Episode 122: Oprah Winfrey: The Voice of a Generation

On this episode of the Sofa King Podcast, we look at the life and legacy of Oprah Winfrey. This topic came to us as we realized that we’ve covered a lot of influential cultural figures, but we’ve never covered anyone but white males. If you’re looking for an influential female, Oprah is as big as it gets!

Born to a single mother in rural Mississippi, Oprah was so poor she had to wear potato sacks as dresses. She endured the hardships of poverty and sexual assault at the hands of family friends and relatives and moved back and forth between relatives. In spite of all of this, at 17 years old, she won the Miss Black Tennessee contest and was instantly a local media darling, becoming the youngest member of a news team.

From there, she landed a television show in Baltimore just out of college and soon moved to Chicago where she started a morning show which evolved to The Oprah Winfrey Show. The show set records, blew away its nearest competition (Phil Donahue) in the first year, and made Oprah $30 million dollars in only one season. In the next several years, her audience grew, as did her influence.

We talk about how her praise or condemnation could shake entire industries. One big example is how much the beef industry took a hit after she denounced mad cow disease and factory farming practices on her show. You’ll be surprised at how much of an impact she had! She’s done the same with the book industry, magazines, and television, launching several major careers in TV.

But her biggest asset, however, is her philanthropy. She’s given over five hundred million of her own dollars to fund education, and she has used her audience to raise millions of dollars for everything from AIDS to Hurricane Katrina. The best part of the show, however, is the Oprah Winfrey conspiracy theories! Lizard people? Check. Jay Z, Rhiana, and the Illuminati? Check. Lesbianism? Check? Oprah and Bill Cosby threatening Dave Chappelle’s life with a group known as the Dark Crusaders? Double check!! If you want to hear about the life of a truly original American icon, give this one a listen.

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