OPRAH’S PAINFUL YEARS
Oprah Winfrey has made billions sharing her thoughts and opinions with the world – her favorite things, her favorite books, her adoration of her half-dozen dogs and her relationship with her best friend, Gayle, to name a few.
But one subject has always been off limits: Winfrey’s own family.
Mother’s Day came and went with Winfrey devoting an hourlong show to moms – Maria Shriver’s, Demi Moore’s and Vanessa Williams’ among others – without one mention of her own.
Now, as Father’s Day approaches, Winfrey has discovered that her dad has reportedly been writing a tell-all about her.
Winfrey has been betrayed before by family members willing to shred her privacy for a quick buck – including a now-dead half-sister who sold the story of Winfrey’s teen pregnancy to a tabloid for $19,000.
Winfrey’s rise to fame is an astonishing rags-to-riches story.
“She has fascinated me for many years,” Kitty Kelley said when she announced in December that she would write an unauthorized biography on the high priestess of daytime talk, the nation’s first African-American billionairess.
Kelley has vowed to deliver news on the woman most Americans view as an open book. But those details that have already been made public are shocking enough.
Winfrey was born in 1954 to Vernita Lee and Vernon Winfrey, who had a brief fling but never married. She was initially raised on the Mississippi pig farm of her maternal grandmother, Hattie Mae Lee.
Amenities like running water and electricity were scarce, but there was plenty of space, something the driven 6-year-old girl desperately missed when she was sent to Milwaukee to join her mom and half-siblings, Patricia and Jeffrey, in their cramped apartment.
In that neglectful environment, as her mom juggled odd jobs and went on and off welfare, Oprah had no defense against a sly sexual predator – a 19-year-old cousin who raped her. She would also fall prey to a deviant uncle and a twisted family friend numerous times over the next few years.
The trauma turned her into a rebellious teen who lashed out at her mother and everyone around her except her teachers. Somehow, Winfrey excelled in school, partly through the love of reading she learned early in life. She skipped two grades and secured a scholarship to prestigious Nicolet HS in the wealthy suburb of Glendale.
But her spirit was crumbling under the strain, and she often chose to roam the streets rather than go home. By her own admission, she was a “promiscuous” and “wild” young girl.
At 14, she became pregnant and was packed off to her father’s house in Tennessee. Had she stayed with her mom, she would have languished in a juvenile hall for wayward teens.
“I was so ashamed, I hid the pregnancy until my swollen ankles and belly gave me away. The baby died in the hospital weeks later,” Oprah wrote in February for an article on “firsts” in her magazine, O.
“I went back to school and told no one. My fear was that if I were found out, I would be expelled,” she says. “Even when I found the courage to publicly reveal the [sexual] abuse, I still carried the shame and kept the pregnancy a secret.”
When she learned her sister had blabbed about the incident, Oprah told a reporter at the time, “I was shooting [the film] ‘Brewster Place,’ and I got through the shoot, and I went home and got in the bed and cried.”
Last November, while interviewing a teen who had become pregnant, Oprah told her: “I was raped at 9 and sexually abused from the time I was 10 to 14. At 14 years old, I became pregnant.
“I was taken to the hospital, and the doctors said, ‘Are you pregnant?’ I didn’t even know what pregnancy was. I’d been abused all this time, but I really wasn’t even sure that the outcome was you have a baby. So I confessed that I had been having sex with people who had been abusing me for years. The stress of that confession caused me to go into labor, and the baby died.”
Oprah credits her strict father, a former military man, for her strong work ethic and sense of discipline. After her 2-week-old baby died, Oprah disassociated herself from the past and never looked back.
Oprah said her father told her, “What you have done is the past, and you alone get to determine what your future will be.”
Winfrey went on to win the 1971 Miss Fire Prevention and Miss Black Tennessee titles before majoring in media and hitting the radio and TV talk-show scene.
Until worldwide fame made her a target, only two people – best friend Gayle King and constant romantic companion Stedman Graham – were privy to her inner demons.
Winfrey has also spoken of a bout with drugs in her 20s. But her “wild child” teen years are still mostly a mystery – and the book proposal that dad Vernon circulated among agents without Oprah’s knowledge strongly suggests there is more to reveal.
Her mother “said she stayed out all times of night, said she made herself known to boys,” he writes in the outline for the tentatively titled “Things Unspoken.”
“But it was worse than I realized,” he continues. “She had secrets. Dark secrets. Some I didn’t discover till she was a grown woman, till it was too late.”
Vernon hints at a confrontation between him and his then-14-year-old daughter at the kitchen table in his proposal, and owns up to the fact that his fractured relationship with her mom, Vernita Lee, made for a derelict childhood.
“The damage was our fault, her mother’s and mine,” he confesses. “For years we had shuttled our daughter between my home in Nashville and her mother’s home in Milwaukee. That was a mistake.”
Oprah reacted bitterly when news of her 74-year-old dad’s betrayal surfaced, saying she was shocked and stunned to learn he had been penning a memoir.
Vernon, reached last week at the Nashville barbershop he still owns and runs, wouldn’t confirm reports that he had backed off his book after being confronted by an angry Oprah.
“Well, lately I’ve just thought it best to say, ‘No comment,’ ” he drawled politely.
Whatever their problems in the past, Oprah has done right by her parents. They were among the first to benefit when her career began its meteoric rise in 1986, starting with a Best Supporting Actress nomination for her role as Sofia in “The Color Purple,” and the national launch of “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” a retooled version of her local talk show, “A.M. Chicago.”
“The Oprah Winfrey Show’s” profits skyrocketed to $125 million in just 12 months, earning her the unprecedented salary of $30 million, a massive jump from the $200,000-per-year contract she had signed just two years before.
With plenty of cash in the bank, Vernita retired from her job as a hospital dietitian and moved to a luxurious lakefront condo in Milwaukee with $5,000-a-month for life from Winfrey.
Vernon, who asked only for a new set of truck tires, a new TV for his barbershop and a ticket to a Mike Tyson fight in Las Vegas, got everything he wanted, plus 10 scholarships endowed in his name at Oprah’s alma mater, Tennessee State University.
But success also resurrected sibling rifts from the family’s painful past.
In 1990, Oprah suffered what she would later call “her first betrayal,” when half-sister Patricia Lee-Lloyd approached a national tabloid and, according to Oprah, “sat in a room, told them the story of my hidden shame – and left their offices $19,000 richer.”
The one detail about the pregnancy that has never been publicly revealed is the identity of the baby’s father.
It’s not clear whether anyone knows the answer. By all accounts, the baby came at an exceptionally troubled point in her life.
Aside from half-sister Patricia, who died of causes believed to be drug related in 2003, Oprah also struggled to forge a relationship with her half-brother, Jeffrey, who died of AIDS in 1989. Jeffrey never sold any secrets to the tabloids, but he openly accused her of not supporting him financially because she didn’t approve of his gay lifestyle.
A man named Randolph Cook also claimed to be a part of Oprah’s painful past, saying the two shacked up together in 1985 and enjoyed a torrid affair that included drug use, mostly cocaine. He unsuccessfully sued Oprah for $20 million in 1997, alleging that she was blocking publication of his confessional tome. Oprah never went on record about what relationship, if any, she had with Cook, but copped to using cocaine briefly in her 20s during a 1995 taping of her show.
More recently, she has had to deal with Kiefer Bonvillian, 36, who allegedly made a secret recording of an Oprah employee talking trash about her boss, and then threatened to use it in a book unless he was paid $1.5 million. The federal government filed extortion charges against him, but they didn’t hold up in an Illinois court.
|Orpah Gail Winfrey|
|Birthplace||Kosciusko, Mississippi, U.S.|
Former Host of The Oprah Winfrey Show Chairwoman and CEO of Harpo Productions Chairwoman, CEO, and CCO of the Oprah Winfrey Network
Winfrey, Oprah,1954–, African-American television host, actress, and media magnate, b. Kosciusko, Miss., as Orpah Gail Winfrey, grad. Tennessee State Univ. (1976). She began her career as a Nashville radio reporter at age 17, worked in television news at 19, and moved (1976) to Baltimore to coanchor a news show. In 1977 she became cohost of a Baltimore morning chat show and in 1984 settled in Chicago to host another talk show. Her charm, easy manner, warmth, gift of gab, and unpretentious style earned the program an enthusiastic audience and soaring ratings. Soon the most popular local talk show, it was syndicated nationally in 1986, becoming the highest-rated such program, and ended only in 2011. Also a talented actress, Winfrey made her motion-picture debut in Steven SpielbergSpielberg, Steven,
1946–, American film director, b. Cincinnati, Ohio. Spielberg began his career as a television director, admired for his understanding portrayal of human character.
.....Click the link for more information.'s The Color Purple (1985), and a variety of other movie and television roles followed.
Winfrey subsequently built a media empire. In 1988 she established Harpo Studios, a production company responsible for numerous telefilms and movies, e.g., Beloved (1998, in which she starred). In an effort to promote reading, she founded (1996) Oprah's Book Club, which recommended books to her talk-show viewers and has produced spectacular best sellers, making her a force in American publishing. In 1999 she established Oxygen Media, which produces women's programs on cable television and the Internet, and in 2000 she joined with the Hearst Corp. in creating O: The Oprah Magazine, a monthly women's lifestyle publication. In a joint venture with the Discovery channels, she launched her own network, OWN (the Oprah Winfrey Network), in 2011. One of the country's wealthiest women (her estimated worth in the early 2000s was well over $1 billion), Winfrey is also an active philanthropist with a particular interest in women's and children's issues and education.
See B. Adler, ed., The Uncommon Wisdom of Oprah Winfrey: A Portrait in Her Own Words (1997); biographies by H. S. Garson (2004) and K. Kelley (2010); study by E. Illouz (2003).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2013, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved. www.cc.columbia.edu/cu/cup/
Winfrey, Oprah (Gail)(1954– ) television talk show host; born in Kosciusko, Miss. A television coanchor while in college, she cohosted Baltimore is Talking (1977–84). Taking over ABC's A.M. Chicago in 1984, she surpassed veteran Phil Donahue with her confessional style talk show, syndicated as the Oprah Winfrey Show (1986). She received an Academy Award nomination for her role in The Color Purple (1985). Intensely energetic and immensely rich, she founded her own production company, allowing herself to do movies and television shows she personally believed in.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.
When did Patricia Lee Lloyd die?
19 February 2003
Did Oprah Winfrey buy her sister a house?
Winfrey kept it in the family this time as E! News reports that she purchased a home in Wisconsin for her half-sister, Patricia Lofton. The media maven reportedly bought a $490,000 four-bedroom, three-bathroom home for Lofton and has set up a monthly allowance so she can focus on her goals.
Does Oprah see her half-sister?
It was a Beloved moment, if you know what I mean: the daughter who comes back from the dead.” Since meeting her half-sister, Patricia, and her new niece and nephew, Oprah says she’s come to admire their character.
How did Oprah get pregnant?
On an Awards Chatter podcast, Winfrey tells The Hollywood Reporter that being molested by relatives and later getting pregnant at 14 (through rape by her uncle), led her to seriously consider suicide. “I hit rock-bottom,” says Winfrey of her time growing up with her mother in Milwaukee.
Who are Oprah Winfrey’s parents?
Who is Oprah’s sister?
Does Oprah own own?
Winfrey continues to serve as CEO and chief creative officer of OWN, though she now owns only a 5 percent stake in it. “Oprah Winfrey has voting and dispositive power over the shares of Series A Common Stock owned by Harpo,” of which she is the sole shareholder, it said in a regulatory filing.
How did Oprah help the world?
She also established the Oprah’s Angel Network Homes Registry to help victims fill their homes with items lost in the storm. In less than two months, Winfrey’s viewers donated more than $5 million in charitable gifts to the registry. By May 2006, donations totaled more than $10.5 million.
What was Oprah’s motivation?
She saw early on that Oprah had a passion and skill for public speaking and encouraged it. But more importantly than that, Oprah’s grandmother supported that young woman so thoroughly that she helped cultivate a positive sense of self-worth. She believed in Oprah, which allowed Oprah to believe in herself.
What was Oprah’s vision?
In fact, the purpose of Oprah’s 2020 Vision: Your Life in Focus Tour is to inspire us to find the “highest and truest expression of ourselves.” Oprah Winfrey: “We all want the same thing. The core of me is the same as the core of you.”
What was Oprah’s dream?
When Oprah Winfrey was growing up, she had big dreams. She would tell her father, “I am going to live in a house on a hill,” or, “I am going to have a million dollars.” But Winfrey quickly learned, “the dream I had for myself couldn’t compare to the dream that life had for me.
What is Oprah’s motto?
The next right decision
What traits made Oprah Winfrey successful?
The 10 Traits That Every Entrepreneur Can Take From Oprah
- Genuine. She’s the real deal.
- Relevant. Oprah has always stayed relevant.
- Motivational. She is one of the most inspirational and motivational people of our time.
- Passionate. Oprah’s passion is displayed in all of her accomplishments.
- Not a quitter.
- Follow Your Gut.
- Take risks.
- Love what you do.
What traits does Oprah Winfrey have?
These top three personality traits of Oprah are easy for us to adopt as well:
- Personality Trait 1: She works hard.
- Personality Trait 2: She’s not afraid of change.
- Personality Trait 3: She spends her money wisely.
How does Oprah Winfrey influence others?
Oprah is a Positive Impact Maker, who inspires others through her experience and her being, who empowers and supports others through her giving, who passionately shares who she is and what she does with the world, and who believes in the power of authenticity of the human-being and in the unity of the people for a …
Why is Oprah Winfrey so successful?
She wanted control over media representations of her character, her appearance and her life story. The most important factors behind Oprah’s success were these: From a very early age, she had the irrepressible will to become rich and famous—and she was convinced that she would achieve her goals.
What kind of dogs does Oprah Winfrey have?
What carries the most meaning for ? Her five dogs: golden retrievers Luke and Layla, cocker spaniel Sadie, and springer spaniels Sunny and Lauren.
Details behind the Deaths of Oprah Winfrey's Half-Siblings
Oprah Winfrey's life, despite her successful career on television, has been marred by tragedies, including the death of two of her half-siblings. Unfortunately, the way their life ended is quite heartbreaking.
Oprah Winfrey is one of the most successful TV personalities in the world today, but unfortunately, wealth does not stop death or prevent heartache.
HOW OPRAH LOST HER HALF-SIBLINGS
Growing up, Winfrey had two half siblings — brother, Jeffery Lee, and sister, Patricia Lloyd Lee — whom she was not very close to although they shared the same mother, Vernita Lee.
In 1989, Jeffrey passed away at the young age of 29 at his birthplace of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Before his demise, he was diagnosed with AIDS, and at his death, he had only his mother, Vernita, and his partner with him.
Years after the terrible loss, in 2003, Winfrey and her mother suffered another painful loss when the TV host's younger sister, Patricia passed away. Patricia who was a drug addict's death was ruled as drug-related.
LIFE HAD A SURPRISE FOR WINFREY
With the loss of both of her siblings, the billionaire daytime host became an only child; however, life had a surprise for her. Seven years after Patricia died in November 2010, Winfrey discovered that she had another half-sibling, Patricia Amanda Faye Lee.
During a special segment on OWN in 2011, the sisters detailed how they got back together. The new sibling was given up for adoption by Vernita in 1963 and when she clocked 20, she began to search for her family.
The best part of the sisters' reuniting, as revealed by Oprah, was that the new Patricia shared an uncanny resemblance and mannerism with her deceased namesake.
It was like getting an improved version of her deceased sister. The award-winning TV host was equally impressed with the fact that her new sibling did not sell out the story to the press.
Having gone through betrayals from family members who shared details of her life with the press, Winfrey saw Patricia as a breath of fresh air, and after all she's endured in the past, it was exciting to have a sibling who was not out to extort her.
Winfrey has gone through a lot in her life; so much that it inspired Kitty Kelly to write the unauthorized autobiography, "Oprah."
Despite the good and bad experiences, the TV host forges ahead with the words, "What you have done is past, and only you get to decide what your future will be."
Lloyd patricia lee
Oprah Reunites with Her Biological Half-Sister
For the most part, Oprah's life has been an open book. "I think I've seen just about everything and heard every story," she says. "I thought nothing could surprise me anymore. But let me tell you, I was wrong."
Just before Thanksgiving 2010, Oprah received some news about her family that she says shook her to her core. "[It's] a bombshell family secret that left me speechless," she says. "Only a handful of people in my life know about this."
Oprah Winfrey's biological half-sister, Patricia Lloyd
With the way the media works today, Oprah says there's no way the story wouldn't eventually get out, so she and her family made the decision to do this show. "I wanted you to hear it from me first," she says. It all starts with one woman's story...a mother from Milwaukee who discovered she's Oprah's half-sister.
Patricia Lloyd was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on April 26, 1963. From the moment she came into the world, Patricia's life was far from easy. "I was put up for adoption at birth, and I was left in the hospital for about a month," Patricia says.
For the next seven years of Patricia's life, she bounced around from one foster home to another before finally being adopted. All this time, she says she longed to be reunited with her birth mother. "I had some disbelief that she didn't mean to put me up for adoption. I just would always wish that my birth mother was going to come back and get me," Patricia says. "Then, as you get older, you know that that's not going to happen."
Oprah's half-sister, Patricia Lloyd, with her daughter Aquarius and son Andre
When Patricia was 17 years old, she gave birth to a daughter, Aquarius, and six years later, she had a son, Andre. "I had my daughter very young, and my whole goal with wanting to have my daughter is to have a part of me--to be able to look at her and see a part of me," Patricia says.
Patricia spent the next 30 years raising her children on her own. Even today, she works two jobs so she can give her children a better life. "What I'm grateful for is the people who I've had in my life and the people who have given me strength and the people who have loved me," she says. "I don't regret the fact that my mother gave me up because that's not the way my life was supposed to go. This is."
When Patricia was 20 years old, she contacted the State of Wisconsin to find her birth mother but never followed up. Then, in 2007, Patricia's children urged her to give it another try. Patricia requested her adoption records and started the search for her biological family.
Patricia Lloyd is the biological half-sister of Oprah Winfrey
Soon after, Patricia received her birth records in the mail. "I was like, 'Oh, my God,'" she says. "I have a family." The documents dated back to 1963, the year Patricia was born. Although the names of her family members were not revealed, the documents did include key information. "I found out that I had three other siblings," Patricia says. At the time of her birth, she had a sister who was 4 1/2 years old, a brother who was 2 and a 9-year-old sister, who lived with her father in Nashville.
The records also showed that two of her siblings--her second oldest sister and brother--had since passed away, but her other sister was still alive. "[I thought,] 'I can't wait to meet her because she's probably down there cooking up a storm and has about 10 kids,'" Patricia says.
But, one month later, Patricia received a heartbreaking phone call from the state's adoption agency. "[The caller] was telling me that my birth mother had called her back, and she had made the decision at that particular time that she did not want to see me," Patricia says. "I said, 'That's okay because God is going to let me know who you are.'"
The same day Patricia got rejected by her birth mother, she saw a story on the local news in Milwaukee that would give her some answers. "She had the TV on the news, and they were doing an interview with Vernita, Oprah Winfrey's mother," Andre, Patricia's son, says.
During that interview, Oprah's mother revealed details about Oprah's two half-siblings who had died. That information matched details in Patricia's birth documents. "Her mother said two of her children had passed away ... I knew that two of my siblings had passed away, and I knew which two," Patricia says. Their names? Jeffrey and Patricia, also known as "Pat." "The hairs on the back of my neck stood up, because I also knew that one of my siblings and I shared the same name," Patricia says. "I said, 'No, that can't be.'"
Oprah's nephew, Andre, is the son of Oprah's half-sister
All the details were lining up. Andre put the last piece of the puzzle together. "I went online and found a bio of Oprah Winfrey and saw the birth dates of when her mom was born and when her siblings were born," he says. With that information, Andre and his mother realized that Oprah might be Patricia Lloyd's half-sister.
Could this be? "Yes, it is true," Oprah says. "It is true that my mother, Vernita, is also Patricia's birth mother, which means Patricia is my half-sister, who I never knew existed."
It was 2007 when Patricia pieced together her family history, but she says she had no idea what to do with the information. Keep in mind, Vernita never told her other three children she had given a baby up for adoption.
Patricia tried to reach out to Vernita three times, but Vernita said she wasn't ready to meet her. "I was very hurt," Patricia says. "I just had to let it go."
Despite feeling rejected by her birth mother, Patricia decided to keep her findings a secret, fearing that it would become a media frenzy. "I remember just still worrying about my older sister and just praying to God that nothing gets out," Patricia says. "I did not want her hurt."
Alisha Hayes is the daughter of Oprah's deceased sister Pat, and owns Pat's Rib Place in Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Patricia wasn't quite sure what to do next, but then, she saw a magazine article about Oprah's niece, Alisha, the daughter of Oprah's deceased sister Pat. Alisha and her husband own a Milwaukee-area restaurant called Pat's Rib Place, which is named after her mother who died in 2003. Patricia decided to go to the restaurant and meet Alisha.
When she arrived, she saw photos of Pat on the restaurant's walls and was overwhelmed by how closely she resembled Pat. "I am your mother's sister," Patricia said to Alisha. "At that time, I think she believed me, but she didn't understand, because she got very emotional."
Alisha says she stared at Patricia, stunned at how much she looked like her mother. It was then that Patricia showed Alisha the documents that detailed her biological family's history. Alisha's husband, Tydus, was suspicious at first. "I'm thinking in my head that, you know, this could be any crackpot out here just claiming to just be related to Oprah," he says.
Then, he met Patricia and saw the resemblance to his deceased mother-in-law, Pat. "It was the way she spoke; it was the way she moved her hands; it was the expression that she made," Tydus says. "It was her laughter. It was her excitement, her joy." Tydus says he broke down and began to cry.
"[There was] just something about her," Alisha says. "It just felt right."
Even though Alisha's instincts told her Patricia was her aunt, she says she wanted to be 100 percent sure. One week later, Patricia and Alisha took a DNA test. The results say there is an 85 percent positive match, and because they are niece and aunt, there's little doubt that they are related.
Oprah Winfrey shares her family's secret of the half-sister she never knew about due to Patricia being placed for adoption
For months, members of Oprah's family knew about Patricia, but no one told Oprah. "I had no idea that my mother had given up a baby in 1963," Oprah says. "I was 9 years old at the time, living with my father in Nashville, and didn't even know my mother was pregnant ... So imagine my shock just a few months ago. It was the end of October, right before Thanksgiving, [when] I found out that I have another sister living just 90 minutes away in Milwaukee. What's even more unbelievable is that she has the same name as my first sister who passed away, Patricia."
It was Alisha who first emailed Oprah. Then Alisha's sister, Chrishaunda, sent another email. Oprah says she called both of her nieces, and they told Oprah she needed to talk to her mother, Vernita. But when Oprah spoke to her mother, she says Vernita didn't mention Patricia. After calls back and forth to more family members, Oprah finally asked her assistant, Libby, to tell her what was going on.
Just 10 minutes before a show taping was about to begin, Libby told Oprah she has a sister. Oprah called her mother and confronted her. "[I asked,] 'Is this true?'" Oprah says. "[Vernita] finally said, 'Well, yes, I think it's true.'"
Separated by adoption Oprah Winfrey reunites with her half sister Patricia
On Thanksgiving Day, Oprah and Stedman drove to Milwaukee to meet her half-sister, Patricia, and Patricia's family for the first time. "You look just like Pat," Oprah said when she saw Patricia. They spent the rest of the afternoon sitting around the dinner table, getting to know each other.
In the car on their way back to Chicago, Oprah says she and Stedman didn't say a word for miles. "Finally, he turned to me and said, 'What was that?'" Oprah says. "It was so uncanny to us and to everybody in this family how much this Patricia looked like, moved like, talked like Pat. It was a Beloved moment, if you know what I mean: the daughter who comes back from the dead."
Separated by adoption Oprah Winfrey reunites with her half sister Patricia
Since meeting her half-sister, Patricia, and her new niece and nephew, Oprah says she's come to admire their character. "What is so remarkable to me about this story, and it's going make me cry, so just be patient," Oprah says to Patricia. "Since I have been a person known in the public, there have been few times that I've been anywhere and not been sold out. There have been few times where you can bring anybody new into your life and not have that person in some way betray you or use you or take advantage of you.
Patricia tried and tried and tried again to get responses from my mother and other people in the family. She never once thought to go to the press. She never once thought to sell this story. ... When I heard this about you, I said, 'Regardless if it's true or not true, I had to meet you because I wanted to meet somebody who had that kind of character.' So thank you."
A few weeks after Alisha and Patricia's DNA test, Patricia met her birth mother, Vernita, for the first time. "I just kept looking at her going, 'I don't know if I look like you or not,'" Patricia says. "I kept trying to find myself in her."
Oprah's nieces Alisha and Chrishaunda
But, there's no questioning how much Patricia looks like her half-sister Pat. Pat's daughter Alisha says meeting Patricia is "one of the best gifts I could have ever gotten."
Chrishaunda, Pat's other daughter, first heard about Patricia from Alisha, who then sent her a photo of their newfound aunt. "When I saw the picture ... I just knew that it was true," Chrishaunda says. "Before the [DNA] test, I just believed it was true."
For Chrishaunda, getting to know Patricia has been an emotional process. "I think that she has her own personality and her own gifts, but she, for me, is a constant reminder of the goodness that my mother represented, personified," she says. "My mother had a lot of demons that prevented her from being her best self. We know about that, but I feel like my mother speaks through her."
Oprah agrees. "It feels like [this is] closure for my sister Pat who passed," Oprah says. "My sister Pat, I did the best I could for her and many of you know, I had to put her through drug rehab twice, and when she came out, she just didn't survive it. It feels to me like [Patricia] is Pat on her very best day."
Oprah and half-sister Patricia, visit with biological mother Vernita Lee
In January 2011, Patricia and Oprah met up at Vernita's home in Milwaukee to get more answers from their mother. Vernita, who recently suffered a stroke, says she was shocked--but not afraid--when Patricia first tried to contact her. She was, however, struggling with feelings of shame. "I thought it was a terrible thing for me to do, that I had done, gave up2 my daughter when she was born," Vernita says.
The adoption records say Vernita gave up Patricia because she wanted to get off of welfare. "I made the decision to give her up because I wasn't able to take care of her," Vernita says. "So when I left the hospital, I told the nurse that I wasn't going to keep the baby. She said, 'Oh, but she's such a cute little girl. Why not?'"
After leaving the hospital, Vernita says she continued thinking about her baby and even went back looking for her. "They told me that she had left," she says. "I don't know if someone had adopted her or what."
Oprah and biological sister Patricia
Patricia is stunned by her mother's words. "I'm just trying to take it all in right now," she says. "I never heard that I was a pretty baby, so I didn't know. I always had a feeling that she didn't mean to give me up. Her saying that she came back to get me, it means a lot."
Now that Patricia is a part of Vernita's life again, Vernita says it makes her "feel wonderful."
After leaving Vernita's house, Oprah says she had an epiphany: Her mother is still stuck in 1963. "She is still of the same mindset of 1963 and is still carrying the shame that would have been put upon her in 1963, and therefore, she hasn't been able to release herself to fully embrace [Patricia] and embrace this miracle that has really happened in our family," Oprah says.
Oprah looks in the camera and speaks to her mother. "You can let that go. You can let the shame go," she says. "There are millions of people all over this country who are just like you, who have given up their children because they knew at the time that they could not provide the best for them. So, Vernita, you can let that go."
This wasn't Oprah's only epiphany. "When I was 14 years old, I became pregnant and that was my big secret," Oprah says. "I'd been abused since I was 9 years old, became pregnant at 14 years old, sent to live with my father. My sister, Pat, went to the tabloids and told the tabloids that story. That caused a big rift between my sister and I because she sold [me] out to the tabloids.
When I left our mother's house the other day, for the first time I realized that that was a gift to me. Pat, going to the tabloids and telling the story about my having the baby, was a gift because it released me from the shame that my mother still carries today. I thought, had she not done that, I would still be exactly where my mother is--stuck in the shame."
Oprah Winfrey's biological sister Patricia Lloyd
Despite the difficulties she faced, Patricia never gave up trying to contact her biological family. "I knew that I needed to get it out or get in touch with you so that no one else would put it out there," Patricia says.
When Oprah asks why, Patricia explains she didn't want to hurt Oprah. "It's not fair, number one, because it's family business," Patricia says. "And family business needs to be handled by family."
"Well, it is now out there," Oprah says.
"And it was handled by family," Patricia says. "It shouldn't be handled by anyone else. That's not fair. It wouldn't be fair to you."
Patricia says her children were interested in meeting her family too. "It made me realize if they were coming to me, asking me the same thing, 'Can you go look for your side of the family?', it started to make me think that they're not feeling complete," Patricia says. "I didn't think about that. I just thought it was just me. ... I said, 'Let me go into this for them.'"
Oprah Winfrey's biological sister Patricia's daughter Aquarius and son Andre
Now that Patricia's found her family, she says she feels connected, a sense of wholeness--even if her mother's reaction wasn't what she thought it would be. "That's okay," Patricia says. "I have my nephews and great nieces, and I have [Oprah]."
Patricia's daughter, Aquarius, says this whole experience has been eye-opening. "[It's] a miracle to know that we have a family, to know that we have someone that looks like us, to know that we have someone that may have the same mannerisms as we do," she says. "It's just amazing to know that we have another half."
Andre, Patricia's son, has been in awe, as well. "I felt really blessed to be a part of your life and just to be connected with you," he says to Oprah.
Patricia Lloyd joins her biological sister, Oprah Winfrey on The Oprah Show
What has been the most rewarding part of this experience? "Getting my family [back]," Patricia says.
For Oprah, who has helped many families reunite on The Oprah Show over the years, this is only the beginning of the journey.
"As you can imagine, Patricia and I are still sorting all of this out," Oprah says. "It's a process. She's so sweet. She would call me and say, 'Are you all right? I know this is hard for you to process.' Yes, it is. I'm still processing. So we're going to be getting to know each other in the months and days and years to come."
See Oprah's epiphany
Watch Oprah talk about connecting with Patricia, her biological half-sister
Oprah Winfrey's mother, Vernita Lee, died on Thanksgiving at 83
Oprah Winfrey's mother, Vernita Lee, died on Thanksgiving at her home in Milwaukee at the age of 83, her family confirmed in a news release to TODAY.
Lee, who was born on May 2, 1935, gave birth to Winfrey, 64, as a teenager in 1954 in Mississippi. She worked as a housemaid throughout her life, settling in Milwaukee when Oprah was 6 after moving from the South.
The television mogul is the oldest of Lee's four children. Winfrey's half sister, Patricia Lee Lloyd, and half brother, Jeffrey Lee, died in 2003 and 1989, respectively.
Lee is survived by Winfrey and daughter Patricia Amanda Faye Lee, whom she gave up for adoption at birth and reconnected with later in life. Lee is also survived by four grandchildren and a great grandchild.
Private funeral services have already been held, the family announced.
Oprah mourned Lee's passing on Instagram on Monday.
"Thank you all for your kind words and condolences regarding my mother Vernita Lee’s passing," the mogul wrote. "It gives our family great comfort knowing she lived a good life and is now at Peace."
Lee opened up about being Oprah's mother in a 2007 interview with Milwaukee television station WTMJ.
"I knew Oprah was going to be something,'' she said. "I loved her the way that she loves people now."
Lee noted that she was most proud of Oprah's work in the 1985 movie "The Color Purple,'' which earned 11 Oscar nominations.
Lee also spoke about enduring the death of two children.
"I’m a Christian lady, and if you’re a Christian person, it helps you to deal with situations like that," she said.
Winfrey does not have any children of her own, which she spoke about in an interview last year.
"I didn’t want babies," she said in an interview with Good Housekeeping UK. "I wouldn’t have been a good mom for babies. I don’t have the patience."
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Scott Stump is a New Jersey-based freelancer who has been a regular contributor for TODAY.com since 2011, producing news stories and features across the trending, pop culture, sports, parents, pets, health, style, food and TMRW verticals. He has tackled every assignment from interviewing astronauts on the International Space Station to prison inmates training service dogs for military veterans.
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Who are Oprah’s siblings?
ICONIC talk show host and media mogul Oprah Winfrey was not an only child.
Oprah, now 67, recently scored a major sit-down with Meghan Markle and Prince Harry.
Who are Oprah's siblings?
Patricia Lofton is Oprah's 57-year-old half-sister.
The siblings share the same mother - the late Vernita Lee - but have different fathers.
Lee gave up her daughter for adoption because she felt she had no other choice.
The sisters reunited on Oprah's talk show in 2011.
Oprah reportedly bought her little sister a $500,000 home in Wisconsin and took care of her financially so she could go back to school.
Lofton would graduate from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in 2017.
Patricia Lee Lloyd
Patricia Lee Lloyd, another half-sister of Oprah's who also shared her mother, passed away in 2003 at the age of 43.
She was survived be her husband Kenny Lloyd, Sr and her two daughters.
Lloyd lived in Milwaukee with her mother Vernita Lee, according to the Chicago Tribune obituary.
It was reported that she died of an accidental overdose.
Jeffrey Lee, Oprah's half-brother, died of AIDS at the young age of 29 in 1989.
Brother and sister had a difficult relationship, but Jeffrey had kind words for her when he was near death.
"Now that the end is getting close, I want Oprah to know that throughout our troubles, I still loved her and was proud of her," he said, according to the Sun Sentinel.
Oprah issued a statement following his death.
"For the last two years, my brother, Jeffrey Lee, had been living with AIDS," she said.
"My family, like thousands of others throughout the world, grieves not just for the death of one young man, but for the many unfulfilled dreams and accomplishments that society has been denied because of AIDS."