Over the years, while other celebs have dealt with a flurry of scandals, media mogul Oprah Winfrey has managed to stay above the fray. Though her weight struggles and relationships with her longtime partner Stedman Graham and best friend Gayle King have been fodder for the tabloids, few people from Oprah’s inner circle have spoken out…until now. Oprah’s former stepmother, Barbara Winfrey, recently gave a wide-ranging and provocative interview to gossip rag, The Daily Mail, and boy is it’s doozy.
According Winfrey—who married Oprah’s father in 2000, but is now divorced–the star is kicking her out of her home of the last 14 years. Winfrey tells the Daily Mail Oprah gave her a harsh ultimatum on 64th birthday in 2012: “You say I never talk to you? I want to talk to you now. You have until Monday to get out of MY house.”
Recently, Winfrey was served with an eviction notice and ordered to vacate the $1.4 million home Oprah bought for her father and his wife, but apparently, the home never actually belonged to the new couple. When Oprah moved her father into a new home after he filed for divorce, she allegedly told her stepmother to vacate the spacious home. She has until May 29 to move out.
“I have lost everything. It’s not just a house, this is my home. All my memories are here,” Winfrey told paper. “I’m trying to keep it together but there are some days I just don’t understand how I could have made her so angry that she would kick me out on the street and think nothing about it. But that’s Oprah – she’s judge and jury.”
Winfrey says she never had a real relationship with Oprah because the talk show diva looked down on her and her father.
Once when Winfrey and Oprah’s dad came to stay at her Chicago condo, Winfrey claimed the star yelled, “Negroes in the house. Negroes in the house.”
“She thought it was funny,” Winfrey recalled, “I thought it was insulting. I’m older than her. I know what it means. She was reminding us of our low class.”
She added: “You find out quickly where your place is with Oprah and you get in that place and you stay in that place. My crime, I think, was to talk to her like a normal person and she didn’t like that one bit.”
Before marrying Oprah’s father, Winfrey claims she was “interrogated” by the star and her best friend Gayle. Winfrey calls their legendary friendship “bizarre” and “unhealthy” and says it’s the reason neither woman is married. Winfrey says Oprah wants to control everything and everyone around her, which is how she ended up being thrown out of her house.
“Her brand is that she’s a nice, caring, generous, giving person. That’s not how it is. She’s controlling – it’s all about control,” Winfrey said. “She has confidentiality agreements with pretty much everybody in her life. She has them sign their life away and she has them in her pocket.”
Everyone except Winfrey, a former principal in Nashville, who refused to sign a confidentiality agreement in exchange for keeping her home and car as a part of the divorce settlement.
Winfrey’s scathing indictment of her former stepdaughter continued:
“Some people can have money and be mentally rich – secure in what they have I guess. But others, how can I put it…some people you can’t take the ghetto out of.
“That’s Oprah, it’s who she is and where she’s from. She had money, everybody was going to know it and see it. But she had to be in control.”
Vernon Winfrey, Oprah’s father filed for divorce after being caught cheating with a prostitute, a fact Winfrey thinks should have caused Oprah to treat her better than she claims she has. And of course, she blames Oprah for the couple’s split.
“If she was a more decent person she would realize that what her dad did was very wrong instead of plotting against me and pushing me out of the scene.”
The Daily Mail recounts how it all went south:
By her own admission Barbara struggled to cope with Vernon’s infidelity. She moved out of the marital bedroom but she was not, she insisted, looking to end her marriage.
She said, ‘I couldn’t be the wife he wanted me to be but I might have gotten over it.’
But Vernon, she said, was impatient and, frustrated, left the marital home that summer in a move that, as it turned out, proved final.
At the same time the couple were struggling to keep up with loan repayments on Barbara’s old house, where her daughter and grandchild were living. According to Barbara, rather than step in, Oprah advised her father to let the bank foreclose.
She explained, ‘She then bought the barbershop and my old house at cut price. Everyone thought she was swooping in to save the day. But she’d stood back and let that day happen.’
According to Barbara, ‘Vernon had been telling everyone he was unhappy with the marriage. He told Stedman and he told Oprah, so she came up with an escape plan I guess to get me out of the picture, make all the scandal of what he’d done go away.
Winfrey’s story will no doubt cause a media firestorm, but I’m wondering how much of it is true and how much of it is based on unmet expectations (or just straight up sour grapes).
It seems as though Winfrey expected Oprah to welcome her into her life because she married her father, but like many grown children with remarried parents, Oprah didn’t go out of her way to make her stepmother feel like family. And given Oprah’s history—being abandoned by her own mother and sent to live with her father as a teen—I can’t necessarily blame her for not wanting (or needing) to get close.