When you’ve written an unauthorized biography with some scathing details about the world’s most powerful woman, there’s bound to be some backlash. But Kitty Kelley, author of Oprah: A Biography, is no stranger to controversy.
The 68-year-old author — who has previously penned scintillating tell-alls about Frank Sinatra, Nancy Reagan, and Liz Taylor — is releasing a new tome about her latest subject, Oprah Winfrey.
Winfrey, 56, wanted no part of Kelley’s project, and with the details that are being dangled in advance of the book — which goes on sale tomorrow — it’s not hard to understand why. The author, who claims she is a Winfrey fan, talked to Matt Lauer this morning on The Today Show about the talk show queen: “There are so many secrets in her life, secrets about her relationship, secrets within her family….”
Kelley’s research for the book entailed interviews with 850 sources, including some of Winfrey’s family members, and the author claims she got a glance at Winfrey’s unreleased 1993 biography.
In it, Winfrey allegedly described herself as a “prostitute” during her promiscuous teenage years. Kelley said she found that description to be “rather harsh,” but acknowledged that time of Winfrey’s life was “really kind of a natural outgrowth of a terrible, terrible sexual molestation she endured.”
The topic of romance is touched on in Kelley’s book: Winfrey allegedly had a doomed relationship with John Tesh (which apparently went awry due to the fact that it was an interracial romance) and the book also looks at the talk-show queen’s current relationship with her live-in love, businessman Stedman Graham (who Kelley described to USA Today as “boring as hell”).
One thing Kelley said she didn’t do in the book is “out” Winfrey. “I know people are expecting me to ‘out’ her. But I think she’s just asexual,” Kelley said, adding, “She’s poured all of her energies into her career. And if she is, she is never ever, ever going to come out. So relax, people.”
Perhaps the most shocking thing written in the book is that a relative of Winfrey’s, called “Aunt” Katharine Carr Esters, confided to Kelley her assertion that Vernon Winfrey is not actually Oprah’s biological father.
Kelley explained to Lauer, “I spent three days with [Esters], and over that time she told me who Oprah’s real father was and swore me to secrecy. So here I am writing a book about a secret keeper and I get pulled in and I keep a secret myself.” Kelley didn’t seem to keep many secrets in her recent USA Today interview, though. Esters allegedly also told Kelley that Winfrey’s family doesn’t believe her claims of sexual abuse as a child. “I don’t believe a bit of it,” Esters told Kelley. “No one in the family believes her stories, but now that she’s so rich and powerful everyone is afraid to contradict her.”
The author promises, “I tried to give both sides,” but went on to speculate about her subject, “Oprah’s stories are colorful and a bit over the top. Maybe they’re just little exaggerations.”