Oprah Winfrey: 8 Things You Might Not Know About Her

Oprah Winfrey on Greenleaf

There are some people, they say, you would have to live under a rock to never hear of, but even in the case of Oprah Winfrey, that would have to be one big rock. As an Academy Award-nominated actress (1985’s The Color Purple) and producer (Lee Daniels’ The Butler among others), a daytime talk show icon, and a trailblazing social activist and philanthropist, to not know Oprah, in many ways, would be not know culture itself.

Of course, even the most prominent figures are private about some things, and that includes someone as famously open about her past and her philosophies as Oprah Winfrey. The media mogul, who followed up the end of her long-running syndicated show in 2011 with the launch of the Oprah Winfrey Network, has a few things that are not as well known to the world.

That being said, before you call yourself an expert on all things Oprah Winfrey just because you binged everything she has put her aggrandizing name on, let us help you figure out if you can verify that claim. The following are eight of the most insightful, relatively lesser-known, and overall inspiring facts about the multi-talented celebrity, starting with the fascinating truth behind her already unique and unmistakable name.

Oprah Winfrey on the first episode of her show

Oprah Winfrey’s Name Came From Frequent Misspellings Of Her Birth Name

While it would not be surprising to learn that her easily recognizable first name is really a stage persona, that is not exactly the case for Oprah Winfrey, although “Oprah” is not how her birth certificate identifies her. On January 29, 1954, Winfrey was born “Orpah” (a name from the Old Testament), but few people from her Mississippi hometown managed to pronounce -- and, as a result, spell it-- correctly. After enough years of people writing the “p” before the “r,” Winfrey came to adopt it as the official spelling she would go by, which would eventually become the biggest name in daytime talk show history.

Oprah Winfrey anchoring on WJZ

Oprah Winfrey’s First Talk Show Gig Came From News Anchor Demotion

Years before earning that status, Oprah Winfrey started out as an evening news anchor for WJZ in late 1970s Baltimore, which her 2019 book The Path Made Clear: Discovering Your Life’s Direction and Purpose revealed to be an unceremonious debut, according to CNBC. After enduring her employers’ criticism for her appearance and performance, Winfrey was later demoted and made co-host of the station’s talk show People are Talking. The job allowed her to finally be herself and the was first step to achieving her own self-titled program.

Bill Clinton with Oprah Winfrey on her talk show

Oprah Winfrey Was Involved In The National Child Protection Act

Her achievements outside of her television career should also not go unnoticed, especially her crusade against the child abuse. In addition to dedicating multiple episodes of her show to the subject of sexual abuse, Oprah Winfrey was also a major component to passing The National Child Protection Act, informally called “the Oprah Bill” by an official White House press release (via attorney Andrew Vachss’ website), which was signed by President Bill Clinton in 1993 as Winfrey stood right beside him. Her commitment to preventing children from such misconduct stems back to her own personal history of it.

Oprah Winfrey in Beloved

Teenage Oprah Winfrey Became Pregnant By Her Abusive Uncle

For years of her youth, Oprah Winfrey suffered molestation from multiple family members, including her uncle, which resulted in pregnancy when she was 14. She spoke to Piers Morgan on CNN about hiding the child from her father out of shame and contemplating suicide until she ended up having a miscarriage, which she saw as an opportunity to turn her life around. In 2015, while delivering her one-woman show to an Australian audience, summarized later by The Herald Sun, Winfrey announced that she decided to honor that second chance by naming her unborn son Canaan, which means “new land, new life.”

Oprah Winfrey at the 2019 Golden Globes

Oprah Winfrey Made Herself Ineligible From The Daytime Emmy Consideration

The opportune life and career that Oprah Winfrey has led since the darker days of her past was recognized in 1998 when she received the Lifetime Achievement Award at that year’s Daytime Emmy Awards ceremony, following six consecutive wins for Outstanding Talk Show Host. As CBS News recounted, after her seventh win (shared with Rosie O’Donnell) in 1999, Winfrey opted to pull permanently out of the category, which her friend and fellow daytime talk show host Ellen DeGeneres would also do after her fourth win in that category.

Oprah Winfrey giving out her favorite things on her talk show

Oprah Winfrey Became The First Billionaire Black Woman

Conquering life in the eyes of the Daytime Emmy Awards was just one of many outstanding feats Oprah Winfrey has achieved. One significant example was in 2003 when, according to Money.com, she became the first black woman to earn a net worth of $1 billion, which she more than doubled since, as Forbes can confirm, with $2.5 billion currently. However, that may not even be her greatest reward.

Barack Obama and Oprah Winfrey on her talk show

Oprah Winfrey Received A Presidential Medal Of Freedom

Arguably, Oprah Winfrey’s highest honor came from former president Barack Obama who, in 2013, awarded her with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. According to online archives from Obama’s White House term, among that year’s 15 other recipients was Bill Clinton - a key element of the Child Protection Act and one of the great philanthropic acts which helped earn Winfrey the Medal.

Stephen Colbert and Oprah Winfrey on The Late Show

Oprah Winfrey Is Obsessed With Truffles

However, no awards were given to Oprah Winfrey’s 2017 cookbook Food, Health, and Happiness, which includes 115 recipes, eight of which (according to BonAppetit.com) are for truffles. The website also goes into how deep Winfrey’s infatuation with the edible fungi has gone since Lisa Marie Presley first gifted her with a basket of food that included Truffle Salt, leading her to write multiple essays about her love for the delicacy in O Magazine and teaching Stephen Colbert how to cook a “sexy breakfast” with it on Late Show.

What do you think? Are you now fixing to make truffles the main snack for your next Oprah Winfrey binge party? Let us know in the comments and be sure to check back for additional information and updates on the influential media personality, as well as even more in-depth looks into the lives of your favorite celebrities, here on CinemaBlend.

Jason Wiese
Content Writer

Jason Wiese writes feature stories for CinemaBlend. His occupation results from years dreaming of a filmmaking career, settling on a "professional film fan" career, studying journalism at Lindenwood University in St. Charles, MO (where he served as Culture Editor for its student-run print and online publications), and a brief stint of reviewing movies for fun. He would later continue that side-hustle of film criticism on TikTok (@wiesewisdom), where he posts videos on a semi-weekly basis. Look for his name in almost any article about Batman.