As Oprah’s last season comes to a close, she’s been working overtime to settle some scores and gain a little closure. From her reconciliations with Whoopi Goldberg, Roseanne, and Iyanla Vanzant, it seems like Oprah is trying to tie up every loose end she has left. But this one—her cousin and former VP of Harpo Inc.—seems like it’s just starting to unravel.
In a Gawker exclusive, Oprah’s cousin, Jo Baldwin, revealed startling information about the talk show host. Originally told to Kitty Kelly who produced an unauthorized Oprah biography, Baldwin recalls her sudden rise and fall with her famous cousin.
After obtaining her PhD, Baldwin says Oprah recruited her to be apart of Harpo Inc. Although she was quickly promoted through the ranks, Baldwin claims she was fired—without notice—because she talked about God a little too much.
“When I received my PhD in 1985 from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Oprah asked me where I was going to work,” said Jo Baldwin in the summer of 2010. “I said I would be applying for a position at Ebony magazine as a copy editor. Oprah said she did not like Linda Johnson Rice [owner of Ebony] and I should come to work for her instead. So I did.”
“I was to work for her for three years, but she fired me without notice after two years… I heard from someone later that she got rid of me because she got tired of me talking about Jesus all the time…”
Baldwin, who is professor at Mississippi Valley State University and is an ordained minister, also says Oprah is lost and too concerned with New Age teachings.
Baldwin, who worked as Oprah’s speechwriter and later became the second in command at Harpo, also admits that she, and most of the family have been intimidated by Oprah’s wealth and power.
“The family is tangled with so many secrets and so much fear,” said Baldwin. “I admit I was afraid of Oprah for 20 years. Absolutely terrified. She’s powerful and dangerous. She told me if I ever opened my mouth [about what I know] she’d sue my pants off.”
Despite strained family relations (Oprah’s family being resentful of her success and Oprah keeping them at arm’s length), Baldwin feels like she and her cousin are estranged due to religious differences.
“Mainly, Oprah wanted to shame me for being a follower of Jesus as if to say, ‘What is He doing for you that’s so great?’ Oprah inflicts emotional wounds that could lead to physical illness, if they aren’t healed. My faith has kept me from getting sick [over her].”
Even though religion and spirituality has the ability to bridge gaps and heal wounds, it can also be extremely divisive. However, in this case, it seems like Oprah isn’t the only one distancing herself from her family. Although Baldwin claims Oprah is unwavering and her brand of spirituality has kept them apart, perhaps Baldwin’s incessant need to talk about Jesus—especially if Oprah is not a believer—also drove them apart.
One thing is for sure. To date, Oprah has kept a pretty tight lid on her secrets, but I wonder if Jo Baldwin is just the first in a long line of insiders who will begin to break their silence.
What do you think? Should Oprah’s cousin speak out against her? You tell us!