7 Black Talk Show Hosts Who Changed Television As We Know It

As we are aware, television has transformed the landscape of talk shows, honoring the pioneers who paved the way for black hosts. We must acknowledge the multitude of individuals who broke down barriers and provided us with an abundance of media content to enjoy. Nowadays, the options are endless, ranging from podcasts to short series and talk shows. We are fortunate to have a diverse array of black hosts, including Jada Pinkett-Smith, Taraji P. Henson, Tamron Hall, Nick Cannon, and even Jennifer Hudson with her new daytime television show.

Oprah Winfrey (1986 – 2011).

Oprah Winfrey became the number-one talk show in the country, receiving national syndication. In September 1985, The Oprah Winfrey Show was rebranded and expanded into an hour-long format, instantly becoming a hit with viewers. Oprah received a big break when she was invited to host the half-hour show The Oprah Winfrey Show on WLS-TV in Chicago. She became the queen of daytime television.

The Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN), a cable network that offers a wide range of programming focused on Winfrey’s original goal of inspiring, educating, and entertaining, is owned by Winfrey, who is currently one of the richest African-American women in the world. Winfrey established her media empire during this process, and her show became one of the longest-running programs in television history, running for 29 seasons. The most-watched interview in television history took place in 1993, when Winfrey interviewed the legendary Michael Jackson, attracting over 100 million viewers. This exclusive interview significantly expanded her fan base. Winfrey covered impactful stories, uplifting narratives, and influential self-help experts.

Arsenio Hall (1989 – 1994/2013-2014).

The Arsenio Hall Show gained popularity for its lively atmosphere, enthusiastic audience chants, and high-profile guests such as Diana Ross, Bill Clinton, and En Vogue. It aired just before Johnny Carson’s The Tonight Show and quickly became a favorite among young Black viewers, providing a platform for hip-hop artists and influential Black figures like Louis Farrakhan. The show’s success led to Arsenio Hall hosting his own syndicated late-night talk show just two years later, where his charming personality and clever banter resonated with late-night audiences. Notably, The Arsenio Hall Show made history as the first late-night talk show hosted by a Black individual, with Hall earning this opportunity in 1987 when he replaced Joan Rivers as the host of The Late Show. As stated by Biography.Com, Arsenio Hall is a widely recognized comedian and actor.

Montel Williams (1991 – 2008)

Montel Williams, a former military veteran and native of Baltimore, rose to fame as a television personality hosting The Montel Williams Show for 18 seasons. He was the first Black male talk show host to win an Emmy Award and introduce vulnerability to daytime TV. The syndicated show, which aired on CBS, focused on highlighting social issues while also overcoming extraordinary obstacles and everyday profiling faced by people.

Montel Williams, a well-known brand, focuses on his journey living with multiple sclerosis and encourages aspects of wellness in his life.

Queen Latifah (1991-2001/2013-2015).

Queen Latifah, the acclaimed rapper, producer, and actress, has won a Grammy. According to Biography.Com, she won her first Grammy in 1995, building on her empire in musicals, Broadway, and TV films. She launched her first daytime television show, The Queen Latifah Show, in 1999, which ran for just two seasons before its cancellation in 2001. She relaunched the show in 2013 and it aired until 2015. Latifah used the show as an extension of her uplifting brand, giving back through charitable endeavors and using it as a platform to uplift women and showcase culture. Through her work, she paved the way for more artists to be taken seriously in the arena of talk shows.

Tavis Smiley (1996-2001/2004-2017).

Tavis Smiley, a native of Michigan, first rose to prominence as the host of BET’s Tonight with Tavis Smiley. He addressed a wide variety of topics with entertainment influencers and celebrities, and paved the way for Black political commentators to have their own talk shows. His on-air work earned him three NAACP Image Awards. In the early 2000s, he landed his own show, “The Tavis Smiley Show,” which became a staple in the Black community on PBS.

Tyra Banks (from 2005 to 2010).

According to reports from Biography.Com, Elite Model Management, the largest modeling agency in the world, entered into a contract with Tyra Banks, one of the original supermodels, while she was still in high school. Throughout her international modeling career, she gained recognition but as she aged and put on more weight, Tyra openly discussed the mistreatment she faced as a curvier model. Ultimately, she decided to come back to the United States and transition into lingerie and swimwear modeling, as these body types were more valued. Tyra, a strong supporter of women and body positivity, achieved numerous groundbreaking feats. She launched America’s Next Top Model, a modeling competition, in 2003. By 2005, she expanded her television brand with her own talk show, The Tyra Show.

The show focused on empowering women, as it showcased models from around the world who were prettier than ever. Everyone was in tears as she changed the game. In the process, she picked up two Daytime Emmys with Banks.

Wendy Williams (2008 – 2022).

Wendy Williams, a native of New Jersey, made a name for herself as a Radio DJ on the popular Boston station 108 Kiss, interning for Matt Seigel. After graduating in 1986, she bounced around smaller radio stations in Philly and the Virgin Islands, before finally landing back in New York. While her records were fine, she found that she could draw larger ratings by covering her own personal life and facing the obstacles she encountered. She started her own urban music show in college, launching her career as a DJ on the college radio show at Northeastern.

After dominating the airwaves in the radio industry for more than a decade, Wendy Williams made her television debut in 2008 with her own show. As she grew in the process, she turned her struggles into success, garnering a million listeners and becoming one of the first Black women to model her radio style after shock-jocks like Howard Stern.

How are you doing?! The new generation of Gossip Girls has had an unprecedented cultural influence and has forever changed the television landscape. For her work, Williams has earned multiple Emmy nominations. She has succeeded in bringing her hilarious personality to viewers, mixing gossip and advice in celebrity interviews. Before the premiere of her show, Williams was inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame. Her next chapter in daytime TV began with the launch of her show on Fox, before it aired as a trial run on BET.