After more than four decades in the spotlight, it could be argued that Oprah Winfrey is one of the most famous people on the planet. But for years, she’s been asked a very similar question about her personal life, namely why she never had kids. So on that note, the superstar gave a definitive answer in October 2019.
Throughout Winfrey’s impressive career in the entertainment industry, she’s proven her versatility. Indeed, following a spell as a news reporter in her younger years, she then branched out to host what would become her own talk show. From there, the rising star also tested her skills as an actress in the mid-1980s.
As time went on, Winfrey established herself as one of the biggest names in television, using that influence to pursue some philanthropic efforts, too. She’s now a billionaire as a result of that work. And outside of her career, her personal life is in a good place as well, as the media mogul is in a long-term relationship.
Back in 1986 Winfrey was introduced to a man named Stedman Graham, and the pair became couple soon after. Since then, they’ve remained together for over 30 years, but a question has continued to hang over them about their decision to not have children. Keeping that in mind, the media mogul finally came clean during an interview with People magazine.
Born in January 1954, Winfrey grew up in the Mississippi town of Kosciusko, alongside her grandma, Hattie May Lee. Her mom, Vernita Lee, left the city a short time after welcoming her daughter into the world, to move further north. And as for the youngster’s dad, Vernon Winfrey was serving in the military at the time of her birth.
Unfortunately for Winfrey, the first few years of her life proved to be quite challenging. For you see, her grandmother didn’t have much money, to the point where she couldn’t even afford new clothes for the future superstar. As a result, the little girl was regularly dressed in garments made from old potato sacks.
Despite those financial issues, though, Winfrey’s grandma was very supportive of her, teaching the little girl to read at a very young age. In addition to that, they often visited the nearby church, with the the youngster memorizing certain passages from the Bible. However, everything changed when she turned six years old.
At that point, Winfrey packed her bags for Milwaukee, Wisconsin, as she joined her mom, who worked as a housemaid during that period. Due to the workload she faced, Lee didn’t support her daughter in the same manner that her own mother had. And on top of that, she also welcomed another child into the family, Patricia.
Not long after that, Winfrey was on the move again, with Lee finding it tough to look after two young girls. She was subsequently taken in by her dad in the Tennessee town of Nashville, before going back to her mom a short time later. From there, the future TV star then endured an incredibly difficult period in her life.
When Winfrey turned nine, she was sexually abused by both her uncle and cousin. In addition, a friend of the family also molested her. With those horrific experiences still fresh in her mind, she went on to run away from her house as a teenager. But the troubling times didn’t end there.
Around a year on from that, Winfrey discovered she was pregnant, eventually giving birth to a little boy. Tragically, though, the premature baby passed away a short time later. This led to another tough phase in the teenager’s life, as she started to clash with her mother over a number of issues.
In the end, Lee had enough and sent Winfrey back to Nashville, where she moved in with her dad again. Things started to get better at that stage, however, with the teenager enjoying a productive spell at East Nashville High School. Off the back of that, she then enrolled at Tennessee State University.
But while Winfrey’s education was clearly important to her, she started to look ahead to the future at that time. As a student, she earned her first job in the media when a radio station named WVOL recruited her. And as we’re about to find out, that wasn’t the only opportunity that came her way.
Indeed, after gaining some experience at the station, Winfrey went on to earn a position at WLAC-TV in Nashville. There, she worked as a news anchor. Following that, the rising star packed her bags for Baltimore, Maryland, to take on a job with a local TV station in 1976. Yet her big break wouldn’t come until the 1980s.
Winfrey moved to Chicago, Illinois, in 1983 when she was offered the chance to host a program called AM Chicago. Thanks to her, the talk show shot up in popularity over the course of just a few months, leading to a pivotal moment. For you see, a few years later, the program was re-branded as The Oprah Winfrey Show in 1986.
After that, Winfrey went on to become a household name in the United States, but she didn’t stop there. In addition to fronting the talk show, she also scored her first major film role in 1985’s The Color Purple. So good was her performance, it earned her an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress the following year.
Winfrey’s personal life also took a promising turn in 1986. That year, she crossed paths with Stedman Graham for the first time at a charity function. Before long, they started dating, much to the concern of some of the TV star’s staff. In their mind, they didn’t know what to make of the male model back then.
Speaking to People magazine in November 1992, Winfrey said, “They figured if [Graham] looked like that, he either had to be a jerk or want something. [But] he’s kind and supportive. Lots of people want to ride with you in the limo. But you want someone who’ll help you catch the bus.”
For the next six years, Winfrey and Graham’s relationship continued to blossom, ahead of a significant moment in both their lives. In 1992, the latter proposed to the chat show host outside of her house in Indiana. As for the wedding itself, the couple looked to book a date the following year.
However, the wedding ceremony didn’t happen in the end, with Winfrey and Graham deciding to keep things as they were. But in the years since then, rumors have been circulating that the couple did in fact tie the knot at some point. So in 2016, the media mogul tried to shut down the speculation on social media.
Winfrey wrote on Twitter, “Six people who know me well have called today, congratulating me or surprised they weren’t invited to my wedding. IT’S NOT TRUE!” Then, around 12 months later, she revealed a bit more about why they didn’t go through with it. According to the superstar, it was simply never brought up again after the proposal.
“Nobody believes it, but it’s true,” Winfrey told Vogue magazine in August 2017. “The only time I brought it up was when I said to Stedman, ‘What would have happened if we had actually gotten married?’ And the answer is, ‘We wouldn’t be together.’” Her thoughts on the matter didn’t conclude there, though.
Winfrey added, “We would not have stayed together, because marriage requires a different way of being in this world. [Graham’s] interpretation of what it means to be a husband and what it would mean for me to be a wife would have been pretty traditional. And I would not have been able to fit into that.”
As for Winfrey’s career, it continued to scale new heights throughout the 1990s, leading to an exciting opportunity. In 1998, the media mogul started her own charity, Oprah’s Angel Network, which has brought in over $80 million during the 12 years it was active. But that wasn’t her only philanthropic effort, as we’re about to discover.
Some four years after establishing Oprah’s Angel Network, Winfrey opened up a special school in South Africa in 2002. The facility was dubbed the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls, a boarding school for students up to the 12th grade. With that in mind, she reflected on that decision during an interview with Good Housekeeping magazine.
“I have 172 girls. And 20 are in college in the United States and use my home as their home base,” Winfrey told the publication in February 2017. “It is more rewarding than I would ever have imagined. I was doing this to help them, but it has brought a light to my life that I can’t explain.”
Following that revelation, Winfrey touched upon a subject that has been brought up countless times throughout the years. Since losing her son as a teenager, the superstar hasn’t had any other children. To help explain why, she opened up a bit more while talking to Good Housekeeping magazine back in 2017.
Winfrey continued, “I didn’t want babies. I wouldn’t have been a good mom for babies. I don’t have the patience. I have the patience for puppies, but that’s a quick stage! When people were pressuring me to get married and have children, I knew I was not going to be a person that ever regretted not having them.”
“Because I feel like I am a mother to the world’s children,” Winfrey added. “Love knows no boundaries. It doesn’t matter if a child came from your womb or if you found that person at age two, ten or 20. If the love is real, the caring is pure and it comes from a good space, it works.”
Meanwhile, the topic came up again in March 2018 when Winfrey was a guest on Gwyneth Paltrow’s podcast. During their chat, the pair talked about motherhood, with the Mississippi native claiming that she didn’t have the right skills for it. But that’s not all, though, as she went on to explain.
During the podcast, Winfrey admitted to the actress, “I don’t think I would have been a good mother for baby children, because I need you to talk to me, and I need you to tell me what’s wrong. I can’t just figure it out. And I was always – I knew this about myself.” But that’s not to say that the media star doesn’t like children full stop.
“I was always better with kids once they turned two-and-a-half, three,” Winfrey concluded. “I had a real resonance with them. Gayle [King, her best friend] was like, ‘Don’t you love babies?’ I was like, ‘Oh, babies are fine.’ It didn’t feel like it was for me.” Yet this wouldn’t be the last time that she touched upon the matter.
In October 2019, Winfrey sat down for another in depth interview with People magazine. During that particular discussion, the TV superstar spoke about parenthood and her continuing relationship with partner, Graham. By the end of the conversation, it felt like her answers were truly definitive regarding the two hot topics.
“At one point in Chicago I had bought an additional apartment,” Winfrey said, referring to her engagement with Graham. “Because I was thinking, ‘Well, if we get married, I’m going to need room for children.’ [But I saw] the depth of responsibility and sacrifice that is actually required to be a mother [on my show].”
On that note, Winfrey made an interesting admission. She continued, “I realized, ‘Whoa, I’m talking to a lot of messed-up people, and they are messed up because they had mothers and fathers who were not aware of how serious that job is.’ I don’t have the ability to compartmentalize the way I see other women do.”
Regarding that latter point, Winfrey went on to say, “It is why, throughout my years, I have had the highest regard for women who choose to be at home [with] their kids. Because I don’t know how you do that all day long. Nobody gives women the credit they deserve.”
From there, Winfrey then shared some more information about her mindset a few years ago. Referring back to her previous statement, she revealed that she struggled to picture herself as a mother due to her workload. Alongside that, the Oscar nominee also suggested that a marriage wouldn’t have survived it either.
Winfrey told People magazine, “I used to think about this all the time, that I was working these 17-hour days, and so were my producers. And then I go home and I have my two dogs and I have Stedman, who’s letting me be who I need to be in the world. He’s never demanding anything from me like, ‘Where’s my breakfast? Where’s my dinner?’
At that stage, Winfrey reiterated what she told Vogue magazine in 2017, believing that she and Graham wouldn’t be together now if they’d tied the knot. Then, off the back of that, the philanthropist made one final point. To sum up her thoughts, she explained why she’s happy with the way things are today.
Winfrey added, “I have not had one regret about that. I also believe that part of the reason why I don’t have regrets is because I got to fulfill it in the way that was best for me. The Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls in South Africa. Those girls fill that maternal fold that I perhaps would have had. In fact, they overfill [it].”