Why is Oprah so famous

It couldn't have been more suitable for the grand finale. After a quarter of a century in which she rose to the queen of chatting television, confessor, educator of the nation and also made it to America's first black billionaire, so after 25 years Oprah Winfrey quits. This Wednesday she will appear live for the last time as the host of what is still the most popular talk show in the United States.

And for the big farewell gala that was broadcast before this last episode of the Oprah Winfrey Show, Maria Shriver of all people came, the betrayed wife of ex-governator Arnold Schwarzenegger. In her darkest hour she is there and shines on stage as if she wanted to be the embodiment of Oprah's message that, despite all the setbacks, with willpower and discipline, belief in yourself and trust in your own feelings, you can even experience the darkest moments in life can overcome - oh yes, and that even the celebrities, those apparently blessed by luck, are no different from you and me.

Well, Maria Shriver isn't the only one who has come to share Oprah's penultimate hours on-screen. Madonna is there and Beyoncé, Tom Hanks moderates, Aretha Franklin sings, as well as Stevie Wonder and Usher. Michael Jordan is there, Halle Berry, Will Smith and Jamie Foxx, Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes. A parade of superstars. And who didn't come to Oprah in the weeks and months before the farewell hour: teen star Miley Cyrus and old rocker Stevie Nicks, Palin parodist Tina Fey and Jon Stewart, Barbra Streisand, Liza Minelli, John Travolta and JK Rowling, who she elicited that the British woman could "definitely" write an eighth Harry Potter volume (if she wanted to). Even the President of the United States and the First Lady came to join her on the couch. The reincarnation of Michael Jackson was still missing.

Die-hard Oprah fans would have believed her to do that too. Certainly. Everyone paid homage to the queen of talk TV. "You were a role model for me," admits basketball player Jordan. "I promise you to be even more courageous and never give up," raves Madonna. And Jada Pinkett, the Hollywood beauty, whistles: "We love you, you are a goddess." Oprah, the one so raised to heaven, takes it all graciously. "Thank you," she says in her inimitably tangled tone, "thank you for taking me to a place of incomparable joy." And Usher sings: "Oh Happy Day".

Over the past few weeks, Oprah had quickly reviewed what made her show so successful and made the girl, born Oprah Gail Winfrey, from the small town of Kosciusko in deep Mississippi the "most powerful woman in America, if not the world", like the US -Newsmagazine Time wrote several times. She brought back touching moments, for example when she returned her parents in front of the camera to a girl who had come to the USA as an orphan in the genocide in Rwanda twelve years later (they had survived the turmoil and Winfrey's team had tracked them down) . Now the girl was a guest again. She is now studying at the US elite Yale University, and whenever the pressure threatens to get overwhelming, she says, she looks at her pencil case, the only thing left from Africa: "Then I know that nothing means in relation to all that I've been through. "

It is these touching personal revelations from her interview guests that have made Oprah Winfrey's couch show so successful - and her ability and talent for asking the sensitive questions that gently lead to these confessions. Like no other, she has understood how to bring the many small and large tragedies in everyday American life into her television studio. Over the years she has preached her own personal belief variant of the American dream: Not only that we have a right to a little bit of happiness and a better life, but that we have the strength to become a better person and therefore happier. As television critic Rebecca Traister now wrote, it has enabled millions of viewers "to see themselves on television".

For one of her last shows, she visited polo shirt billionaire Ralph Lauren on his huge ranch in Colorado. And it was abundantly clear that she saw herself reflected in his no less magical rise from a Jewish immigrant son from the Bronx to chief designer of Preppie America. "I have the feeling that I represent America," Winfrey coaxed from the old boy, "that I am an ambassador. I am not President Obama, but I am his assistant." Oprah couldn't have described better how she sees her role.

Certainly, the number of viewers went down, continuously. From 12.6 million viewers in their prime at the beginning of the 1990s to a good six million recently. The Oprah Effect is still powerful today. Two University of Maryland scientists claim that their campaign appearances earned candidate Barack Obama hundreds of thousands of additional votes. Oprah's book recommendations made publishers cheer because they were sometimes good for millions of copies.

However, their pulling power showed slight signs of wear. So your own cable channel OWN, which started with great fanfare in January, is deep in crisis. The chief manager was fired at the beginning of May, and the program currently attracts an average of 283,000 viewers and that in prime time, i.e. at the best evening television time.

Oprah Winfrey himself admits: "We're not where we wanted to be." Her aura, however, should not be scratched yet. She can tell as much crude stuff as she wants. Can tell of inspiration in the shower - people will continue to hang on to their lips and revere her as Oprah, the American total work of art. "You will remain our angel, our inspiration, our mom, our sister, our daughter," said Jane Fonda, the actress, aptly summarized the roles of Winfrey at the farewell gala: "You will continue to be our everything: for millions and millions of people us."

© SZ from May 25, 2011 / beitz