberg's The Color Purple - and starring and producing the 1998 adaptation of Toni Morrison's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel Beloved.

A formidable businesswoman with her own production company, Harpo Productions, she frequently tops annual rich lists.

With a business empire that already includes a satellite radio station, magazine and lifestyle website, she is expected to launch her own cable TV network in 2011.

In 2005, 2007 and 2008, she was named the world's most powerful celebrity, according to the business magazine She is also frequently cited by Time Magazine as one of the 100 most influential people of the 20th Century.

When she recommends a novel through her book club - established in 1996 - it is almost guaranteed to top the best-seller lists.

Winfrey's work has extended to social change, and in 1991 she was instrumental in the National Child Protection Act.

Barack Obama and Oprah Winfrey
Winfrey backed Obama Barack in the recent presidential campaign

She testified before the US senate judiciary committee to establish a national database of convicted child abusers. Two years later former President Bill Clinton signed the national "Oprah Bill" into law.

She was also considered a powerful instrument in drumming up public support for the Democrats when she actively campaigned on behalf of Barack Obama and his bid for the US presidency.

Winfrey's work also includes Oprah's Angel Network, a public charity formed in 1998, encouraging people to help those in need.

It has collected more than $3.5m (£2.12m) to set up college scholarships and has rebuilt scores of homes in the wake of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

In 2007, she opened the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls in South Africa.

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