x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Swan-song for talk show queen Oprah Winfrey

In final broadcast of trailblazing television programme, Winfrey ends 25 years of intimate star confessions by telling loyal fans they had been the love of her life.

Kimberly Adams of Chicago stands outside Harpo Studios before the final taping of the Oprah Winfrey Show in Chicago.
Kimberly Adams of Chicago stands outside Harpo Studios before the final taping of the Oprah Winfrey Show in Chicago.

The American talk show queen Oprah Winfrey said goodbye to her trailblazing television programme, ending 25 years of intimate star confessions by telling loyal fans they had been the love of her life.

In a programme taped a day earlier at Oprah's Harpo Studios in Chicago, Winfrey took to the stage and, in what has become almost a mantra over a quarter-century, urged her audience to follow their dreams.

"Start embracing the life that is calling you and use that life to serve the world," Winfrey said in the show being broadcast across millions of homes.

She said she had initially seen the show as a job, but then it morphed into something else: "Something in me connected with each of you in a way that allowed me to see myself in you and you in me. I listened and grew and I know you grew along with me."

If she had one regret it was that she had not been able to focus more attention on the issue of the sexual abuse of children, Winfrey said.

"People ask if I have regrets," she said. "I have none really about the show, but the one thing I feel I was not able to bring attention to even though I tried in 217 shows was the sexual molestation and rape of children. Worse now with the internet than when I first spoke of it in November 1986."

Winfrey, breaking down many taboos, has herself talked openly about being abused as a child, after being born into poverty in Mississippi.

On Wednesday, Winfrey's famous couch had been replaced with a single chair onstage, as the daytime-TV doyenne, credited with encouraging Americans to openly discuss their deepest hopes and fears, stood alone and centre-stage.

Amid a collage of past highlights, Winfrey occasionally poked fun at her long-gone outfits and accessories. But most of her remarks focused on what she called her "journey".

Winfrey is a US cultural phenomenon and kingmaker who inspired her millions of loyal fans to read more, buy her favourite things and seek her trademark "aha moments".

She is credited with changing the way people talk to each other, having popularised a confessional interview style that has coaxed secrets, revelations and often tears from guests of all kinds.

Winfrey, 57, who has publicly struggled with her own weight issues, has also become a spiritual icon and self-help guru urging viewers to find their true selves, follow their intuition and find inner peace and happiness.

Ellen Degeneres, a comedian who hosts her own daytime talk show, once said: "She blazed a trail. She will always be the queen of daytime."

Winfrey began her broadcasting career while she was still in high school and landed a job as a news anchor in Nashville at the age of 19.

Her emotional ad-libs won her a Chicago morning talk show in 1984, which beat rival Phil Donahue for the top spot locally within a month and was syndicated nationally in 1986. She also acted in the 1985 hit film The Color Purple.

The Oprah Winfrey Show remained the top-rated talk show of all time and was estimated to reach 40 million US viewers a week.

The show served as the foundation for an empire that spans books, radio, magazines and the internet and has launched the careers of a host of regular guests including the counsellor Dr Phil and the chef Rachael Ray.

Forbes magazine declared her the first female African-American billionaire in 2003.

Winfrey is now estimated to be worth $2.7 billion (Dh9.9bn) and is regularly ranked among the world's most powerful women, celebrities and media personalities.