The day has finally come when Oprah puts down her microphone and her loyal watchers are left scrambling on how we’re ever going to fill our 3 o’clock hour. I am 27 years old, which means that I’ve grown up with Oprah over the years, she was always on at our home and as I’ve grown up, I found myself saying numerous times, “Did you see Oprah last night?” I remember it all… pulling her fat out onto the stage in a wagon, the first book club pick, Tom jumping on the couch… It’s going to be hard to watch the final episode this afternoon without a box of kleenex nearby.
Kitty Kelley, an author famously known for digging up dirt on celebrities and sharing it with the world chose to document Oprah’s life in 2010. Since April of last year this book has been sitting on my shelf waiting to be read. I’ve put it off many times, but this past long weekend I thought it might be nice to read it and share my thoughts about Kelley’s unauthorized portrayal of the queen of media on Oprah’s last day of national broadcasting.
Let me start by saying that there is no avenue that Kelley doesn’t take when trying to find out who Oprah really is… she talks to anyone who’s had any kind of interaction with Oprah, a friend of a friend, someone who had a brief encounter with her, she even went to Gayle’s ex husband for any kind of information. Many shy away from Kelley, because Oprah has made anyone close to her (specifically her staff) sign confidentiality agreements, agreeing to keep all things ‘Oprah’ under wraps. However, that doesn’t stop Kelley from compiling a biography that is 544 pages in length. All things described in this book may or may not be fact, but Oprah loving fans will finally get an inside look at Oprah’s life. It’s ironic that we’ve spent 25 years watching her, yet we know so little about the “real” Oprah. This is what Kitty Kelley shares with her reader.
Kitty Kelley has two inside sources in the form of Oprah’s father Vernon Winfrey and her ‘Aunt’ Katharine’, Katharine Carr Ester’s, Oprah’s cousin. According to Kelley, there is a lot of resentment when it comes to Oprah (especially in regards to Katharine), they feel like she’s shamed their family by discussing her personal struggles while growing up. They also feel like Oprah’s new age attitude is fabricated and all for show. Both Vernon and Katharine (according to Kitty Kelley) state that Oprah doesn’t visit home and is often absent from family events. It must be noted that Oprah very rarely speaks of her family on her show, we all know who Gayle and Stedman are, but that’s about the extent of her family talk. We are all aware that she had a baby at 14, we know that she was raped by family members and close friends, so who can really blame her from not wanting to travel home.
There were many times in this book you can sense that Kitty Kelley is trying to share the dirt, the nitty-gritty on Oprah. Oprah’s been around for a long time and obviously she’s not a saint (although some would beg to differ, like my good friend Liz). Oprah may come off as arrogant at times, she may act like she’s holier than thou, but isn’t she? As much as Kelley is quick to share her indiscretions and slip ups, she also shares the amount of charitable work Oprah has done, building schools, promoting literature and teaching us all how to ‘live our best life’.
I’m admittedly a HUGE Oprah fan and I can guarantee you that tears will be shed this afternoon as she hangs up her hat and says her final farewell. Kitty Kelley’s book wasn’t an injustice to how I feel about Oprah, I think she’s done a lot of work trying to figure out why Oprah does the things she’s done, why she chooses to get behind certain things (literature, celebrities, politics, etc) and she’s done it in a tasteful and descriptive manner. I enjoyed reading this book leading up to the big ending… however, as many have said in their final messages to Oprah, this isn’t the end, it’s just the beginning.