From a wagon of fat to a town torn apart, a look back at Oprah's impact at 60

AP
Oprah Winfrey showed off her new figure, and a little red wagon packed with 67 pounds of fat — the amount she'd lost — on her show in 1988.

Talk titan Oprah Winfrey hits a personal milestone on Jan. 29 — her 60th birthday. But as she marks six decades of life, her fans are celebrating more than 30 years of Winfrey's cultural impact (including some notable hairstyles).

In 1983, Winfrey made the transition from small-time TV news to heading a Chicago morning show that eventually morphed into her career-making hit, "The Oprah Winfrey Show." From there she went on to become a magazine runner, network owner and a well-respected actress.

Over the years, O has been behind just as many light-hearted pop culture moments as hard-hitting fare. In honor of her big day, we're looking back at a few our favorites from both ends of the spectrum and in between.

The wagon of fat
When Winfrey wheeled out a little red wagon filled with 67 pounds of fat back in 1988, she wanted to illustrate just what her then-recent weight loss really amounted to. It worked! It was a moment viewers never forgot — even long after the weight came back (and left again). Later, looking back on what she admitted was an "iconic" episode, Winfrey said, "If I had to do it again, I certainly wouldn't do it that way."

AIDS divides a small town
In 1987, the talk show host took her show on the road and visited Williamson, W. Va., a region best known for the long-running, bloody feud between the Hatfields and the McCoys. But when Winfrey went there, the battle was about AIDS, and the panic that spread through the community after one HIV-positive man swam in a local pool. The resulting town-hall talk was as uncomfortable as it was important.

Tom Cruise jumps the couch
Winfrey always had a knack for getting celebrities to open up and show her audience something special, but even she was surprised by the display Tom Cruise put on when he stopped by her show in 2005. In the first flush of his romance with Katie Holmes, Cruise couldn't contain himself — and Winfrey's sofa couldn't contain him either. The actor leapt with glee, again and again, as he described his love for the woman he'd soon marry (and later divorce).

Battle of the beef
When news of mad cow disease (otherwise known as bovine spongiform encephalopathy) spread, Winfrey declared that she's eaten her last hamburger and Texas cattlemen declared Winfrey hurt their business. A two-month trial ended when a jury cleared Winfrey's name. It also ended with a new friendship — between the host and a Texas psychologist whose company (CSI) helped her case, Dr. Phil McGraw.

"You get a car! You get a car! And you …" get the idea
In 2004, Winfrey repeated a chant that left her studio audience screaming for joy. "You get a car!" she said over and over to the 276 recipients of brand new Pontiacs. The moment was so memorable, Winfrey recently decided to reenact it — on a much smaller scale — on "Jimmy Kimmel Live!"

Frying Frey
Over the years, many authors reaped the benefits of being selected for Oprah's Book Club, but only one author also reaped the wrath of Winfrey too. In 2006, after Winfrey learned Frey's so-called memoir, "A Million Little Pieces" was largely fictional, she invited him on her show for a dose of no-holds-barred backlash. In 2009, she had him back again to take back a bit of the bad blood.

Little Rock Nine
Winfrey proved just how powerful the talk show format could be when she invited the Little Rock Nine — a group who, in 1957, were greeted with anger and hostility on their first day at the newly integrated Little Rock Central High School in Arkansas — to come face-to-face with some of the white students who'd opposed them. Regrets and forgiveness were expressed on Winfrey's stage that day.

A few of her favorite things
Oprah's Favorite Things is an annual tradition that's continued beyond "The Oprah Winfrey Show." In fact, it's such a fan-favorite event, Winfrey took the bit over to "30 Rock" for an out-of-character (after all, she wasn't playing the real O) list that included "salt-water taffy from Rhode Island," "sweater capes," and "high-heel flip-flops."

  • Slideshow Photos

    Oprah Winfrey

    From film star to media mogul, Oprah Winfrey has built an empire and secured a legion of devoted fans.

  • Oprah Winfrey

    of

    Defying police in 'Selma' -

    Oprah Winfrey plays Annie Lee Cooper in "Selma" a 54-year-old woman who punched the notoriously racist county sheriff Jim Clark after he denied her the right to register to vote. The film chronicles the three-month period in 1965, when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. led a dangerous campaign to secure equal voting rights in the face of violent opposition. Oprah Winfrey produces

    Paramount Pictures / Paramount Pictures
  • Image: Oprah Winfrey (L) is pictured during a ceremony marking the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King's "I have a dream" speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington

    Oprah Winfrey

    of

    I have a dream -

    Oprah Winfrey holds up her hand during a ceremony marking the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King's "I have a dream" speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington August 28, 2013.

    Reuters / Reuters
  • Image:

    Oprah Winfrey

    of

    'The Butler' -

    Oprah Winfrey isn't just a talk-show host. Her acting has been critically acclaimed. She received a Screen Actors Guild nomination for playing the wife of White House butler Cecil Gaines (Forest Whitaker) in "The Butler" in 2013.

    AP / AP
  • Image: US-AWARDS-MEDAL OF FREEDOM-WINFREY

    Oprah Winfrey

    of

    Freedom come -

    President Barack Obama presents the Presidential Medal of Freedom to broadcast journallist Oprah Winfrey during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House on November 20, 2013 in Washington, DC.

    AFP - Getty Images / AFP - Getty Images
  • Image: Oprah Winfrey

    Oprah Winfrey

    of

    YOU get a thank you, and YOU get a thank you... -

    Winfrey acknowledges fans during a star-studded taping of "Surprise Oprah! A Farewell Spectacular," in Chicago on Tuesday, May 17, 2011. Her famed talk show went off the air after 25 years as Winfrey moves to her OWN network.

    AP / AP
  • Image: Oprah Winfrey, Richard M. Daley

    Oprah Winfrey

    of

    Honor from Hizzoner -

    In one of his last acts before leaving office, Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley presents Winfrey with a sign after a street was named in her honor outside her Harpo Studios in Chicago on Wednesday, May 11, 2011.

    AP / AP
  • Image: Barack Obama, Michelle Obama, Oprah Winfrey

    Oprah Winfrey

    of

    Presidential visitors -

    President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama are pictured with Winfrey during a taping of one of her last shows in Chicago on Wednesday, April 27, 2011. Winfrey memorably cried tears of joy when Obama was elected.

    AP / AP
  • Image: Oprah Winfrey

    Oprah Winfrey

    of

    On her OWN -

    Winfrey, chairman of OWN: The Oprah Winfrey Network, announces the new original programming for the channel's Jan. 1, 2011 launch to members of the advertising and media communities on Thursday, April 8, 2010 in New York.

    AP / AP
  • Image: Oprah Winfrey, Lady Gaga

    Oprah Winfrey

    of

    Going Gaga -

    Oprah Winfrey wears sunglasses and holds a hair bow given to her by Lady Gaga, left, after a live broadcast of "The Oprah Winfrey Show" on Friday, Jan. 15, 2010 in Chicago.

    AP / AP
  • Image: Executive producers Perry and Winfrey walk the red carpet at the AFI Fest 2009 gala screening of their new film in Hollywood

    Oprah Winfrey

    of

    Backed by Oprah -

    Executive producers Tyler Perry, right, and Oprah Winfrey walk the red carpet at the AFI Fest 2009 gala screening of their new film "Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire" in Hollywood on Nov. 1, 2009.

    Reuters / Reuters
  • Image: Michelle Obama, Oprah Winfrey, Richard Daley

    Oprah Winfrey

    of

    Chicago's failed Olympic bid -

    First lady Michelle Obama, left, sits next to Winfrey and Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley, right, at the opening ceremonies of the 121st International Olympic Committee (IOC) Session and XIII Olympic Congress at the Copenhagen Opera House on Oct. 1, 2009, in Copenhagen. Despite the star power backing its bid to host the 2016 Olympics, Chicago was eliminated during the first round.

    AP / AP
  • Image: Oprah Winfrey

    Oprah Winfrey

    of

    The queen of daytime -

    Winfrey, right, performs with the Black Eyed Peas' Fergie, center, and will.i.am, left, in Chicago on Sept. 8, 2009, while taping an episode of "The Oprah Winfrey Show." The episode was taped on a three-block stretch of Michigan Avenue near the Chicago River to celebrate the show's 24th season.

    AP / AP
  • Image: Oprah Winfrey, Richard Brodhead

    Oprah Winfrey

    of

    Honorary degree -

    Winfrey smiles at Duke president Richard Brodhead after receiving her honorary degree from Duke University during a graduation ceremony in Durham, N.C., on May 10, 2009. Her godson, William Bumpus, son of her well-known friend, Gayle King, was among the graduates.

    AP / AP
  • 17th Annual Women In Entertainment Power 100 Breakfast - Arrivals

    Oprah Winfrey

    of

    A powerful woman -

    Oprah Winfrey arrives at the 17th Annual Women In Entertainment Power 100 Breakfast at the Beverly Hills Hotel in Los Angeles on Dec. 5, 2008. Winfrey was No. 1 on the list, which is compiled by the Hollywood Reporter.

    Getty Images / Getty Images
  • Oprah Winfrey

    Oprah Winfrey

    of

    Book promoter -

    Winfrey holds a copy of her September 2008 pick for her Book Club -- David Wroblewski's "The Story of Edgar Sawtelle." Since launching her Book Club in 1996, Winfrey has helped authors from Toni Morrison to Joyce Carol Oates sell millions of books.

    Harper Productions via AP / Harper Productions via AP
  • U.S. television presenter Winfrey arrives for birthday dinner party of former president of South Africa Mandela in London

    Oprah Winfrey

    of

    Helping to celebrate -

    Winfrey arrives for the birthday dinner party of former South African President Nelson Mandela at Hyde Park in London on June 25, 2008.

    Reuters / Reuters
  • File photo of Oprah Winfrey hosting a fundraiser for US Senator Barack Obama in California

    Oprah Winfrey

    of

    The 'O' endorsement -

    In another first for the talk-show maven, Winfrey endorsed Sen. Barack Obama for president in 2007. She hosted a fundraiser for Obama, accompanied by his wife Michelle, on Sept. 8, 2007, at her home in Montecito, Calif. That weekend, Winfrey made four joint appearances with Obama at various campaign stops.

    Harpo Productions via Reuters / Harpo Productions via Reuters
  • Oprah Winfrey

    Oprah Winfrey

    of

    For the girls -

    On Jan. 2, 2007, Winfrey, center, cut the ribbon at the opening ceremony of her Leadership Academy for Girls School in South Africa. "The school will teach girls to be the best human beings they can ever be; it will train them to become decision-makers and leaders; it will be a model school for the rest of the world," Winfrey wrote on the academy's Web site.

    AP / AP
  • Oprah Winfrey

    of

    Oprah, Dave ... Dave, Oprah -

    David Letterman walks hand-in-hand with Winfrey from the Ed Sullivan Theater to the premiere of her new musical "The Color Purple" at the nearby Broadway Theater after Winfrey made an appearance on "The Late Show with David Letterman" on Dec. 1, 2005, in New York. For years Letterman had a running joke about how Oprah didn't like him.

    AP / AP
  • Oprah Winfrey, Halle Berry

    Oprah Winfrey

    of

    Red-carpet ready -

    Winfrey, right, and actress Halle Berry strike a pose for the cameras on the red carpet at the 77th Academy Awards in Los Angeles on Feb. 25, 2005.

    AP / AP
  • 30th Annual People's Choice Awards - Arrivals

    Oprah Winfrey

    of

    In front of, and behind, the camera -

    Winfrey brought her own camcorder to the 30th Annual People's Choice Awards on Jan. 11, 2004, in Pasadena, Calif.

    Getty Images / Getty Images
  • The Nelson Mandela Foundation's 46664 "Give 1 Minute to AIDS" concert

    Oprah Winfrey

    of

    Powerful friends -

    Winfrey joined U2 frontman and philantrophist Bono at a gala dinner before the "Give 1 Minute to AIDS" concert for The Nelson Mandela Foundation's 46664 campaign held at Greenpoint Stadium on Nov. 27, 2003, in Cape Town, South Africa.

    Getty Images / Getty Images
  • 12th Annual Broadcasting & Cable Magazine Hall of Fame Gala

    Oprah Winfrey

    of

    Hall of Famer -

    Winfrey was inducted into the Broadcasting & Cable Magazine Hall of Fame on Nov. 11, 2002. She attended the gala at the Marriott Marquis in New York City.

    Getty Images / Getty Images
  • OPRAH WINFREY

    Oprah Winfrey

    of

    Charitable giving -

    Winfrey stands in front of hundreds of children in Durban, South Africa, on Dec. 8, 2002. Tens of thousands of children received gifts of food, clothing, athletic shoes, school supplies, books and toys as part of Winfrey's philanthropic trip for her charity, the Oprah Winfrey Foundation.

    AP / AP
  • CRUISE WINFREY

    Oprah Winfrey

    of

    Cruise control -

    Actor Tom Cruise appeared on Winfrey's show on Dec. 6, 2001, to talk about his film "Vanilla Sky" and his break-up with then-wife Nicole Kidman. Cruise returned to her show in 2005 to talk about his new love, actress Katie Holmes. Cruise gained cultural infamy for jumping on Winfrey's couch in an enthusiastic display of his love for Holmes.

    AP / AP
  • Republican presidential nominee Texas Gov. George

    Oprah Winfrey

    of

    W to W -

    Then-Republican presidential nominee George W. Bush gives a kiss to Winfrey after appearing on her show on Sept. 19, 2000.

    AFP-Getty Images / AFP-Getty Images
  • 'O' Magazine Launch Party

    Oprah Winfrey

    of

    Magazine boss -

    Winfrey is joined by Barbara Walters, left, and Diana Ross, right, at the launch party for her magazine on April 17, 2000, at the Metropolitan Pavilion in New York.

    Getty Images / Getty Images
  • gloverwinfre_20000529_09603.jpg

    Oprah Winfrey

    of

    Movie star -

    Winfrey co-starred with Danny Glover in the movie "Beloved," director Jonathan Demme's adaption of Toni Morrison's novel.

    Touchstone Pictures via Getty Images / Touchstone Pictures via Getty Images
  • 11998oprahwi_20001013_04032.jpg

    Oprah Winfrey

    of

    What's the beef? -

    Winfrey arrives at the federal courthouse in Amarillo, Texas, in January 1998. Cattlemen filed a lawsuit against her for saying on her talk show that the U.S. beef industry could be at risk of spreading mad cow disease. The trial forced Winfrey to move her show to Amarillo for several episodes. She won that trial, but the cattlemen filed another suit a few weeks later. A U.S. District judge ultimately dismissed the case in 2002.

    Getty Images / Getty Images
  • TV personality Oprah Winfrey running in the 5 km R

    Oprah Winfrey

    of

    Running for the cause -

    Winfrey ran in the Revlon Run/Walk for Women 5K to raise money for women's cancer organizations in 2007. She has been open about battles with weight and her love-hate relationship with exercise.

    Time & Life Pictures via Getty Images / Time & Life Pictures via Getty Images
  • Oprah Winfrey

    of

    Furry escort -

    Winfrey brought one of her furry friends with her to Ebony Magazine's "Celebrate the Dream: 50 Years of Ebony Magazine" event on Nov. 17, 1996.

    Getty Images / Getty Images
  • Oprah Winfrey

    Oprah Winfrey

    of

    Golden girl, and her man -

    Longtime boyfriend Stedman Graham has been by Winfrey's side at many awards shows, including the Daytime Emmy Awards. In 1987, her first year of eligibilty, she claimed three Emmys, including one for outstanding host and outstanding talk program.

    Time & Life Pictures via Getty Images / Time & Life Pictures via Getty Images
  • Alexander Smith [Misc.];Michael Smith [Misc.];Mrs. David Smith [Misc.];Oprah Winfrey;Susan Smith [Misc.]

    Oprah Winfrey

    of

    Hot topics -

    In 1994, Winfrey consoled a distraught mourner during a segment of "The Oprah Winfrey Show" taped at Buffalo United Methodist Church, in Union, S.C., following the revelation that fellow townswoman Susan Smith drowned her sons, Alex and Michael, when she let her car roll into a local lake. The case drew nationwide interest.

    Time & Life Pictures via Getty Images / Time & Life Pictures via Getty Images
  • Winfrey

    Oprah Winfrey

    of

    Weight issues -

    On Nov. 16, 1988, Winfrey rolled out a toy wagon containing 68 pounds of fat on her show to illustrate how much weight she had lost. She credited her 68-pound weight loss to a liquid diet and exercise. Her goal was to fit into a size 10 pair of blue jeans for the first time. However, she quickly gained the weight back and has see-sawed ever since.

    AP / AP
  • NAACP Legal Defense Gala - October 22, 1987

    Oprah Winfrey

    of

    Famous friend -

    Winfrey strikes a pose with famed composer and producer Quincy Jones.

    WireImage / WireImage
  • Oprah Winfrey

    of

    Oscar nominee -

    Winfrey co-starred with Whoopi Goldberg, second from right, and Rae Dawn Chong, right, in "The Color Purple" in 1985. She received an Academy Award nomination for her role as Sofia. She would later name her production company Harpo, another character in the film, which is also Oprah spelled backwards.

    Everett Collection / Everett Collection
  • Oprah Winfrey

    of

    Early promise -

    An 18-year-old Winfrey received the Miss WVOL award from the Nashville, Tenn., radio station in 1972. Winfrey rose quickly from local radio and TV reporter to become host of her own nationally syndicated talk show.

    Everett Collection / Everett Collection
0:00
 
0:00
Your video begins in
0:00
TOP