The Analyst (Monrovia)

1 May 2006

Liberia: Billionaire Showcases Liberia

Oprah Winfrey, 52, has announced plans to place Liberia on the front burner of donor and philanthropist attention by highlighting the plight of women and children, an Executive Mansion source told The Analyst yesterday.

Ms Winfrey is a U.S. television talk-show hostess with worldwide audience and renown.

She plans to achieve the feat during a program scheduled to be launched sometime this month in the U.S., according to the source.

The program is expected to be graced by President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and the Queen Noor of Jordan.

It is not clear what exactly the program will entail, but there are indications that the plight of Liberia's 3.0 million war-dispossessed and despondent citizens will be related to the world in highlights through documentaries on Ms Oprah's global television appeal shows.

After series of highlights and appeals, top philanthropists and donor institutions and governments will be allowed to respond as they see fit and appropriate, according to an informed source.

In preparation for the fundraising program, our Executive Mansion source noted further, Harpo Production sent an advanced team to Liberia to assess the level of hardship in the country. Harpo Production is the company established by Ms. Winfrey to produce television series of worldwide interest and appeals.

The team, led by "ace producer" Janet Lee arrived in the country last Friday; and while in the country, it captured elements of Liberia's social needs for the worldwide audience of the Oprah Winfrey show that is expected to focus exclusively on Liberia. Ms Lee had requested to visit and talk with women and girls representing various shades of the socio-economic and political groupings in Liberia.

Her team visited and filmed from location, children at home with poor and deprived parents, middle income earners, officials of government, and private and public schools including the condition of overcrowded classrooms in some economically deprived areas in and around Monrovia.

The producer also accompanied President Sirleaf to Buchanan City and Area 3 last Saturday in continuation of the President's nationwide tour.

While in Buchanan, the Oprah Winfrey Production team assessed some public school buildings and interviewed market women and the Superintendent of Grand Bassa County.

The team, which returned to the U.S. yesterday, did not disclose its findings, but our sources disclosed that it was moved by the level of poverty and despair it encountered while in the capital and coastal city.

The Oprah program, which is scheduled to be aired sometime in May of this year, will set the stage for analyses on the trauma and ills of women and girls during and after the war in Liberia.

The program seems the first of its kind for Sub-Saharan Africa and there are high hopes amongst organizers and Liberian government officials that the worldwide Oprah Winfrey Show will amplify the social needs of Liberia's children to a captive audience of more than one billion people globally.

Incidentally, Harpo Production has promised to underwrite President Sirleaf's personal travel and related expenses for the length of the showcasing program.

In a related development, it can be recalled that the popular talk show hostess, a black American, has genetically traced her ancestral origin to West Africa, specifically to the Kpelle tribe in Liberia.

The ancestral link was established recently via DNA testing.

Observers see Ms Winfrey's initiatives as a first step to a new beginning to bring the billionaire talk show host closest to her ancestral home and open up potential avenues for direct private American investment.

It can be recalled that both OPIC and EXIM banks recently opened windows for Liberia that will provide impetus for business in Liberia.

Philanthropist

Oprah has long believed that education is the door to freedom, offering a chance at a brighter future.

Through her private charity, The Oprah Winfrey Foundation, she has awarded hundreds of grants to organizations that support the education and empowerment of women, children and families in the United States and around the world.

Amongst her various philanthropic contributions, she has donated millions of dollars toward providing a better education for students who have merit but no means.

She also has developed schools to educate thousands of underserved children internationally and created "The Oprah Winfrey Scholars Program," which gives scholarships to students determined to use their education to give back to their communities in the United States and abroad.

In December 2002, The Oprah Winfrey Foundation expanded its global humanitarian efforts with her ChristmasKindness South Africa 2002 initiative that included visits to orphanages and rural schools in South Africa where 50,000 children received gifts of food, clothing, athletic shoes, school supplies, books and toys. Sixty-three rural schools received libraries and teacher education.

On December 6, 2002, Oprah announced a partnership with South Africa's Ministry of Education to build the "Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls-South Africa," which is scheduled to open in 2007.

In a 1997 episode of "The Oprah Winfrey Show," Oprah encouraged viewers to use their lives to make a difference in the lives of others, which led to the creation of the public charity Oprah's Angel Network in 1998.

To date, Oprah's Angel Network has raised more than $50 million, with 100% of audience donations going to non-profit organizations across the globe.

Oprah's Angel Network has helped establish scholarships and schools, support women's shelters and build youth centers and homes-changing the future for people all over the world.

Oprah's commitment to children also led her to initiate the National Child Protection Act in 1991, when she testified before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee to establish a national database of convicted child abusers.

On December 20, 1993, President Clinton signed the national "Oprah Bill" into law. Television Programming Creator

Oprah's Television Exploits

Oprah began her broadcasting career at WVOL radio in Nashville while still in high school. At the age of 19, she became the youngest person and the first African-American woman to anchor the news at Nashville's WTVF-TV.

She then relocated to Baltimore's WJZ-TV to co-anchor the Six O'Clock News and later went on to become co-host of its local talk show, People Are Talking.

In 1984, Oprah moved to Chicago to host WLS-TV's morning talk show, AM Chicago, which became the number one local talk show-surpassing ratings for Donahue-just one month after she began.

In 1988, she established Harpo Studios, a production facility in Chicago, making her the third woman in the American entertainment industry (after Mary Pickford and Lucille Ball) to own her own studio.

The Oprah Winfrey Show has remained the number one talk show for 19 consecutive seasons produced by her own production company, Harpo Productions, Inc.

The show is seen by an estimated 49 million viewers a week in the United States and is broadcast internationally in 122 countries.

Seen nationally since September 8, 1986, "The Oprah Winfrey Show" became the number one talk show in national syndication in less than a year.

In June 1987, in its first year of eligibility, "The Oprah Winfrey Show" took in three Daytime Emmy Awards in the categories of Outstanding Host, Outstanding Talk/Service Program and Outstanding Direction.

In June 1988, "The Oprah Winfrey Show" took in its second straight Daytime Emmy Award as Outstanding Talk/Service Program, and she herself received the International Radio and Television Society's "Broadcaster of the Year" Award.

She was the youngest individual and only the fifth woman ever to receive the accolade in IRTS's 25-year history.

Oprah Winfrey was named one of the 100 Most Influential People of the 20th Century by Time Magazine, and in 1998 received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.

Her influence broadened to the publishing industry when she started an on-air book club. Oprah Book Club picks became instant bestsellers, and in 1999 she was presented the National Book Foundation's 50th anniversary gold medal for her service to books and authors.

With a net worth of more than a billion dollars, an Academy Award nomination, a hit television show, a successful magazine (O, The Oprah Magazine) and a cable channel (Oxygen Media), there seems to be little else that Winfrey, 52, can do to add to her position as an international media phenomenon.

According to her spokesperson, The Oprah Winfrey Show, launched in 1986, is aired in 112 countries, which includes the United States of America.

Winfrey is also a vocal advocate for the education and welfare of women and children across the globe, giving to those in need via Oprah's Angel Network and her personal charity, the Oprah Winfrey Foundation.

In 1998, Oprah was chosen by Time Magazine as one of the 100 Most Influential People of the 20th Century.

Later that year, she received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Academy of Television and Sciences.

Oprah brought her know-how to Cable in 2000 and became co-owners of Oxygen Media which is focused on the improvement of women.

Forbes listed Oprah as a billionaire in 2003. She was the first African-American to ever appear on this list.

Magazine Founder and Editorial Director

In April 2000, Oprah and Hearst Magazines introduced O, The Oprah Magazine, a monthly magazine that has become one of today's leading women's lifestyle publications.

In April 2002, Oprah launched the first international edition of O, The Oprah Magazine in South Africa, extending her live your best life message to another broad audience.

With a net worth of more than a billion dollars, an Academy Award nomination, a phenomenal television show, a successful magazine (O, The Oprah Magazine) and a cable channel (Oxygen Media), there seems to be little else that Winfrey, 51, can do to add to her position as an international media phenomenon.

According to her spokesperson, The Oprah Winfrey Show, launched in 1986, is aired in 112 countries, which includes the United States. Winfrey is also a vocal advocate for the instruction and well-being of women and children across the globe, giving to those in need via Oprah's Angel Network and her personal charity, the Oprah Winfrey Foundation.

Biography

Oprah Gail Winfrey was born on January 29, 1954 in Kosciusko, Mississippi to Vernita Lee and Vernon Winfrey (never married) and was raised on a farm by her grandmother.

In 1967, after repeated abuse and molestation, she ran away. When the police caught her, they tried to place her in a home for juvenile delinquents, but it was full, so they sent her off to live with her father Vernon in Nashville, Tennessee.

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