For 25 years, Oprah Winfrey has dazzled television audiences with her bold personality and candor, sharing her struggle with her weight, surviving sexual abuse as a child and letting her fans in on her personal relationships, including her close friendship with Gayle King.
“She is … the mother I never had. She is … the sister everybody would want. She is the friend that everybody deserves. I don’t know a better person. I don’t know a better person,” Winfrey, 56, told Barbara Walters, through tears.
“It’s making me cry because I’m thinking about … how much … I probably have never told her that. Tissue please. I now need tissue. I’ve never told her that,” she continued.
Over the years, Winfrey and King, who met while working at a local Baltimore television station in the 1980s, have been inseparable both professionally and personally, sparking constant rumors that the two are gay.
“I’m not a lesbian … I’m not even kind of a lesbian,” Winfrey said. “And the reason why it irritates me is because it means that somebody must think I’m lying. That’s number one. Number two … why would you want to hide it? That is not the way I run my life.”
Oprah: Stedman Graham Is the Love of My Life
While her friendship with King has taken center stage – (the duo’s latest adventure was a camping trip in Yosemite National Park that aired on the talk show) – another big part of Oprah’s personal life is an increasingly private and misunderstood relationship with Stedman Graham, a businessman, entrepreneur and speaker.
Winfrey and Graham have been a couple since 1986 and were engaged in 1992, but never married. Over the last several years, they have made few public appearances together, fueling tabloid speculation about the legitimacy of their relationship.
“Every time we showed up in public… there’d be another exploitive story … so I made a conscious effort around 2003, 2004, to pull back on my public appearances with Stedman,” she said.
When pressed by Walters, Winfrey said Graham is still the man in her life.
“The love … the lover … the man … the partner … the mate,” she said of Graham. “I do not know of another man on this planet … who could have lived this life with such dignity, with such grace and such respect and humility in it. And still hold his own and be his own.”
No Kids in Oprah’s Future
Winfrey, who currently lives in an apartment overlooking Lake Michigan, plans to move to her 42-acre estate in Santa Barbara, Calif., after her talk show ends in May.
No matter where she lives, Winfrey says she and Graham have no plans to marry and start a family, though they long considered adoption.
“For a while I thought, ‘Well, maybe,’ every time I went to Africa, and Stedman says this too. Every time I went to Africa he didn’t know when I got off the plane if I was going to have one or two or ten children,” Winfrey told Walters.
Instead of a family, the driven Winfrey built a business empire. Dubbed the most powerful celebrity in the world, with an estimated wealth of $2.7 billion by Forbes Magazine, Winfrey admits she could not have managed being a successful career woman and mom.
“I could not… have had this life and lived it with the level of intensity that is required to do this show the way it’s done,” Winfrey said. “I’d be one of those people that the kid’s coming and saying, ‘Mom, you’ve neglected me.’… So I have no regrets about that. I have none … not one regret about not having children because I believe that … it is the way it’s supposed to be.”
Oprah Winfrey on Launching OWN Network: ‘I Was Very Scared’
Winfrey will end her appointment with 6.5 million viewers a day when her namesake show, broadcast in 145 countries, comes to an end in May. She will shift her focus onto a new venture, the launch of her network, OWN, The Oprah Winfrey Network, which debuts in January and will feature a combination of in-depth documentaries and reality shows featuring Winfrey and others.
While OWN’s debut will mark the realization of another career goal for the media mogul, it’s a shift into uncharted territory.
“At first, I thought, ‘Great, a network. Oh, gee, this is the dream I had.’ And … as that started to settle in with me, I thought, ‘Whoa! What is this I’ve gotten myself into? This is a lot more work than I ever imagined,'” Winfrey told Walters.
Winfrey said that taking on a whole new network is frightening.
“I was very scared … I would wake up in the middle of the night literally like clutching my chest, like, ‘What have I done? What have I done?'” she recalled.