I’m team Oprah, all day everyday. I love her, admire her, and hope to meet her one day. Her show has been on for as long as I’ve been alive. I believe that she’s a caring and smart woman. So when I heard about the unauthorized biography about her written by Kitty Kelley, I shrugged it off as trash. I figured that it would be a tabloid type read, talking about Oprah’s troubled childhood, her attitude and the way she treats her staff and of course the gay rumors. The author, Kelley, had been blackballed by most of the mainstream media in the States. Larry King, Barbara Walters and David Letterman wouldn’t interview her because they were afraid of insulting Oprah.
I work at a bookstore, so when the book was released, I started flipping through it and found that it was readable and highly compelling. So, I decided to read it and I’m glad I did.
Kelley did not have the support of Oprah when doing this book. She researched it thoroughly and spoke to many people connected to Oprah, including her father and other family members. She also collected various interviews Oprah had done over the years and used the quotes throughout the book.
The book covered Oprah’s childhood, the sexual abuse she says she suffered that her family still doesn’t believe, the child she gave birth to when she was fifteen that died after only a month. Then her troubled teenage years where she had sex with boys in exchange for money. Once Oprah was sent to live with her father, she was forced to focus on school and make something of her life. That was when she realized she wanted a career in television and worked hard to achieve it. Her slow rise to the top was outlined, including all of her successes and failures and the men who came and went from her life. Once she got her nationally syndicated television show, the book focused on every high and low Oprah and gone through since then. From struggling with her weight, to the trial in Texas against beef producers, to her dreams of being an actress being in The Color Purple and Beloved, to her charitable donations and her school in South Africa, to the public flogging of author James Frey and her support of Barack Obama, the book covered it all.
The part that I found the most interesting was the inside look in to Oprah’s personal life. She grew up with very low self esteem, never feeling beautiful and feeling insecure because of her dark skin. Her relationship with Stedman was a big part of the book and came to the conclusion that they’re life partners, but their relationship is not romantic. The author implies that Stedman is there to make Oprah seem normal to society, that she has a man even though she’s not married and has no children. Her relationship was Gayle King was also discussed. The author does not say that Oprah is a lesbian, she just shows how close Oprah and Gayle are and that they seem to spend more time together than Oprah spends with Stedman. Oprah’s sexuality is something that no one will ever really know and it doesn’t matter. It’s clear that she has a strong group of people who support her.
Of course, the book talked about the not so nice side of Oprah that the public never sees. She makes all employees sign a confidentiality agreement, banning them from ever taking about her. She seems to cut people out of her life without any notice and holds grudges against celebrities who she feels have offended her like Steven Spielberg and David Letterman. She seems like a very guarded person who has full control over how she’s portrayed in the media.
I thought the book would be very biased and would sound like Kelley was bashing Oprah, but I found the book to be balanced. There were a few mean spirited lines, but it seemed to me like Kelley admired Oprah and tried to show a non biased view of her life.
What I came away with from this book was the undeniable drive that Oprah has had since she was a child. She had a vision for her life and did not let anyone or anything stop her. She would say to people, “I’m going to be rich and famous someday.” There was no question in her mind. She wanted it and she was going to make it happen. And she did. That in itself is admirable. Oprah is an example to everyone who has a dream that if you work hard enough, it can happen. For that, she will always be an inspiration to me.
If you want an inside look in to Oprah’s life, pick up this book. It was an easy, fast, enjoyable read. I’m not usually in to biographies but this one kept me hooked until the very end.