Oprah to Receive Oscars Humanitarian Award

Talk show queen Oprah Winfrey is to be honoured with an Oscars statuette later this year for her outstanding humanitarian work, but not everyone is happy about the move.

The 57-year-old television megastar -- nominated for a best supporting actress Oscar 25 years ago for her work in The Color Purple -- is to receive the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award at a dinner in November, Academy Awards officials said on Wednesday.

The award has been given out intermittently by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences since 1956.

Previous recipients include Bob Hope, Gregory Peck, Audrey Hepburn, Elizabeth Taylor, Paul Newman and Jerry Lewis.

The Academy said that since her Oscar nomination in 1986, Winfrey had become "one of the most influential figures in entertainment and philanthropy".

"She has been especially dedicated to supporting educational initiatives and raising awareness of issues that affect women and children, both in the United States and around the globe," it said in a statement.

Winfrey is one of the richest women in the United States, with Forbes magazine estimating her net worth at US$2.4 billion (AU$2.24 billion) in 2010.

In May, she pulled the curtain down on her wildly popular talk show after 25 years on the air.

But film academy president Tom Sherak was forced to come to Winfrey's defence, after blogs ignited with criticism over her selection for the award.

In an article published on Wednesday, Los Angeles Times columnist Patrick Goldstein calls the academy decision "a boneheaded move".

But Sherak says Winfrey is "one of the most philanthropic performers in the world" and thus deserving of the academy's Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award.

"Winfrey has done good work in the world, but that's not enough to merit an Oscar," he writes, and plenty of anonymous internet posters on Wednesday agree.

Sherak says the Hersholt Award recognises an individual who "exemplifies giving back to the community, the world, society in an extraordinary way".

"Oprah has given and given and given," he said, adding that she has contributed more than US$500 million (AU$465.68 million) of her own money to charitable causes.

"She's a member of the academy, she was nominated for an Academy Award and she has produced movies. This is not about personality. This is about a person who has come from the depths, risen to the heights and given back. That's a perfect example of why this award was created."

Goldstein and Deadline.com's Nikki Finke say Winfrey belongs more to the world of television than that of film.

As well as her previous Oscar nomination, she produced and appeared in Beloved in 1998 and was an executive producer of 2009's Precious.

Finke asks in her post if "no one among the philanthropic film bigwigs deserved this award more than her this year? Or is this merely a matter of another of the rich and powerful just throwing their weight around and buying the Governors Award honour for ego feed?"

Sherak says many philanthropists belong to the film academy, but its governors "felt very strongly" about honouring Winfrey this year despite her limited work in film.

"We have a lot of people who are TV people who have made movies," he said. "It doesn't matter that they do other things ... She is definitely one of us. What really counts is her contribution to humanity."

Goldstein suggests that race played a role in the academy's decision to honour the 57-year-old media mogul: "It is a way of guaranteeing that some people of colour will be taking home Academy Awards, even if the honours aren't actually presented on Oscar night."

Winfrey will be honoured at the Governors Awards dinner on November 12, along with veteran actor James Earl Jones and make-up artist Dick Smith, who will each receive Honorary Awards for their contributions to the industry.

Comments (1)
Aug 04, 2011
I may able to speak the language of human being and even angles, but if i have no love my speak is equal to a sounding eqiubul. I may have all the gift of spirit preaching and understand secrets. I may have all the power need to move maintains but if i have no love i am nothing so love is patience. Love is kind try to love everyone.