The Big Two-O for 'O'!

From her humble beginnings in America's South, Oprah Winfrey has reached the pinnacle of success in almost every field in which she's ventured. This week she celebrates the 20th anniversary of the show that started it all for her.

"The Oprah Winfrey Show" first launched in Chicago in 1984 and became so popular that it was nationally syndicated in 1986. She followed that up with the launch of her own production studio in 1988, making her only the third woman in history with her own studio.

In its two decades, "The Oprah Winfrey Show" has become the highest-rated talk show in history, winning multiple Emmys along the way.

Notably, the show has brought exposure to hundreds of charity organizations. In 1998, Winfrey started "Oprah's Angel Network," which encouraged people to take a role in helping the underprivileged. So far, the network has raised more than $51 million for charity.

Besides her philanthropic activities, Winfrey hasn't forgotten the viewers who have helped her reach the heights of success.

In 2004, Winfrey gave a Pontiac G6 to everyone in her studio audience. She also regularly gives lavish gifts to audience members, especially during her annual Christmas special.

In addition to making huge strides in promoting literacy through her highly successful "Oprah's Book Club" segment, Winfrey herself took to publishing in 2000. Teaming with Hearst Publications, the media mogul launched "O, The Oprah Magazine," and in 2004, another magazine, "O at Home." Winfrey has also written five books of her own, and is currently writing a sixth on weight loss.

Oprah has met with similar success outside television. An Academy Award-nominated actress, she starred in Steven Spielberg's adaptation of Alice Walker's "The Color Purple" in 1985.

Most recently, Winfrey has been busy expanding her empire to the realms of radio and online entertainment. Last year her Web site helped raise more than $3 million for Hurricane Katrina victims, and in February she signed a contract with XM satellite radio to launch a new radio channel called Oprah and Friends.

But the biggest buzz surrounding Winfrey still comes from her show, now celebrating its two-decade anniversary. During its tenure, "The Oprah Winfrey Show" has had its share of heart-warming and tear-jerking moments, including very personal confessions by Winfrey herself. In 1990, she broke down and told her own story of childhood molestation while talking to a guest about her past sexual abuse.

Over 20 years, Winfrey has interviewed a gamut of stars and political luminaries, who range from Mary Tyler Moore to Nelson Mandela, Tina Turner to Hillary Clinton. In 2005, Winfrey met controversy head-on after endorsing "A Million Little Pieces" in her book club, only to discover later that the nonfiction work was largely contrived.

Despite the highs and lows, Winfrey has always weathered the storm. She has used the enormous success of her show and her personal accomplishments to bring attention to hundreds of charities, illnesses and disadvantaged people throughout the world.

And this year promises to be no different.

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