People

Oprah Winfrey: A life in pictures

Oprah Winfrey said an emotional goodbye and thanks to her millions of fans in the final episode of her US chat show last night (Wednesday 25 May), bringing the curtain down on a 25-year reign of life-changing TV. Often cited as one of the most influential women of the planet, Oprah's career is as varied as it is awe-inspiring: from queen of chat to TV pioneer, brand merchant supreme to celebrity confidante, charity crusader to holder of peoples' hearts.

Little wonder that she is often urged by her many followers (or Oprahphiles) to run for president; championing a plethora of good causes, creating a near-hysterical frenzy of enthusiasm wherever she goes and asking the questions other people can't or won't are just some of Oprah's many talents.

Click on the images below to launch our gallery of her amazing life in pictures.

  • Oprah Winfrey 1971

    Oprah's childhood was far from golden: she was sexually abused and at the age of 14 fell pregnant and gave birth to a son who died shortly afterwards.

    Three years later, when this picture was taken, her life had thankfully changed for the better.

    Attending high school in her hometown of Nashville, Tennessee, she became an honors student and was voted winner of the Miss Black Tennessee beauty pageant.

    Book lovers: come see our selection of the 50 best opening lines from books

  • Oprah Winfrey 1971

    Winning was something a young Oprah quickly got used to: here she and fellow high school student Anthony Otey celebrated being named "Most Popular" students at their East Nashville high school.

    Shortly after, Oprah began her broadcasting career at WVOL radio in Nashville.

    Red carpet photos: click here for all the highlights from Cannes Film Festival 2011

  • Oprah Winfrey 1985

    Oprah pictured in her studio office in Chicago. She moved to the city in 1984 to host WLS-TV's morning talk show AM Chicago, which became the number one local radio show within a month of her hosting it.

    Book lovers: come see our selection of the 50 best opening lines from books

  • Oprah Winfrey 1986

    In 1986, the stuff of TV legend was born with the launch of The Oprah Winfrey Show.

    The programme swiftly became the highest-rated talk show in the country, a top spot it retained right up until its closure this week, with 40 million viewers a week tuning in across the US.

    Red carpet photos: click here for all the highlights from Cannes Film Festival 2011

  • Oprah Winfrey 1986

    Oprah's trademark hosting style was a triumph from the outset, pulling in all manner of celebrity coups and TV confessionals.

    Part of the show's success - and notoriously hysterial audience reactions - was the fact that Oprah shared many of her own personal struggles with her viewers.

    Book lovers: come see our selection of the 50 best opening lines from books

  • Oprah Winfrey 1988

    One of the themes she frequently opened up on was her battle with weight.

    A few months after this picture was taken, in November 1988, Oprah appeared on stage for her show in a pair of size 10 Calvin Klein jeans, wheeling a wagon with 67lbs of fat to represent the weight she’d lost.

    It drew her biggest ratings to date - although the change wasn't to last, with Oprah later saying, “Two hours after that show, I started eating to celebrate — of course, within two days those jeans no longer fit.”

    Red carpet photos: click here for all the highlights from Cannes Film Festival 2011

  • Oprah Winfrey 1989

    As America fell in love with Oprah, she herself fell for Stedman Graham, a once-divorced former basketball player.

    However, their relationship wasn't without drama, with the couple facing continued speculation that he was with her for her money or even that he was gay (both firmly denied by Oprah, who discussed her hurt at the rumours on several occasions).

    Book lovers: come see our selection of the 50 best opening lines from books

  • Oprah Winfrey 1992

    Oprah's commercial success meanwhile continued to skyrocket.

    This photo was taken a year before her landmark interview with Michael Jackson - his first TV grilling in a decade - where she addressed all sorts of issues, including his changing skin colour (he said it was an inherited condition). 100 million people tuned in to watch.

    Red carpet photos: click here for all the highlights from Cannes Film Festival 2011

  • Oprah Winfrey 1992

    One of Oprah's early celebrity fans, Will Smith. He and his wife Jada Pinkett-Smith recently played a starring role in Oprah's farewell shows.

    Book lovers: come see our selection of the 50 best opening lines from books

  • Oprah Winfrey 1996

    In 1996, Oprah launched the Oprah Book Club sparking a trend of instant bestsellers from her show mentions.

    The Washington Post put average sales of her book choices between 1996 and 2002 at more than a million each - all thanks to this little logo.

    Red carpet photos: click here for all the highlights from Cannes Film Festival 2011

  • Oprah Winfrey 1997

    Of course, Oprah's talents aren't limited to her talk shows - phenomenal though they are.

    She has also dabbled in acting and producing, including a 1985 debut in Spielberg's The Color Purple (a performance that drew in Oscar and Golden Globe nominations) and a role in 1997 television film Before Women Had Wings (pictured here).

    Book lovers: come see our selection of the 50 best opening lines from books

  • Oprah Winfrey 1998

    With global recognition and adoration came branding power - not all of it positive.

    In 1996 a cattle-rancher-turned vegetarian was invited on the show during the mad cow disease scare to talk about farming practices.

    Winfrey exclaimed that his descriptions “stopped me cold from eating another hamburger” and the subsequent plunge in beef prices prompted a group of Texan ranchers to file a £6.5 million lawsuit against her, claiming that she had defamed the industry.

    However, their litigation was no match for Oprah and by March 1998 she was commenting on their loss outside a court house in Texas.

    Red carpet photos: click here for all the highlights from Cannes Film Festival 2011

  • Oprah Winfrey 1998

    Also in 1998, Oprah created the Oprah’s Angel Network, a public charity supporting educational and empowerment projects and providing grants to nonprofit organisations around the world.

    This poster shows a 2006 advertisment for Matthew McConaughey's 1971 Stingray Corvette Convertible, which he donated to Oprah's Angel Network's Hurricanes Katrina and Rita recovery efforts - along with many other celebrities in a similar vein.

    Book lovers: come see our selection of the 50 best opening lines from books

  • Oprah Winfrey 2000

    In April 2000, Oprah launched O, The Oprah Magazine - a monthly publication that soon emanated the pulling power of her TV show by becoming a leading women's lifestyle brand, with a current circulation of over 2 million readers a month.

    Here, Tina Turner - another showbiz friend of Oprah's - joins her onstage at the magazine's launch party. Oprah later credited Tina with teaching her how to enjoy the moment, when the two performed together at a show in Las Vegas in 2005.

    Red carpet photos: click here for all the highlights from Cannes Film Festival 2011

  • Oprah Winfrey, 2002

    Oprah with fellow talk show host Ellen DeGeneres at the 54th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards.

    The two marked an important landmark together five years earlier, when Ellen made her homosexuality public on Oprah's sofa.

    Book lovers: come see our selection of the 50 best opening lines from books

  • Oprah Winfrey 2002

    Also at the Emmy awards the same year, Oprah was awarded the Bob Hope Humanitarian Award for her outstanding contribution to television as a platform for political and social commentary.

    This was just one in a long role call of prestigious awards and industry honours she has been awarded over the years.

    Red carpet photos: click here for all the highlights from Cannes Film Festival 2011

  • Oprah Winfrey 2004

    Another stand-out honour awarded to Oprah was the 2004 Global Humanitarian Action Award from the United Nations Association of the United States of America - she is pictured here celebrating just after receiving it.

    The same year, Oprah was named one of Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in the World.

    Book lovers: come see our selection of the 50 best opening lines from books

  • Oprah Winfrey 2004

    Oprah pictured with Tom Cruise, a year before the infamous jumping incident whereby the Mission Impossible star leaped up and down on Oprah's fabled sofa declaring his love for then new girlfriend Katie Holmes.

    Explaining the drama later, Oprah said, “I don’t think he’s nuts. I had never seen him that way before … I think that that’s what love does to you when you’re just all impassioned, but I do have to say I was really surprised by it. I didn't expect it… ”

    Red carpet photos: click here for all the highlights from Cannes Film Festival 2011