Throughout history, Black talk show hosts have had a significant impact on the face of television. Some have completely changed the way people view African Americans on the big screen. Their cultural impact has been the catalyst for some of the biggest careers on T.V. They have opened up doors for so many other minority journalists and entertainers to follow in their footsteps. Here’s a look at some of the most influential Black talk show hosts in American history.
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The supermodel turned talk show host Tyra Banks is one of the few women in the world who has created two hugely successful franchises from scratch. Her ability to push her ideas and concepts into reality has made her a household name across the globe. It’s hard to imagine what television would be like without “America’s Next Top Model” or “The Tyra Banks Show.” Since 2004, she has been empowering young girls everywhere with her message of self-esteem and confidence by showcasing some of the hottest up-and-coming models on TV.
Queen Latifah is probably most well known to the younger generation as one of the stars from the film “Set It Off,” but she has also made her presence felt on screen in “Living Single,” “Hairspray,” and “Chicago.” Her talk show, “The Queen Latifah Show,” premiered Sept. 13th, 1999, and ran until Aug. 31, 2001. Although short-lived, her show was very popular among Black women all over the country. So popular that it made its return to the big screen in 2013 and the show even won a “People’s Choice Award” in 2014 for Favorite New Talk Show Host.
Oprah Gail Winfrey, well-known as the queen of talk shows, was born in Kosciusko, Mississippi. Her first job after high school at Tennessee State University, an HBCU, was as a television news reporter for WTVF Nashville. After two years there she moved to Baltimore and worked with WJZ where she anchored an evening newscast named The Six O’Clock News Hour. In 1984, WLS-TV in Chicago aired her talk show called ‘The Oprah Winfrey Show’. Her show quickly became the most popular thing on television and was pushed to more than 140 countries around the world. She was later named “The World’s Most Powerful Woman” by Forbes Magazine six times and has changed the face of television forever.
Wendy Williams got her to start writing about celebrities in the local newspaper. She then began to get more interested in television after a successful radio career and began appearing on many different shows, finding a niche for herself as a gossip expert. In 2008, she launched ‘The Wendy Williams Show’, and hasn’t looked back since. Her celebrity interviews, interactive audience polls, fashion-related segments, and giveaways have made it extremely successful with an average of 2 million viewers per show.
Whoopi Goldberg has been lauded as one of Hollywood’s most influential African Americans. Even before her talk show host career, Whoopi was already well on her way to stardom. In 1985, before her famous role in “The Color Purple,” which awarded her the ‘Golden Globe’ for Best Actress in a Motion Picture, Whoopi won a Grammy for Best Comedy Album. She would also appear in popular movies such as Ghost, and Sister Act. Whoopi would eventually partner with the team over at ‘The View’ and replace Rosie O’Donnell on the show. Since adding Whoopi, the show averages about 3.5 million total viewers per episode.
Montel Williams, a former talk show host, and Marine Corps veteran has had an exceptional career as a TV host. He hosted The Montel Williams Show for 16 years (1991-2006) during which he discussed controversial topics with guests from a wide variety of backgrounds. During his time as host, the program featured interviews with President George W. Bush and John Kerry during the 2004 Presidential Election; actor Tom Cruise; astronaut Dr. Mae Jemison; former South African president Nelson Mandela; as well as comedians Robin Williams and Richard Pryor among others.
The pioneer for all Black talk show hosts, Arsenio Hall was the first African American to host his own primetime late-night show on T.V. It marked an unbelievable change in Hollywood’s view of the Black community as it undermined the historic belief that Blacks could not stay up past 11 pm without good reason (such as going to work or school). The very popular “Arsenio Hall Show” ran from 1989 until 1994. It was renewed for a short period from 2013 to 2014. Arsenio also appeared in many movies including “Ghost,” “Coming to America” and “Harlem Nights.”
Tavis Smiley is one of the most well-known Black television hosts in America. He is a charismatic public speaker who has hosted a variety of different talks shows. He was born September 2nd, 1964, in Michigan. In 1996, he landed a job as a talk show host on “BET Tonight.” Later he would get his very own PBS talk show called “The Tavis Smiley Show”, which was very popular among the African American community. It ran until 2017. From 1998 to 2000, he also hosted a music video program called “Open Mike” which focused on increasing literacy in the African American communities.
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