Oprah Winfrey's latest viral moment came via her recent cameo in Ellen DeGeneres' "Magic Mike" spoof – complete with fancy striptease moves and a (presumably effects-aided) split.
The video helped promote the 14th-season premiere of "Ellen." But for the calendar-watchers, the surprise appearance amounted to an ongoing victory dance for Winfrey.
"The Oprah Winfrey Show" made its national debut 30 years ago Wednesday, creating viral talk show moments well before the Internet – and long before DeGeneres became a mono-named daytime host.
It's been nearly five years since Winfrey ended her quarter-century run, during which she logged more than 4,500 installments. But even if she's not on weekday TV anymore, her influence still permeates the daytime landscape and beyond.
Her first show – titled "How to Find a Husband/How to Find a Wife" – helped set the tone, even in a proto-fashion, for her mantra of empowerment. She built upon Phil Donahue's mantle of mixing the serious and the silly, but being sure to keep them largely separate.
She outdid Donahue by connecting to a larger audience, dominated by women drawn by an extraordinary host with a common touch. Winfrey became a TV friend to many, while serving as both a surrogate and leader for her audience.
She got people reading through her book club. She got people thinking by tackling various forms of abuse, citing, when appropriate, her own hardscrabble past. She got people (famous and otherwise) talking – and, in the case of Tom Cruise, jumping on the couch.
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From her unlikely rise to her forays into magazines, film and theater, Winfrey embodies the American ethos of constant reinvention. The best of her followers, among them comedian and former sitcom star DeGeneres, can only approximate the formula.
The not-so-secret, but irreplaceable ingredient is Winfrey’s ability to forge a seemingly personal relationship with her viewers, one that goes on, albeit in a limited form, through her OWN cable channel. Five years in, the network is turning toward drama (the latest, “Queen Sugar” debuts this week). OWN's audience is growing, as The Wall Street Journal noted in March, though its reach doesn't compare to that of her talk show.
Winfrey’s unexpected dance on “Ellen” was followed by a quick chat in which she plugged “Queen Sugar.” She also congratulated DeGeneres on her 14th season, but didn’t mention her own big anniversary. She didn’t need to – even 30 years later, Oprah Winfrey wields a magic all her own.