Oprah: A Biography

Oprah: A Biography

3.0 306
by Kitty Kelley
     
 

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For the past twenty-five years, no one has been better at revealing secrets than Oprah Winfrey. On what is arguably the most influential show in television history, she has gotten her guests—often the biggest celebrities in the world—to bare their love lives, explore their painful pasts, admit their transgressions, reveal their pleasures, and explore their

Overview

For the past twenty-five years, no one has been better at revealing secrets than Oprah Winfrey. On what is arguably the most influential show in television history, she has gotten her guests—often the biggest celebrities in the world—to bare their love lives, explore their painful pasts, admit their transgressions, reveal their pleasures, and explore their demons. In turn, Oprah has repeatedly allowed her audience to share in her own life story, opening up about the sexual abuse in her past and discussing her romantic relationships, her weight problems, her spiritual beliefs, her charitable donations, and her strongly held views on the state of the world.

After a quarter of a century of the Oprah-ization of America, can there be any more secrets left to reveal?

Yes. Because Oprah has met her match.

Kitty Kelley has, over the same period of time, fearlessly and relentlessly investigated and written about the world’s most revered icons: Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Frank Sinatra, Nancy Reagan, England’s Royal Family, and the Bush dynasty. In her #1 bestselling biographies, she has exposed truths and exploded myths to uncover the real human beings that exist behind their manufac¬tured facades.

Turning her reportorial sights on Oprah, Kelley has now given us an unvarnished look at the stories Oprah’s told and the life she’s led. Kelley has talked to Oprah’s closest family members and business associates. She has obtained court records, birth certificates, financial and tax records, and even copies of Oprah’s legendary (and punishing) confidentiality agreements. She has probed every aspect of Oprah Winfrey’s life, and it is as if she’s written the most extraordinary segment of The Oprah Winfrey Show ever filmed—one in which Oprah herself is finally and fully revealed.

There is a case to be made, and it is certainly made in this book, that Oprah Winfrey is an important, and even great, figure of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. But there is also a case to be made that even greatness needs to be examined and put under a microscope. Fact must be separated from myth, truth from hype. Kitty Kelley has made that separation, showing both sides of Oprah as they have never been shown before. In doing so she has written a psychologically perceptive and meticulously researched book that will surprise and thrill everyone who reads it.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
The tables are turned on Oprah Winfrey, as celebrity biographer Kelley digs deep to uncover the secrets of the talk show host and humanitarian. Kelley weaves her revelations from interviews with those who knew Oprah best--relatives, former lovers, and coworkers. Kelley's reading is inspired and professional, and her voice brims with remarkable selfassurance, making for a convincing presentation, despite the fact that this is an unauthorized biography. Although Kelly gets a bit breathy at times, she brings things back to the ground with a steady rhythm and energy. A compulsive (if slightly guilty) listen. A Random hardcover. (Apr.)

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780307718778
Publisher:
Crown/Archetype
Publication date:
04/13/2010
Sold by:
Random House
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
544
Sales rank:
266,045
File size:
6 MB

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Meet the Author

Kitty Kelley is the internationally acclaimed bestselling author of Jackie Oh!; Elizabeth Taylor: The Last Star; His Way: The Unauthorized Biography of Frank Sinatra; Nancy Reagan: The Unauthorized Biography; The Royals; and The Family: The Real Story of the Bush Dynasty. The last four titles were all #1 on the New York Times bestseller list. Kelley has been honored by her peers with such awards as the Outstanding Author Award from the American Society of Journalists and Authors for her “courageous writing on popular cul­ture,” the Philip M. Stern Award for her “outstanding service to writers and the writing profession,” the Medal of Merit from the Lotos Club of New York City, and the 2005 PEN Oakland Literary Censorship Award. Her articles have appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, Newsweek, People, Ladies’ Home Journal, McCall’s, the Los Angeles Times, and the Chicago Tribune. She lives in Washington, D.C., with her physician husband, Jonathan Zucker.


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Oprah 3.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 306 reviews.
powerwriter More than 1 year ago
She seems so nice. But mercy --- she's nasty. That's the message in Kitty Kelley's new book. You may think Oprah is warm. She seems that way. But she's aloof. She gives everything to the camera. "I can cry on cue," says Oprah. She knows what the audience wants and she gives it --- regardless of what the truth is. Rather than being a warm, fuzzy person as she appears to be on her show, she's icy cold and aloof. She never forgets a perceived wrong and she moves on to the next big thing without a thought for where she's been. Everything is all business and money is the end game. That's the real Oprah, according to the interviews done by Kitty Kelley. Oprah has lots of secrets, according to Kelley. The book shows how Oprah is demanding and somewhat lazy. The woman who shows such compassion and love, so much humility and friendship, is really a diva with a big ego, big appetite and a case of just plain nasty. That is if you believe Kelley's book. And since Kelley has never been successfully sued over any of her books, I'm inclined to believe her. True, she's lawyered up. But, so are her subjects. There is a lot here about the "real" Oprah as seen by her father and others. We get a glimpse of Oprah that makes her less than appealing. Would we expect this of a Kitty Kelley book? Yes, probably. On the other hand, Kelley has done her homework and held 850 interviews. The book is full of footnotes. It's well documented. Oprah comes off as self-centered and arrogant -- not at all likable. The queen often talks about herself in the third person. For example, "Oprah does not walk." "Oprah does not do stairs." I gotta wonder, maybe O needs to walk and take the stairs. Might help with the well-known weight problem. Know what I mean? We get a sense of the real Oprah in the following quote from the book: "She may be admired by the world, but I know the truth," Vernon Winfrey, Oprah's father, told Ms. Kelley. "So does God and so does Oprah. Two of us remain ashamed." No one in Oprah's family believes her stories of child abuse, according to the interviews. But because she's rich and powerful, they won't contradict her colorful stories. - Susanna K. Hutcheson
artoodeetoo More than 1 year ago
For me it was fun to read. It was pretty straighforward and well documented. Kelley is a straight shooting writer and has many biographies under her belt. I think readers and fans will find it interesting and revealing. I have watched the Oprah show from the beginning. She's an icon, a fascinating actress and television personality.
LeslieKaye More than 1 year ago
Kitty Kelley is not a writer but a compiler of information and she did a good job of that. I was bored after the first few pages and skimmed the book. Oprah Winfrey is certainly an interesting, complex person. Whether or not she is a happy person, only she knows that for sure. Lots of fluff 'n stuff just like People Magazine, he said, she said, placing blame, finger pointing, accusations, in other words lots and lots of gossip. Since People Magazine is such a great success, I am sure this book will be too. I left it on the table in the post office with a post-it note that said: "Free for the taking."
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
All the people saying this book is trash seem to just want to protect Oprah. It is what it is...a biography; the writer is not making stuff up; she has just compiled information from family, friends, and public interviews. I grew up watching Oprah and as a 40 year old, I have appreciated much of her subject matter in more recent years. But, the book reminds me that Oprah is human just like the rest of us and has made mistakes. Her mistakes are just more publicized. She is not a god, just a woman wielding alot of power. I appreciate the book for helping me to remember that you should always treat folks with respect and understanding. I enjoyed reading the story behind the story and seeing pictures of how she has changed over the years.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
An absolute fantastic book. As the friend of a former Oprah employee, I knew about some of the bombshells in this book. It was easy to read & for someone, as Oprah, who professes herself to be "holier than thou", she has many skeletons in her closet. It is sad that someone must lie so much to make herself into someone that she is not, just "to give the audience what she thinks they want" & all for higher ratings. The book is well written, easy to ready & extremely hard to put down. Whether or not you are an Oprah fan, you will walk away understanding the greed that power brings. Celebrity comes with a price & it will show you that celebrities are no different from anyone else. A MUST READ!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Kitty Kelley's attempt at the unauthorized biography of Oprah's life was underwhelming. While the research appears to have been extensive, and in very limited instances, appeared to be new information not previously devoured and re-hashed in the various media outlets, it was not enough to make this a "must read". Although I would self describe myself as a "fairweather fan" of Oprah's, nevertheless, my curiosity, based upon Ms. Kelley's previous efforts, was piqued enough to buy and read the book. However, I was disappointed mainly in its non-groundbreaking and uninsightful content. There was nothing that had not already been reported many times over possibly with the exception of Ms. Kelley's revelation that the father who raised Oprah was not her birth father. Otherwise, the book did not give depth and insight to how this woman, who has truly achieved great things and inspires millions on a daily basis, came to be who she is today. While Ms. Kelley certainly pointed out the contradictions of Oprah's life story, the telling of these did not enlighten me. While it is understood that it had to be extremely difficult for Ms. Kelley to research and write what she did, due to the "confidentiality" agreements Ms. Winfrey apparently has with everyone and anyone in her or her company's employ, the book was disappointing. Ms. Kelley has primed the pump for Oprah's autobiography. I am looking forward to Ms. Winfrey's autobiography if and when she finally decides to finish and publish it.
CBWhite-Abbott More than 1 year ago
I have read other biographies that Kitty Kelly has written, especially the one on Frank Sinatra,very interesting and informative. Ms. Kelly does her research with many interviews with those who knew Oprah when she was a unknown, how she ruthless she was even in her high school years. The reader knows that whatever Ms. Kelly writes is true. It's very interesting to read how Oprah reinvented herself many times and how Ms. Kelly found it difficult to promote her book on TV because celebs like..David Letterman, Barbara Walters, etc. were afraid of Oprah because she is so popular and powerful. I say baloney, not one.. no matter how rich and famous they become should be feared. I recommend that everyone should buy the book, you can't put it down.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I throughly enjoyed this. It is always good to get all sides to anything. This helps to understand a unique American who is extraordinarily successful.
DebbieAC More than 1 year ago
Kitty's book is petty, small-minded and mean. Nothing is positively portrayed. From the author's voice-I bought the book in unabridged audio-you get a whiny nasally rendition that sets the tone. It's apparent the way the author feels about Oprah. Instead of telling any kind of success story, the book is making money by tearing down decades of achievement that very few in the world have realized. Even when Kitty gives some credence to Oprah's lifetime of achievements, she diminishes them in the same breath and tone. No one got to this level of success and money, without brains, hard work and sacrifice. Apparently when you're rich and famous-the piranhas come out to feast-on your carcass. Early on, a 5-month affair with an ex-boyfriend is quoted as a "tell-all". It sets the stage for the book's premise of "badness" in Oprah. "Friends" and "family" come out of the woodwork to tell us just how bad she is. Pages are filled with "secret-tellers", detractors and negative people, including Ms. Kitty. Kitty speaks of Oprah as being all about: "me, me, me", a name-dropper, self centered, overly ambitions and constantly seeking self-recognition. Gay speculation runs rampant, . for Oprah and her partner and friend. Stedman is referred to as "Mr. Oprah", and his relationship with Oprah called window dressing ("attractive escort"). Judgment is passed because Oprah chose to stay single, childless, and in an unmarried long term relationship. All successes have tradeoffs and sacrifices, but they're ours to make It would be very difficult to have much time for anyone or anything with the level of work required behind Oprah's empire. Oprah's talk about sexual exploitation, for anyone who was sexually abused-is healthy. If she helps one single person, it's all good. People sweep this stuff under the rug and call the children liars, while they support the real abuser. Children become double victim. I applaud Oprah's guts and courage, while facing more name-calling. Most kids never tell. There's a constant reference to out-houses. If you grew up in crushing poverty, or with sexual or other abuse, and you made it out, you'll do anything to control your life and not live the same kind of life. Your only security in life is within yourself. Oprah's generosity is attacked. "She needs tax deductions.". She splurges on gifts to her staff and friends, pays huge salaries to staff, and spends big on entertaining. Her political and religious leanings are wrong. Her book club doesn't pass muster either, nor her girls' school in Africa. She spends money wildly--in another country, on only girls, and only blacks. Oprah's farm and home are too big and opulent. The color of her skin is too dark, and her hair and make-up are wrong. Any good deed is twisted to evil. Gross ongoing and over-the top derogatory remarks are made to Oprah's weight and eating. Her Chicago show-mates are described as "dull, grey dumplings, with no sense of style". If you even work for Oprah, you're fair game-birds of a feather and all that. Oprah never opened her door to Kitty-so sad. Oprah has that right. She also has the right to control her media, brand and professional image. Kitty is not earning any points into heaven. This book is judgmental and mean. Anyone who reached Oprah's plateau of success had much more than luck on their side. Oprah stands in a class of her own.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was a total waste of time and money and I am embarrassed that I lowered my literary standards to read it. Ms. Kelley's sources are based largely on acquaintances who feel jilted because either Oprah did not give them money or did not attend their social event. There were only assumptions about how Oprah felt or what she was thinking not based on fact but on the author's own personal feelings towards Oprah. Nearly every page contains a petty insult about Oprah's weight and additionally there were no big revelations or scandalous secrets just a bunch of small-minded assessments that were sensationalized to sell books.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I, too, would like to know why Kitty Kelley's new book on Oprah costs 6 bucks more on the nook than in hardcover.
Brobi8924 More than 1 year ago
I quit watching the Oprah show because she became so full of herself it was nauseating to watch. She was so rude to her guests by talking over them or answering for them when they were asked a question like she was the authority on whatever the subject was. Now Barnes & Noble wants to charge over $10 for the ebook. Ridiculus!! I am an avid reader and one of the reasons I purchased a Nook was so I could get books for less money .. after all it's not a hard copy! Shame on Oprah and shame on Barnes & Noble for being so greedy.
cat66 More than 1 year ago
This is a must read for anybody!! Well written, enlightening, great research based on facts. This book is enlightening and is worth the money and time investment!!
booklover9 More than 1 year ago
I usually don't purchase audio books but I was embarking on a long (16 hour) road trip and Oprah seemed like the perfect ancedote to not falling alseep at the wheel. Which was indeed the case. Several chapters captivated me to the point that I remained in the car to get to the end of the passage. Kitty Kelly's reading was at times dry and droll and she does have tendency to repeat herself in subsequent chapters. Overall, I found this to be a fair and engaging portrayal of someone I "thought I knew" who turns out to be more complex and controlling in her personal and professional life. Is she gay? Don't care. Can she turn on and off the charm in front of her audience? Evidently so. Would I recommend this book to others, absolutely...if you enjoy mucking it up in the pop culture world.
barbur87 More than 1 year ago
Kitty Kelley provides a fascinating portrait of an Oprah Oprah does not want anyone to know. The more I read about her, the less that I like her. The research, which includes interviews with Oprah's father and other relatives and which offers a thoughtful analysis of Oprah's relationship with her mother and her attempts to reconstitute the family to which she was born, is first-rate.
Anna53 More than 1 year ago
You know what I REALLY didn't like about this book: the photos of Kitty Kelley with Oprah's relatives, whom (I'm sure) she sweet-talked into revealing some very painful "secrets" of Oprah's. No photos of Oprah with them -- just the Princess. I'm reading "Poison Pen -- the Unauthorized Biography of Kitty Kelley", now. I recommend it highly!
1Atomic More than 1 year ago
I am thrilled that this fascinating book shows the many faces of Ms. Winfrey. It is troubling to see people placed on pedestals when we are all human-beings living complex lives in a highly challenging world. For an individual who values reading, I think Oprah should be pleased to be reminded by Ms. Kitty Kelley that we are so blessed in this wonderful country of ours (the United States of America), that freedom of expression and freedom of speech are not just valued, they are rights. Kelley shows the reader that there are no double standards and that even interviewers (i.e. talk show hosts) have a story, a past deserving to be told by people close to the subject. There is no tiptoeing around, no tap-dancing... yet, I find this highly anticipated and enjoyable biography to be well balanced. Kudos to Kitty Kelly for standing by her prised profession and honorable career as a writer and journalist by giving the public, Ms. Winfrey's public, what it wants and is deserving to hear through voice or printed page. Oprah is NOT perfect. Kitty is not perfect. I am not perfect. Thank God for these "blessings" and books and Nooks and internet! I even like Winfrey more for reminding me through Ms. Kelly that I can make it, too, despite my less than perfect life. In fact, it is the hardships that help one prevail! A great read, regardless of format. Hopefully, Oprah will make this a "must read" for fans of the powerhouse's book club. I doubt it, though...
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Wgat can i do?????
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I couldn't put this book down. The point for me is that it shows Oprah in both a negative and positive light. Oprah is the same as the rest of us, a contradiction. She is a woman with a giving side as well as a flawed side. She is credited with all the good she has done, as her positive side is highlighted. The book also examines her less than charitable side. You may be disappointed in Oprah, but after all, she is as human as the rest of us, but she is not evil.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I being an off and on Oprah watcher for many years, decided to read this book to see if Kitty picked up on things that I began to see with the on air Oprah sometime ago. I began to "see" (read between the lines and non-verbals) some subtle on air events. How she would manipulate her viewers - they think she is objective - far from it. I've witnessed her very sophisticated ways of manipulation. She is far from a diamond in the rough or a "prophet" as Stedman speaks of in the book. She lies freely. On the recent Pierce Morgan interview, she tells Pierce that her father never knew of her pregnancy then (nor her stepmother) and that she had the baby when she went to visit her mother. That fact, as Kitty states, is that her stepmother discovered it, and Vernon was told, and she had the baby their in Tn. Oprah also implies her baby died shortly after birth, where in fact, the baby died a month and half after birth and was given a name. I think there is more to this part of the story. I wouldn't be surprised if the baby survived. Vernon (a very religious man) mentions that a funeral nor burial was ever had for the baby, that he "didn't know what happened to the babies body." Hmm???? Is this part of Oprah's "dark secrets" he speaks of? And the prostitution Oprah was engaged in! Never mentioned by Oprah along with her drug use and her out and out lies about her childhood (her mother lived with her along with grandmother)! The bottom line and lesson to be learned in this book, that it is a "different" animal who strives to want to be"famous" and "rich." Never does Oprah speak of accomplishing great things like many young people do at that age. Her past has arrested her development into adulthood, like many others who've experienced trauma in their life. She thinks she is different than those on her show (their struggles), but hers' has manifested itself differently. I now understand why many guest, particularly the "ordinary" look mortified on her show, they've signed their life away and are fearful by the of taping. And lastly, the saddest part of this book is how she never acknowledged her brothers AIDs until his death. Not even now in her all "knowing state" does she go back and reflect on her faults in dealing with it. The lesson to be learned by all, are people generally are not who they say and that goes particularly for those with the power(and money) to control. I will breath a sigh when she leaves the airways on May 25th. It's time. And as far as OWN goes, my prediction is, it will fail eventually. I think we are all tired of all the not norms of society being given airtime.
Verena Wutz-Morrill More than 1 year ago
good book! shows oprah to be human with good and bad sides.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I bought this book hoping that I would read the true and inspiring account of Oprah Winfrey. As I was reading, I felt Kelley was attacking Oprah than retelling the story of her life. It appears that Kelley focuses too much on the alleged negative scenarios in Winfrey's life rather than the positive and triumphant outcomes. I have been a long time Oprah fan, and I will remain loyal to the "Queen of Talk" despite Kelley's claims. I simply stopped reading the book.
Panage2000 More than 1 year ago
I found this book a hard read because you start getting the feeling this author takes what Oprah says in jest and makes a mountain out of it. Like Oprah's ambition to be famous, this author takes it and words it to look like she is a ruthless and back stabbing person just because she has drive. Sometimes the book gets so ridiculous you have to put it down. For example there is a passage about how Oprah didn't want to leave a gathering because there was a full buffet and there was still food left. She wasn't going to leave till she ate all the food. GIVE ME A BREAK. My theory is that she might have said something like "I am so hungry I can eat everything in sight" like we all have said and this author turns it into the above. Very disappointing read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If you like Oprah, this book shouldn't change your mind. If you are like me, and consider her a narcissistic phony, this book will also support that opinion as well. Oprah is who she is... a complicated person who, for whatever reason, has come to think she is god-like and beyond/better than the "every woman" she once claimed to be. And for those who are griping because they claim the e-book costs more than the hardback... please go back to school and learn some elementary arithmetic. What rock have you crawled out from under?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This truly shows the good and bad that is in Oprah. I admit that I like Oprah but I find her very hypocritical when she berates the guests on her show for doing the exact same things she has done. It's sad to see that Oprah has gotten so full of herself she actually believes she is a prophet. I don't think she would have gotten very far in life if people had paid attention to her half sister's interview where she said Oprah was bringing men into their house to do "the horse" for money when Oprah was living with them and their mother. It makes me almost not believe her tale of abuse because if she was sbused then why was she literally whoring around? She was charging men for sex, that doesn't sound like abuse to me. Oprah came out just as slutty as her mom, the only difference was that Oprah learned about birth control after the birth of her son which prevented her from having children from different fathers. I do think Oprah should be sued for lying on applications claiming she never conceived a child. I also think her confidentiality agreements are ridiculous. She wants to know every dirty little secret about everyone else but refuses to let her employees speak about her. She is obviously doing something wrong to make people sign her contracts before working with her. Is that an invasion of her employees' right to free speech because its not like she is protecting a technology? It sounds like the only person that tries to keep Oprah grounded is her dad but she still acts entitled to everything and lies and exaggerates the truth. How bad is she going to be when Vernon dies? Talking about Vernon, his reputation is also a bit questionable after that student reported him for sexual harassment but the student had no business going to him for more money for school. The $50,000.00 scholarship Oprah gave her should have been enough and if she wanted to take extra classes not covered by the scholarship she should have gotten a student loan or a job or looked for other scholarships to pay. I also noticed that the houses Oprah built went to black families. Did she ever help anyone who was not black? I still like Oprah but I don't think she is fair.