She built a billion-pound showbusiness empire by persuading everyone from housewives to superstars to come clean about their past on her daytime TV show, but a new book sensationally claims that Oprah Winfrey has embellished the truth about her own life to boost ratings.
Her dirt-poor upbringing, tales of sexual abuse and her relationship with longtime partner Stedman Graham have all allegedly been manipulated to gild her rags-to-riches success story, according to celebrity biographer Kitty Kelley. Kelley claims the talk-show host concocted stories about the molestation she said she suffered as a child and massively exaggerated the poverty in which she was raised.
Winfrey claimed she was so poor she never had any new clothes or toys and adopted two cockroaches as pets. But her family insisted Winfrey was ‘spoiled’ as a child. “Where Oprah got that nonsense about growing up in filth and roaches I have no idea,” claimed her cousin, Katherine Carr Esters. “I’ve confronted her and asked, ‘Why do you tell such lies?’ Oprah told me, ‘That’s what people want to hear. The truth is boring.’ Winfrey’s stepfather Vernon said: “She may be admired by the world, but I know the truth. So does God and so does Oprah. Two of us remain ashamed.”
In the book, Oprah, Kelley claims America’s biggest-earning TV icon has gone to great lengths to cover up her sexuality. She reportedly paid people off to prevent them speaking out about her alleged lesbian affairs and allegedly maintained a long-term relationship with Graham in order to appeal to her largely female audience.
“Oprah keeps Stedman around because she wants her audience to accept her as a normal woman with a man in her life,” claimed landscaper James van Sweden, who worked for the couple. “From what I saw during those four years, I can tell you there’s nothing there with Stedman. Nothing at all. He’s simply a fixture in her life – window dressing.” The pair do not even share a bedroom, according to the book. Kelley claims Winfrey is ‘ asexual’. But she said there were reports of a steamy relationship years ago with a top female American news anchor. The book claims Winfrey paid one ex-boyfriend £30,000 not to talk about her alleged lesbian affairs and the fact that her brother, who died of AIDS, was gay.
She allegedly stole from her mother’s purse before she was sent to Nashville to live with Vernon, who is listed on her birth certificate as her father. He is said to be the stern disciplinarian who straightened her out. However, Winfrey is claimed not to know the identity of her real father. Esters allegedly told Kelley who the father was on condition that she doesn’t publish it until after Winfrey’s mother, Vernita Lee, had told her daughter. “And you’ll know when that happens because Oprah will probably have a show on finding your real father,” said Esters. “As I said, the girl wastes nothing.”
Kelley has written controversial books about Jackie Onassis, Frank Sinatra, Elizabeth Taylor and the Royal Family, but despite being attacked as a ‘poison pen’ biographer and a gossipmonger, she has never been successfully sued for libel or been forced to retract any of her written claims.