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Leslie Grisanti goes from BSU to Oprah show

Bemidji State graduate Leslie Grisanti plans to stay with Oprah Winfrey on the new OWN network. Photo Courtesy Leslie Grisanti

NBC News has reported that, nationally, 7.4 million people watched "The Oprah Winfrey Show" daily.

For many, Winfrey, throughout her 25 years on television, became an idol, an iconic talk show hostess.

But for Minnesota native Leslie Grisanti, Winfrey is the star of a show that she helped generate.

Grisanti, an "Oprah" producer, is a Thief River Falls native who graduated from Bemidji State University in 1990 with a Bachelor of Science degree in mass communication.

After working part-time in Minneapolis, Grisanti was hired at CNN as a satellite coordinator.

Grisanti said fellow BSU graduate Tom Stinar helped her get into CNN.

"Minnesota people have mostly helped me in my transitions," Grisanti said.

Grisanti worked at CNN for nearly eight years, moving around America until she was offered a position on the Oprah show in 2000.

"I felt fortunate to get offered the job there," Grisanti said. "I knew the Oprah show was a big deal, but I didn't know it was so respected."

Grisanti has now worked at Harpo Productions for 11 years.

Soon after joining the show, Grisanti became enamored with her role in it.

"I like the storytelling part of it and being involved with the creative and editorial part of the show," Grisanti said. "This is what I want to do."

Grisanti has since traveled to 49 states and six continents. She said she likes the impact "Oprah" has had internationally.

"The best thing is that you're witnessing such diverse places," she said. "They are not touristy."

Although Grisanti is often on the road, she still finds time to visit friends and family in Bemidji and Thief River Falls.

"I still keep in touch with BSU graduates," Grisanti said. "They and the professors were supportive of me."

"The Oprah Winfrey Show" this year celebrated its 25th anniversary season, which culminated with its series finale May 25 as more than 16 million viewers tuned in.

Despite the finale, Grisanti will continue working with Harpo Productions as she will help produce Oprah's new talk/travel show, "Oprah's Next Chapter," which will air on the Oprah Winfrey Network.

"I will be on OWN for 2-3 years," Grisanti said. "It all worked out."

Grisanti said she thoroughly enjoys her work and working with Winfrey.

"It's hands-on, and you really appreciate your job," she said. "What she does has meaning and intention to it."