Tag Archives: January Birthdays

Oprah’s Birthday

Oprah_WinfreyJanuary 29 is Oprah Winfrey’s birthday! Winfrey is a media mogul, actress, philanthropist, and producer, who is best known for her talk show, The Oprah Winfrey Show. The show ran for 25 seasons, won multiple awards, and is credited with popularizing confessional media.

In 1954, Winfrey was born in a rural town in Mississippi, and lived an impoverished childhood with her grandmother until her mother moved her to inner-city Milwaukee at the age of 6. Winfrey has stated that she suffered sexual abuse from her male family members and her mother’s male friends when she was younger. She eventually moved to Nashville to live with her supposed father who was a barber turned businessman.

Winfrey’s father, Vernon, put an emphasis on her education, and she became an honor student, eventually receiving a full scholarship to Tennessee State University. Around this time, she began reporting news for a local black radio station, and soon became the youngest and first black female anchor on  Nashville’s WLAC-TV. After moving to Baltimore in 1976 to co-anchor the six o’ clock news, she was hired on as a co-host for Baltimore’s TV chat show, People are Talking.

It was after a move to Chicago to host AM Chicago, a morning show with low ratings, that Winfrey began to take the televised talk show world by storm. She brought the show from last to first in ratings, passing up former leader Phil Donahue‘s talk show. Because of her bold and open personality, she gained hundreds of thousands of viewers, and was cast in Steven Spielberg’s The Color Purple in 1985. She received an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress for her role, and the next year was given her own hour-long syndicated talk show named The Oprah Winfrey Show. The show’s syndication allowed it to be on 120 channels, gaining a whopping 10 million loyal viewers. In its first year, the show made $125 million, $30 million of which went to Winfrey. In order to gain ownership of her program from ABC, Winfrey started her own production company called Harpo Productions (Oprah spelled backwards). This move meant Winfrey would make even more from the continued syndication of her show.

During the early years of her show, it was dubbed as tabloid television. Not wanting to be associated with other gossipy and “trashy” television shows, Winfrey shifted the topics of her show and began reporting on a wider range of topics including health, geopolitics, spirituality, and celebrities who were involved in social issues. At first, her ratings suffered, but the respect she earned from her decision to avoid tabloid topics gained her popularity, and her viewership steadily increased.

Winfrey’s opinions and endorsements have proven to have a huge influence on public opinion. Her launch of “Oprah’s Book Club,” has had a significant impact on the publishing industry. After her successful weight loss efforts, Winfrey’s personal chef and trainer both produced best-selling books. Dr. Phil, Dr. Oz, and Rachael Ray can all credit their talk show successes to Winfrey and Harpo Productions after each made multiple appearances on The Opera Winfrey Show. Winfrey’s only political endorsement came with the campaign President Barack Obama, for whom it is estimated she influenced over a million votes in his favor.

In 1999, Winfrey co-founded the Oxygen Network, which produced programming targeted at female audiences. The next year she launched O, The Oprah Magazine and soon after signed a contract to continue making The Oprah Winfrey Show through 2011. When her 25-year old talk show ended, it was syndicated on 212 stations in the United States and 100 countries across the world. She started her own network, the Oprah Winfrey Network, when her contract with ABC was finished. The network didn’t receive much attention at first, but made headlines when Winfrey interviewed Lance Armstrong, cyclist and seven time Tour de France winner. His titles were rescinded when he was charged with using performance-enhancing drugs. Armstrong’s admission of his substance abuse on OWN reportedly earned the network millions of dollars in revenue.

Winfrey has been ranked as the richest African-American of the 20th century, the only black billionaire in North America, Life magazine’s most influential woman of her generation, and the greatest black philanthropist in the history of the United States. As a children’s rights activist, Winfrey played a pivotal role in President Bill Clinton signing a bill creating a nationwide database of convicted child abusers. She also founded the Family for Better Lives foundation and was the first person to receive the Bob Hope Humanitarian Award from the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. The nation’s highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, was given to Winfrey by President Obama in 2013 for the contributions she has made to her country.

Happy birthday, Oprah!

Sources: Biography.com, Wikipedia, IMDB

 

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Ellen Degeneres’ Birthday

39th Annual People's Choice Awards - PortraitsJanuary 26 is Ellen Degeneres’ birthday! Degeneres is an American comedian, actress, and talk show host best known for starring in her self-titled sitcom, Ellen, and hosting her own talk show since 2003 called the Ellen Degeneres Show.

Degeneres was born in Metairie, Louisiana in 1958, and moved to Atlanta, Texas with her mother when she was a teenager after her parents divorced. She worked a variety of odd jobs when she was younger ranging from waitress to house painter to legal secretary. She had dreams of becoming a veterinarian because of her love for animals, but believed she wasn’t “book smart” enough to pursue the career. Her older brother, Vance, who was pursuing a career as an actor and comedian as a correspondent on The Daily Show first sparked her interest in comedy. At a public speaking event, Degeneres was nervous and began inadvertently making jokes to the crowd. They loved her awkward comedic style, and she was soon offered stand-up comedy gigs.

Her comedy career began when she was in her early 20s and began performing at a local coffee shop. Before long, she was touring nationally and won Showtime‘s Funniest Person in America in 1982. Her big break came in 1986 when a booking agent from The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson caught her act at the Improv in Hollywood. She was invited to perform on the show, and after her performance was invited to sit on the famous “couch” and chat with Carson. She was the first female comedian to be offered this opportunity on the show. From then on, she became a regular guest on late night talk shows and her popularity with the American public grew.

The young comedienne’s observational humor was a hit with audiences, and she began starring in her own sitcom, Ellen, in 1994. In 1997, the show and Ellen’s life took a major turn when she made her homosexuality public in an episode of the popular show titled, “The Puppy Episode.” This was the first time the lead character of a sitcom openly acknowledged their homosexuality on air. Degeneres and the network both received criticism, which they had expected, and several affiliate networks and sponsors refused to air the episode and withdrew their advertisements. Gay activists and supporters praised their efforts in raising awareness to gay issues, and many episodes following the coming out episode focused on gay themes, bringing them to the attention of national audiences. Despite making history, receiving an Emmy award, and gaining supportive audiences, the show was cancelled in 1998.

Degeneres’ popularity has only grown stronger over the years, and she starred in several movies before returning to television in 2003 as the host of her own talk show, The Ellen Degeneres Show. Though many other daytime talk shows popped up during this time, Degeneres was the only one to leave a lasting impression on her audience and has received countless awards for her show, including 11 Daytime Emmy Awards. The same year she began hosting her talk show, she lent her voice to Dory, the ditzy lovable companion of Nemo in the hit animated feature, Finding Nemo. In 2009, she celebrated the 1000th episode of the talk show, and that same year, became a judge on the ninth season of American Idol. Her infectious comedic style has also led her to host a plethora of award shows including the Primetime Emmy Awards and the Academy Awards.

In 2004, Degeneres began dating fellow actress Portia de Rossi, and in 2008 they were married in one of California’s most high-profile same-sex unions after its legalization. Degeneres is also known for her ethical vegan diet, and has started a vegan outreach website called “Going Vegan with Ellen,” as well as opened an all-vegan restaurant in Los Angeles.

Happy birthday Ellen!

Sources: Biography.com, Wikipedia, IMDB 

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Dolly Parton’s Birthday

Photo of Dolly PARTONJanuary 19 is country music legend Dolly Parton’s birthday!

Parton was born in 1946 in Sevierville, Tennessee, and was one of 12 children born to tabacco farmer Robert Lee Parton and his wife, Avie Lee. Her childhood was spent on a rundown farm in the Great Smokey Mountains, and when she recounts stories of her family life, she describes their financial situation as “dirt poor.” Music played an important role in her life, even as a child, where her first exposure came from her mother singing to her, and the hymns they sang together in church. She was gifted her first guitar from a relative, and immediately began playing and writing her own music.

By age 10, Parton began performing on television and radio shows in eastern Tennessee, and made her first appearance on the Grand Ole Opry a mere three years later. She met musician Johnny Cash while performing at the Grand Ole Opry, and he encouraged her to follow her dreams of becoming a musician. In 1964, the day after she graduated from high school, Parton moved to Nashville to pursue a career in country music.

She was first hired as a songwriter, but soon moved on to recording her own songs. Her first big break came in 1967 when Porter Wagoner invited her to partner with him on his show. In the following years, the duo recorded several number one hits and Parton was signed to RCA, where she began recording solo material. Her first solo number one hit was “Joshua” in 1971, and was soon followed by “Jolene” in 1973, and “I Will Always Love You,” which was written about her split from Wagoner, in 1974. After seven years of recording hits with Wagoner, Parton’s fame began to overshadow his, and she decided to break out on her own.

In 1975 and 1976, Parton won the Country Music Award for best female vocalist. She crossed over into pop music with 1977′s “Here You Come Again,” which topped country and pop charts and won the artist her first Grammy Award. She skyrocketed into mainstream fame in the 1980s when she also began her acting career. She starred in 9 to 5, which proved to be successful on many levels for Parton. For her role, she received a Golden Globe nomination for best actress in a musical or comedy, and an Academy Award nomination for her original song for the movie “9 to 5.” Two years later, she received another Golden Globe nomination for her role in The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas and introduced a whole new generation to her hit song “I Will Always Love You.”

Aside from her music and acting career, Dolly has pursued many other ventures including the opening of her own theme park in 1986 called “Dollywood,” which is located in the Smokey Mountains of Tennessee. She has also put forth many efforts in helping with children’s literacy including her Imagination Library, Dixie Stampede, and Pirates Voyage.

Dolly Parton performing during her Better Day World Tour.

Dolly Parton performing during her Better Day World Tour.

In her career spanning over 40 years, Parton has paved the way for other female country musicians and has become the most honored female country performer of all time. Her long list of awards and achievements includes 25 RIAA certified gold, platinum and multi-platinum awards, 25 number 1 Billboard Country hits, 41 top 10 country albums, and 110 charted songs. She has sold over 100 million records worldwide, earned 8 Grammy awards, 2 Academy Award nominations, 10 Country Music Association Awards, 5 Academy of Country Music Awards, 3 American Music Awards, and she is only one of five women to win the Country Music Association’s Entertainer of the Year Award. She was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1999 and has composed over 3,000 songs in her lifetime.

Never giving up on her life’s work, Dolly performed across the world in 2011 on her Better Day World Tour, which grossed over $34 million. Dolly once said in an interview, “My music is what took me everywhere I’ve been and everywhere I will go. It’s my greatest love. I can’t abandon it. I’ll always keep making records.”

Sources: Biography.com, Wikipedia, IMDB

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Jason Segel’s Birthday

segel-bdayJanuary 18 is Jason Segel’s birthday! You may know this 6’4″ comedic actor from his role as Marshall Eriksen in the hit TV series How I Met Your Mother, or his work in big screen comedies like Forgetting Sarah Marshall, I Love You, Man; and The Muppets.

Segel was born in 1980 in Los Angeles. He grew up in a wealthy neighborhood due to his father’s profession as a lawyer. He attended a Christian elementary school when he was younger, despite the fact that he was raised Jewish. Already standing out for his religious background at school, he also reached his full height of 6’4″ at the age of 12, and described himself as, ”this weird, gangly kid who was like ET trying to figure out how his limbs worked.” To add to his quirkiness, Segel was a fan of puppetry and began making movies on his own as a young teen.

When attending Harvard-Westlake School, Segel took advantage of his tall stature and joined the basketball team. It wasn’t until his senior year, however, that he discovered his passion for acting. Segel then decided to pass up going to college in favor of pursuing a career in acting. He was cast at age 18 in Judd Apatow’s new high school dramatic comedy Freaks and Geeks. It was here that he first met and worked with future acting buddies James Franco and Seth Rogan. Though the show was cancelled after only one season, it would go on to grow a huge cult following.

HIMYM2014_FULLCALENDAR.inddHe took another shot at television acting with Apatow’s next project, college sitcom Undeclared. This show too failed, not attracting enough viewers to last long. In 2005, Segel finally caught a stroke of luck after being cast as Marshall Erikson in How I Met Your Mother, a sitcom that follows a group of five friends as protagonist Ted, played by Josh Radnor, tells the long-winded story of how he met his wife to his children. The show is currently in its ninth and final season.

While working on How I Met Your Mother, Segel has undertaken several other projects throughout the years, including roles in comedies like Knocked Up, I Love You, Man; and Forgetting Sarah Marshall, which Segel wrote and starred in in 2008. Reviving his love for puppets, and famous puppet master Jim Henson, he starred in and co-wrote the screenplay for The Muppets. Also a musician and composer, Segel wrote musical selections for The Muppets as well.

Segel is currently living in Los Angeles, and continuing to work on future feature film projects. Happy birthday to this beloved funny man!

Sources: Biography.com, Wikipedia, TV Guide

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Elvis Presley’s Birthday

elvis1On January 8, 1935, the “King of Rock ‘n’ Roll,” Elvis Presley, was born in Tupelo, Mississippi. Elvis is known as one of the most significant American pop culture icons of the 20th century. Popularizing the musical styling known as rockabilly, which is an uptempo, backbeat-driven fusion of country music and rhythm and blues, he ranks as one of the most successful and well-known musicians of all time with hits like “Heartbreak Hotel,” “Don’t Be Cruel,” “Love Me Tender,” and many more.

Elvis was born to parents Gladys and Vernon in a shotgun house built by his father in Mississippi. Elvis was actually supposed to have an identical twin brother, but his brother, Jesse, was born a stillborn 35 minutes before Elvis. As an only child, Elvis had a very close relationship with his parents, and his mother raised him to have a very strong faith in God. It was in church that he gained his first musical influence, and he drew inspiration from the gospel music he heard there for the rest of his life.

After receiving a guitar as a gift at the age of 10, Elvis began playing music regularly on his own. In 1948, Elvis moved with his family to Memphis, Tennessee. He got his first taste of live performance at his high school where he played in a talent show and won. His classmates then began to take notice of him because of his previously unknown musical abilities and his new appearance. He grew out his sideburns, styled his hair with rose oil and Vaseline, and began wearing flashy clothing he found on Beale Street, the blues hub of Memphis which Elvis frequented. He never received any formal musical training, instead studying and playing music by ear. He frequented record stores with jukeboxes and listening booths to supplement his love for music and gain inspiration.

In 1953, Elvis began visiting Sun Studios and recording songs. Before long, record label owner, Sam Phillips, recognized Elvis’s talents and decided to help the young musician develop his sound. Just a few days after recording his first single, “That’s All Right,” a popular local radio DJ played Elvis’s new single, and listeners bombarded the phone lines, curious who this new singer was. Elvis’s popularity soon began to swell, with fans attracted to his dashing good looks, unique musical style, and signature gyrating hips.

The following years saw huge turning points in the singer’s career. His then manager and Phillips, Sun Studios owner, struck up a $40,000 deal for RCA to acquire Elvis’s Sun contract. In 1956, he recorded his first No. 1 single, “Heartbreak Hotel,” and his first album, Elvis Presley, which skyrocketed to No. 1 as well. He became a favored guest on many televised variety shows, even though his provocative dance moves caused controversy. That same year, he signed a movie contract with Paramount Pictures and starred in his first box office hit, Love Me Tender.

After receiving a draft notice from the United States Army in 1957, Elvis did not ignore his duties. He began training in Fort Hood, Texas, and was granted leave at one point to return to Memphis for the funeral of his mother.  Though he was devastated by her death, he returned to service in Germany where his sadness was quelled when he met Priscilla Beaulieu. They eventually married after a seven and a half year courtship. Elvis was afraid that serving in the army would ruin his career, but his producers were prepared for his absence with several unreleased recordings. The musician had ten Top 40 hits during his time in the army.

When he returned from his army hiatus, he filmed the movie GI Blues and also recorded the soundtrack for it, once again sending him to the top of the charts. During the following years, he starred in several more films and recorded music along with them. The movies were hit and miss with audiences, but the soundtracks still became widely popular.

elvis2His popularity began to fade in the late 1960s, but he proved himself to still be the “King of Rock ‘n’ Roll” with his “’68 Comeback” TV special where he reminded audiences of his incredible singing abilities and guitar prowess. During the late ’60s, he also married his longtime girlfriend, Priscilla, and soon they had their first and only child, Lisa Marie. Their marriage did not last long, however, and they were divorced by 1973, with Priscilla gaining custody of Lisa Marie.

Elvis’s health slowly began to decline as he suffered from weight problems and prescription drug abuse. Although his personal life was not doing well, Elvis still drew large crowds of fans at his Las Vegas performances and on his last tour. His last performance was in Indianapolis, Indiana in June 1977.

On August 16, 1977, Elvis was found dead in his home, Graceland, at the age of 42. He suffered from heart failure. He was eventually buried with his family on the Graceland property.

The legacy left by Elvis is huge. He’s credited with bringing rock ‘n’ roll music to the forefront of popular music in the United States. After his death, President Jimmy Carter issued a statement saying Elvis, “permanently changed the face of American popular culture.” During his life, he won 3 Grammy Awards and was nominated several more times. He had 18 No. 1 hits, and several of his albums were certified gold or platinum. He was one of the first artists to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and was later also inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame and the Gospel Music Hall of Fame. Since his death, many documentaries have been made about him, and there are countless Elvis impersonators around the world who constantly try to channel “The King.”

If you’re around the Memphis area this time of year, you can celebrate Elvis’s birthday by attending the multi-day birthday celebration held at his home, Graceland.

Sources: Biography.com, Wikipedia, Elvis.com

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Kate Middleton’s Birthday

Today is Kate Middleton’s Birthday!

Kate Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge, was born Catherine Elizabeth Middleton on January 9, 1982. She is most known for being married to Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, who is second in line to the throne after his father, Prince Charles.

Kate met Prince William at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland in 2001, where Kate studied Art History. Shortly thereafter, they began dating, and Kate piqued the media’s interest so much that she needed security detail.

The engagement of Prince William and Kate Middleton was announced on November 16, 2010 and they were married on April 29, 2011. Recently, the public found out that Kate is pregnant with their first child.

Over the past few years, Kate Middleton has become a style icon for women all over the world, and in 2012, Time magazine named her one of The 100 Most Influential People in the World.

Happy Birthday, Kate!

Sources: Marieclaire.co.uk, Wikipedia

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