THR's Women in Entertainment 2011: Power 100
Born in Georgia but raised in Chicago's northern suburbs, Salata had always dreamed of working for Oprah Winfrey. Her wish came true when the former freelance producer was asked to produce a few promo spots for The Oprah Winfrey Show. "There's no question I won the lottery of career opportunities when I walked into the studio and she saw my shoes," recalls Salata of her knee-buckling first encounter with the Queen of Daytime, who fortunately approved of her spectator footwear.
Rising through the ranks from promotions producer at Harpo Studios starting in 1995, Salata was tapped as executive producer of Oprah in September 2006, a post she held until the daytime talker's end this year. "After 25 years, the expectations were so fierce, even I was shaking in my shoes," she says of the final season, noting that "no stone was left unturned" and that every episode "felt like a primetime special."
Salata says she was "still concealing the dark circles under my eyes from exhaustion from the final season" when Winfrey appointed her president of OWN in July (a position she shares with Erik Logan); she shuttles between producing in Chicago and running the upstart network from its L.A. offices.
With OWN struggling to cut through the clutter, Salata, 52, acknowledges that the network is finding its way "like any start-up." "The expectations are really high, and we have to learn fast and make really good decisions that keep us on brand as we find our way with our audience," admits the unmarried owner of three English bulldogs. "I remember [Discovery CEO] David Zaslav said it would be the most fun I'd ever have, and I can see what he means now, even as I'm still feeling my way through it and learning and growing exponentially."
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