Oprah Winfrey

Icons of the Century

She just needs one name. Oprah Winfrey turned a childhood proclivity for public speaking into a career centered on talk. And that talk is not cheap — the daytime doyenne is worth more than $1 billion.

After 21 years, the Kosciusko, Miss., native’s afternoon chatfest still rules the airwaves. Her empire has expanded into a line of Oprah magazines and prolific production company Harpo Prods., which birthed syndication hit “Dr. Phil” as well as a number of acclaimed telefilms and features.

Winfrey’s overwhelming reach once brought the cattle industry to its knees — ranchers claimed a $12 million loss after the queen of talk swore off burgers for fear of mad cow disease — and re-energized the publishing biz, where the seal of approval from Oprah’s Book Club is a writer’s ticket to the bestseller list. General Motors used her show as a promo platform when she gave all the members of her audience new Pontiacs.

She’s now set her sights on Broadway, developing a musical version of “The Color Purple,” a project close to her heart — she was nominated for an Oscar in that Steven Spielberg film.

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