Dirty Laundry

Inside the Bizarre Oprah, Stedman, and Gayle Triangle

Winfrey’s stepmom gives an unfiltered Daily Mail interview about the former queen of daytime’s unusual relationship with her boyfriend—and even stranger one with her best friend.

Mathew Imaging/FilmMagic, via Getty

“If it’s not more than friendship, they’re giving every appearance that it is.”

Say what!? That’s Barbara Winfrey, stepmother to Oprah, giving her sassy and unfiltered opinion on her most famous woman in the world’s famously conspicuous relationship with her best friend, Gayle King. It’s part of an interview Barbara Winfrey gave to The Daily Mail, an article that reads like the 11 p.m. tipsy rant of a woman who’s had one too many glasses of white wine. Oh yes, the loose-lipped Winfrey throws all caution to the wind—and “caution,” here, is “insinuation that Oprah and Gayle are lesbian lovers.”

Naturally, something this juicy comes with a caveat. As the article’s first sentence acknowledges, Winfrey is giving this interview as a woman scorned. “After 14 years of marriage to Oprah’s father Vernon, Barbara Winfrey is being forced out of her marital home by Oprah, leaving her homeless,” the article begins. In other words, folks, Barbara Winfrey has an agenda.

That’s why, despite being among the blessed few granted intimate access to the Patron Saint of Living Our Best Lives for more than a decade, Winfrey has decided to air all of Oprah’s dirty laundry. That’s also why we should take everything she says with a grain of salt. Hell, with the whole salt shaker.

But still! A lot of what Winfrey has to say about Oprah’s relationship is fun and silly, in that it kind of confirms what we’ve always expected: that weird-ass triangle between Oprah; the man she’s dated for 28 years, Stedman Graham; and her best friend/veritable shadow, Gayle King, seems really freaking awkward. So even if none of what Winfrey is saying is true, it’s still entertaining to read as fan fiction.

(In an email to The Daily Beast, Oprah Winfrey’s spokesperson did not address Barbara Winfrey’s comments on the nature of Oprah Winfrey and Gayle King’s relationship. She did, however, address Barbara Winfrey’s divorce proceedings, claiming that Winfrey was offered several different living arrangements before “the appropriate paperwork was filed to have her vacate the property” she shared with her husband.)

With all that in mind, here are the best revelations:

Oprah had Stedman followed

On the night before a wedding eight years ago, Oprah and Stedman got into a fight during which Oprah was able to quote every single detail of Stedman’s comings and goings. When he asked how she knew all of the information, she said, “That’s what I pay people to know.” Barbara’s assessment of it all: “Once you’re in Oprah’s world, she owns you.”

Stedman is ‘like an old shoe’ to Oprah

Barbara says that in all of the years that she’s known Oprah and Stedman, she’s never seen them hold hands and kiss. “He was comfortable like an old shoe to her,” she says. Apparently, it was once different, with Barbara recounting a story she had heard from Oprah’s father about a roadtrip with the couple when Oprah was much more touchy-feely with Stedman. But “then she became this powerful person and things changed, the balance switched,” she says.

The Gayle thing is weird

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Like really weird. They talk on the phone three or four times a day, Barbara says, and Stedman has had to learn to be OK with that. “I don’t know any man I’ve ever dated who could tolerate that,” she says, “but Stedman knows Gayle’s going nowhere.” And as for those persistent rumors that Oprah and Gayle are more than just friends? “I can only say what I saw and observed over the years. Gayle was more present that Stedman.”

Read the whole Daily Mail piece here. It’s a fun, ridiculous read—provided you recognize that it’s just one person’s account and may not be fact.