October 4th, 2010
07:46 AM ET
Two decades after its inception, OWN: The Oprah Winfrey Network is set to launch in January. But according to Oprah Winfrey herself, it almost didn't happen.
Winfrey, 56, tells Fortune magazine she was reading an article about Michael Jackson last summer and one particular quote from the late singer's friend really struck a chord: After the 1982 hit "Thriller" became the best-selling album of all time, the pal said, Jackson became paralyzed with fear that he could never top it.
"All the bells went off," says Winfrey. "This is why I lived in fear about this network. I kept thinking I have to repeat the 25-year phenomenon of the 'Oprah' show." And, she tells Fortune, "I don't want to be Michael Jackson."
OWN – which will feature a talk show helmed by Rosie O'Donnell and a docu-series about Sarah Ferguson - was actually the brainchild of Winfrey's beau Stedman Graham, who came up with the idea during a 1992 vacation. Graham scribbled "OWN: The Oprah Winfrey Network" on a piece of paper and told Winfrey it was her destiny.
After years of wavering, she finally decided to take the plunge – and with confidence. "My fear about 'Will the people really follow me?' - I'm past that," she says. "Technically, I don't think in terms of being in the top 10. But do I think we will be? Yes."
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