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Making

WBEZ's critically-acclaimed bio-podcast series explores how an icon is made.

Weekly hand curated podcast episodes for learning

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The best episodes ranked using user listens.

Warning: This podcast is a series podcast

This means episodes are recommended to be heard in order from the very start. Here's the 10 best episodes of the series anyway though!

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Oprah 1: No Strategy, No Plan, No Formula

It was 30 years ago this fall that Oprah Winfrey first said “hellooooo” to a national audience. By the show’s finale in 2011, it was aired in 145 countries and watched by more than 40 million viewers a week in the U.S. alone. Today’s daytime hosts like Ellen and Dr. Oz? They now average only about a tenth of that. If Oprah mentioned a book title, it became a best-seller. She landed the interviews that no one else could get. Her message of spirituality and empowerment influenced millions. With an hourlong daytime TV show, Oprah built a powerful brand. She made billions. And, as CNN, USA Today, Forbes and Time Magazine all proclaimed, she became the most powerful woman in America. In the first of a three-part podcast series, Oprah and former producers talk with WBEZ's Jenn White about the early, scrappy days of the program. Phil Donahue reflects on Oprah's entry into the daytime talk landscape that he once dominated. Plus, the podcast revisits milestones from the 1980s, like the show's national debut, and some mixed feelings over the show's highest-rated episode ever.

57mins

10 Nov 2016

Rank #1

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Obama 1: The Man In The Background

Before he was the 44th President, Barack Obama worked as a community organizer on the South Side of Chicago. Hear how the city shaped his political ambitions.

45mins

8 Feb 2018

Rank #2

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Oprah 2: Skinheads And Scented Candles

In the second episode of Making Oprah, we explore how The Oprah Winfrey Show elevated itself out of the heap of trash TV and into a show that intentionally embraced spirituality and positivity. The early years of Oprah’s show often relied on sensational, tabloidy topics – cheating husbands, sexy clothes, and murderers. It was not yet the ‘Live Your Best Life’ Oprah we would come to know and love.  “It was during those shows where I just thought, ‘What are we doing?’ ” Oprah tells WBEZ’s Jenn White. “This is a platform that is speaking to people, and what are we saying?”  As the Oprah Winfrey Show reached maturity -- or at least, its college years -- the program conducted the on-air experiments that would allow this talk show to become something more than a talk show

1hr

17 Nov 2016

Rank #3

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Obama 2: Chicago Politics Ain’t Beanbag

When Barack Obama first came to Chicago, a political transformation was happening in the city. Hear how that change inspired him.

42mins

15 Feb 2018

Rank #4

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Oprah 3: YOU GET A CAR!

In the show’s final decade, Oprah and her team staged massive spectacles of increasing grandiosity, from the infamous car giveaway to a 21,000-person flash mob that shut down part of Chicago. “It had become increasingly more difficult to top what you’d done the year before,” Oprah told WBEZ’s Jenn White. “I mean, to the point where we literally sat in a room saying ‘What about outer space?’ ” That’s what we look at now: Oprah living her life at the top, pushing the boundaries of what could be done with the world’s most powerful talk show, and why it all had to end after 25 years.

1hr 2mins

22 Nov 2016

Rank #5

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Obama 4: Wait Your Turn

In 2000, Barack Obama ran for Congress against a Chicago political legend. It became a contest about race and identity.

56mins

1 Mar 2018

Rank #6

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Obama 5: Up Or Out

Former president Barack Obama has only lost one election in his life. It was in 2000, and that defeat set him on the course for his eventual U.S. Senate run. Making Obama is a production of listener-supported WBEZ Chicago. Support WBEZ and the future of podcasts like this at https://wbez.org/making

55mins

8 Mar 2018

Rank #7

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Obama 6: Yes We Can!

Barack Obama burst onto the national stage during his U.S. Senate run. Hear how ambition and luck propelled him to Washington. wbez.org/making

58mins

15 Mar 2018

Rank #8

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Oprah BONUS: Making Donahue

In our final bonus installment, the Making Oprah production team revisits an extended interview with daytime talk show legend Phil Donahue. His pioneering show, Donahue, aired from 1967 to 1996 and laid the groundwork for Oprah’s program. It tackled heady, controversial issues - and landed frothy exclusives with A-list celebrities. Donahue also used his studio audience and callers in ways that were both innovative and intimate. Join host Jenn White, producer Colin McNulty, and executive producer Joel Meyer as they listen back to one of their favorite non-Oprah interview from the dozens of interviews conducted for Making Oprah. 

40mins

30 Dec 2016

Rank #9

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Oprah BONUS: Let's Talk About Oprah's Hair

If you look at any image from the Oprah Winfrey Show, you can pretty much figure out what decade it’s from by looking at Oprah’s hairstyle. In this short bonus episode, host Jenn White talks to Oprah’s longtime stylist Andre Walker about the high stakes of doing the hair of the most watched woman on television.

13mins

16 Dec 2016

Rank #10