Oprah Winfrey covers Variety’s ‘Power of Women’ issue as one of five honorees chosen by the magazine.
In her cover story, she opens up about her transition from talk show queen to network mogul and what she’s learned along the way.
Check out an excerpt:
“I love the way my life has opened up,” she tells Variety, in her sun-drenched, spacious office at OWN, her self-named cable network, in West Hollywood. “My definition of real freedom comes from the movie ‘Beloved,’ where the character Sethe that I played says, ‘Freedom is waking up in the morning and deciding for yourself what to do with the day.’ Imagine that.”
The same can be said for her approach to the business of entertainment: Deciding what projects she wants to make, in front of or behind the camera, whether for Harpo Films or for OWN.
“I am driven to all things by the one thing that is my brand,” she says. “And my heart is my brand.”
The launch of the Oprah Winfrey Network in 2011 was by all accounts a rocky one. Losses mounted as viewers rejected the relentlessly feel-good programming, amid Winfrey’s noted absence from the airwaves. But the turnaround at the cable channel — which is owned jointly by Harpo Prods. and Discovery — was triggered by a deal struck with Tyler Perry in October 2012. Bringing his scripted series to OWN sparked double-digit ratings growth; the recent finale of “The Have and the Have Nots” led the network to its most-watched night ever (with 3.7 million viewers overall, it was the No. 1 cable show of the night).
Winfrey recounts running into mega-producer Lorne Michaels recently at a party; he’d warned her that launching a programming hub wasn’t going to be easy. She remembers telling him, “I didn’t believe it when you told me it was going to take three to five years to get a network on its legs.” His reply: “I could see you didn’t know what you didn’t know.”
The problem, she admits, was finding the audience, which had always come so naturally to her. “This isn’t the same audience that was the ‘Oprah’ show audience,” she says. “I knew that audience like my own breath. I grew up with that audience.”
To read more from Oprah’s inspiring story, click here.