Chat show queen Oprah Winfrey is no stranger to high-profile interviews

Keiran Southern, PA Los Angeles Correspondent
·4-min read

After walking away from the British royal family, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex have chosen a different kind of queen for their first major TV interview in the US.

Oprah Winfrey has all the power, money and influence of a monarch – only she amassed it through her successful career, rather than inheriting a throne.

The 67-year-old grew up black and impoverished in rural Mississippi, deep in the American South, but managed to escape her humble origins in spectacular fashion.

Oprah Winfrey
Oprah Winfrey is perhaps US television’s most famous celebrity interviewer (Ian West/PA)

Winfrey conquered the chat show world, became a billionaire and now presides over her own media empire.

She is regularly listed as one of the world’s most influential people and is credited with playing a significant role in Barack Obama’s rise to the White House.

Like only a select few in the showbiz world, she reached mononymous status – known to her millions of fans as simply Oprah.

Winfrey was born in Kosciusko, Mississippi, to an unmarried teenage mother and endured a difficult childhood.

She later revealed she was molested, starting when she was nine, and became pregnant at 14. Winfrey’s son was born prematurely and died shortly after birth.

Oprah Winfrey interviews Duke and Duchess of Sussex
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex sat down with Oprah Winfrey for a highly anticipated interview (Joe Pugliese/Harpo Productions/PA)

She began her broadcasting career while still at high school and by the age of 19 she became the first African American woman to anchor the news at Nashville’s WTVF-TV.

Her trailblazing career was just beginning.

Winfrey moved north in 1984 to host morning talk show AM Chicago. Before long, ratings were through the roof, and the programme was renamed. The Oprah Winfrey Show was born.

It aired from 1986-2011 and became one of the most successful shows in US TV history.

Her interview with Harry and Meghan will be the latest in a long line of confessional chats with high-profile figures.

Winfrey famously sat down with King of Pop Michael Jackson in 1993, an interview which saw 90 million viewers tune in.

Tom Cruise
Tom Cruise famously jumped on Oprah Winfrey’s couch to proclaim his love for Katie Holmes (Ian West/PA)

In 2013 she grilled disgraced drug cheat cyclist Lance Armstrong, who finally came clean about his years of doping.

And it was Winfrey’s couch Tom Cruise jumped on in 2005 to proclaim his love for Katie Holmes.

In 2009, Kate and Gerry McCann sat down for an emotional interview with Winfrey to talk about the disappearance of their daughter Madeleine. In the same year, singer Whitney Houston gave her first interview in many years, in which she talked openly to Winfrey about her drug use and tumultuous relationship with Bobby Brown.

The Harry and Meghan CBS interview will not be Winfrey’s first experience of royalty.

Harry’s aunt, Sarah, Duchess of York, has also been interviewed by the talk show queen.

Such is her influence, Winfrey’s support for a young Barack Obama may have ultimately decided the presidency.

Winfrey was an early backer of Obama and threw her weight behind him when he was a young senator in Illinois.

Royal wedding
Oprah Winfrey arrives in St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle for the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.

Experts said her intervention was key to him winning the Democratic Party nomination and eventually making it to the White House as the first African American president.

Fans of Winfrey have long called for her to make her own foray into politics.

Those calls reached fever pitch in 2018 after Winfrey delivered a show-stopping speech at the Golden Globes, where she became the first black woman to win the Cecil B DeMille Award for lifetime achievement.

She had the star-studded audience inside the Beverly Hilton Hotel awestruck, with what started as a retelling of her personal story and ended as a call to arms.

Winfrey was also among the guests at Harry and Meghan’s wedding at Windsor in 2018.

While the TV star is yet to make a move into the political realm, millions of viewers around the world may see on Sunday how the chat show queen earned her crown.