ROYAL OPRAH How chat show queen Oprah Winfrey has built an empire Meghan Markle would love
IN her exclusive Californian enclave of Montecito she is treated like royalty as she spreads her philanthropy around the world, making a fortune in the process.
No, not Meghan, but chat show queen Oprah Winfrey.
Last week she travelled on her £50million private jet to interview Meghan, alongside Prince Harry. And the chat, due to be screened next Sunday, is one that will send shockwaves through the Royal Family as the duo air their grievances.
Mainly known in the UK for her talk show, Oprah, 67, was born into poverty but has built up a fortune worth £1.8billion. Now many are asking whether her empire — which includes her own TV network, website and portfolio of stunning homes — is exactly what Meghan aspires to achieve.
British PR expert Mark Borkowski told The Sun On Sunday: “What Oprah has done over the past 30 years is phenomenal. You didn’t see black, female entrepreneurs until she did it.
“She did everything the hard way, but she has incredible nous and became the poster girl for the diversity generation. Meghan would definitely be wise to study how Oprah’s empire has been built.
“Like everyone who has made it, Oprah has employed sensational people and deal-makers around her. Whether it’s books or TV, the money has followed her. Meghan could certainly look to copy that.”
Oprah has her own production company, Harpo Studios, which is behind popular American shows Dr Phil and Super Soul Sunday.
She launched her cable channel Oprah Winfrey Network in 2011 and maintains a 25.5 per cent stake in it, worth more than £46million.
She signed a £70million deal with Apple for TV, apps, books and other content, and has a magazine called O which attracts eight million readers, and a successful website.
Like Meghan’s former website The Tig, Oprah’s site allows fans to enjoy her wisdom and get their hands on her many books, which include three self-help volumes and a memoir.
Her enormously popular book club, which she launched in the 1990s, has the power to make the careers of her featured authors. Even classics can benefit — she rocketed Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina on to the bestsellers list.
The Oprah Effect, as it is known, has seen her influence everything from literature to politics, with the megastar backing Barack Obama before his 2008 election win.
Her endorsement is believed to have been crucial for his historic victory as America’s first black president. New US President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris appeared on her platforms before their win in November last year.
After retiring her chat show in 2011, Oprah, who lives with her long-term partner Stedman Graham, 69, now rarely conducts interviews.
But when she does, they make waves. Whether seven-time Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong owning up to doping in 2013, Lindsay Lohan wanting to overhaul her image or Tom Cruise professing his love for Katie Holmes, they all came to Oprah to tell their story.
She groomed Meghan for years before landing their chat — and received an invitation to the royal wedding in 2018 after only having met the duchess once. But Meghan and Harry may have been a little shocked by their chat with Oprah.
PR expert Mark added: “Oprah is an operator. There is a lot for her brand to lose if the interview is just a bit of a patsy exercise. The end product might be a bit of a surprise for Meghan and Harry.”
In a landmark move, Oprah signed a syndication deal for her talk show, which ran from 1986 to 2011, to be screened across the US.
She had previously broken into Hollywood and was nominated for an Oscar for her role as Sofia in 1985 Steven Spielberg film The Color Purple. She went on to both star in and produce acclaimed films, including Selma in 2014 and A Wrinkle In Time in 2018.
Her own life would make a remarkable movie. She was born to a teenage housemaid in the southern state of Mississippi in 1954. She suffered emotional and sexual abuse, later revealing she was molested by a cousin, uncle and family friend from the age of nine. She became pregnant at 14, but her son died after being born prematurely.
She eventually went to live with her uncle in Nashville, Tennessee, where she won a scholarship to study communication at university. While still a teen, she went to work at a local radio station, before becoming the first black female news anchor at a prominent TV network in Nashville.
By 1983 she was in Chicago hosting her own talk show, dragging it from the lowest performing prog-ramme to the highest.
It is a rise to glory that Meghan, whose early career began as a “briefcase girl” on quiz show Deal Or No Deal in 2006, would be ecstatic to follow.