tell all interview
CINCINNATI, OH – AUGUST 22: Talk show host Oprah Winfrey speaks to the media at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center Gala August 22, 2004 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Mike Simons/Getty Images)

When it comes to landing the tell-all interview, no one can compete with Oprah Winfrey. The all-powerful broadcaster has made a habit of stitching up exclusive interviews with people who seem determined not to talk.

Case in point: Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.

After endless trailers, snippets, and sneak peeks, the former Duke and Duchess of Sussex finally sat down with Oprah Winfrey today in CBS’s much-hyped interview.

Officially titled Oprah with Meghan and Harry: A Primetime Special, the two-hour-long sit down promised (and delivered) a series of bombshells that represents a PR nightmare for the royal family.

The promo-machine leading into the airing revolved mostly about Meghan Markle’s deteriorating relationship with the royals. Oprah promised “bombshell revelations” while reminding us “nothing was off-limits,” and she didn’t disappoint.

Winfrey once again proving peerless in her ability to get the most out of a highly staged tell-all interview. Throughout the interview, some admissions instantly triggered headlines around the world.

From Meghan’s admission of suicidal thoughts to Harry’s declaration that Prince Charles has been ducking his phone calls, the entire interview felt like one bombshell after the next.

Arguably most shocking was the dialogue around Harry and Meghan’s son, Archie. Megan told Oprah that when she was first pregnant with son Archie, there were “concerns and conversations about how dark his skin might be when he’s born.”

Cue the classic Oprah Winfrey “what” as the reality of that statement hung in the air.

Of course, none of this circus is new to Oprah. For decades she has been the reigning queen of the tell-all interview.

Throughout the years, Winfrey has consistently convinced the tightest lipped stars to sit down opposite her and bare their souls. Obviously, a prime time interview with Oprah brings with it the opportunity for an unrivalled platform.

When Harry and Meghan sat down with Oprah, they were practically sitting down with America – their new home – and pitching themselves to a new audience. Here were the relatable royals, newlyweds who had been treated harshly by their family and were looking for redemption.

It’s here that Winfrey’s shrewdness as both a TV executive and an interviewer comes to light. Aware of the power her platform possesses, she has historically chosen subjects in dire need of public rehabilitation.

She offers them the chance to talk to the world. They offer her the tell-all interview no one else can get. It’s a tactic that has worked consistently for Winfrey and her team for more than forty years.

Tom Cruise and the couch

No one will ever forget the bizarre moment that Tom Cruise lept onto Oprah’s couch to declare his love for his newfound girlfriend, Katie Holmes. “Something happened to you!” remarked Oprah, as Cruise mounted the sofa, to which he replied, “I’m in love.”

Tom Cruise leaps onto the couch on set the Oprah Winfrey show in 2006

When it comes to A-list access, Cruise is as tough as they come, but of course, when Oprah came knocking, the Mission Impossible star literally jumped for joy.

The most-watched TV interview in history

Oprah’s interview with Michael Jackson remains the most-watched TV interview in history, and the sit down is a masterclass in how to make your subject uncomfortable.

Michael Jackson talks with Oprah Winfrey in this televised interview recorded October 2nd, 1993.

Winfrey refused to go soft on the King of Pop, hitting a trifecta of challenging topics, including changes in his appearance over the years, whether or not he was a virgin and the extent of his plastic surgery. Jackson maintained he’d had less plastic surgery than people believed, adding, “You can count them on two fingers.”

Skewering James Frey

No single TV chat may have done as much to propagate the cult of the tell-all interview as Oprah’s sit down with author James Frey. The take-home lesson from this infamous 2006 interview is that you never (ever) lie to Oprah.

In 2005 Oprah selected James Frey’s moving memoir, A Million Little Pieces, as her Oprah’s Book Club pick. Oprah’s seal of approval sent Frey’s memoir soaring to the top of the New York Times bestseller list, but the increased publicity turned sour when it was revealed that much of Fry’s memoir had been fabricated.

NORRIDGE, IL – SEPTEMBER 26: An Oprah’s Book Club book titled “A Million Little Pieces” by James Frey is displayed at a Borders Book store September 26, 2005 in Norridge, Illinois. Oprah has once again began to name living authors in her book club as the importance of having an Oprah book club logo on one’s book is extremely good for sales. (Photo by Tim Boyle/Getty Images)

Oprah promptly forced Frey to sit down for an excruciating interview and subsequently raked the author over the coals for manipulating her, and her viewers. Frey’s experience is equivalent to getting called to the principal’s office – only with millions of people watching along at home.

Strong arming Lance Armstrong

Oprah was at her fearless best when she landed the first (and only) interview with drug cheat Lance Armstrong. In 2013 every major TV network and broadcaster was in the hunt for Armstrong’s first televised interview.

tell-all interview
A photo illustration shows a TV showing disgraced cycling star Lance Armstrong being interviewed by Oprah Winfrey on January 17, 2013 in a bar in downtown Los Angeles. AFP PHOTO / Robyn BECK (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty Images)

Earlier in the year, he had been stripped of his seven Tour de France titles amid doping allegations. As is so often the case, Oprah outmanoeuvred her competitors, landing the exclusive with Armstrong and promising viewers a “no-holds-barred” conversation.

A lady of her word, the tell-all interview was packed full of unmissable moments as Armstrong admitted for the first time that he had used banned performance-enhancing drugs, including steroids, EPO and PED.

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