Her image is iconic. Oprah Winfrey has built an empire on her ability to connect with and inspire her audience. ""Oprah"" is no longer just a name; it has become a brand representing Winfrey's own style of self-actualizing individualism. The cultural and economic power that Winfrey wields merits critical evaluation. The contributors to ""The Oprah Phenomenon"" examine the origins of her influential image and its substantial impact on politics, entertainment, and popular opinion. At the root of Winfrey's message to her vast audience is the assertion that anyone can be successful regardless of their past or upbringing. The contributors scrutinize this message. What does this success entail? Is the motivation for ""self-actualization,"" in fact, really the hope of replicating Winfrey's purchasing power? Is it just the ability to buy the products she recommends and to heed the advice of people she admires, or is it truly a lifestyle change that is beneficial on a more spiritual level? ""The Oprah Phenomenon"" explores these and many other difficult questions about Winfrey's media empire to understand its influence on American consciousness.
Jennifer Harris is assistant professor of English at Mount Allison University, New Brunswick, Canada. She has published articles in several journals, including African American Review and The Journal of American Culture, and books, including Searching the Soul of Ally McBeal: Critical Essays. Elwood Watson, associate professor of history at East Tennessee State University, is the editor of several books, including ""There She Is, Miss America"": The Politics of Sex, Beauty, and Race in America's Most Famous Pageant and Searching the Soul of Ally McBeal: Critical Essays.