Oprah Winfrey has made a career and untold millions out of winkling other people’s stories out of them, but when it comes to her own private life she’s not playing ball.
And the one part she protects most fiercely? Her 32-year relationship with Stedman Graham.
In the last five years Stedman, 67, has been photographed at just a handful of events with Oprah, including a 2013 dinner held by President Obama, the 2015 Vanity Fair Oscars party and last year’s Golden Globes.
Now Winfrey, 64, has finally revealed why she and Stedman, 67, who runs his own management and marketing consulting firm, rarely do red carpet appearances or are even seen out having dinner.
It’s a deliberate strategy to short-circuit tabloid rumours: Don’t give them anything to write about.
“I’ve lived, as you have lived, every other week in the tabloids,” Oprah told Gwyneth Paltrow for the first episode of her Goop podcast.
“It’s why I stopped making as many public appearances with Stedman – because I realised that every time there’s a new photograph, there’s a new story.
“It’s an invitation.”
During the 75-minute discussion with Paltrow, the media mogul admitted that early on she had a tough time reading untrue stories about herself.
She turned to poet Maya Angelou, who died in 2014, for advice.
“Every time I would get so upset about it, Maya would say, ‘Babe, you don’t have anything to do with that’,” she told Paltrow, 45.
She actually said, ‘Whoever’s sitting at the typewriter, they’re thinking, What can we say this week that’s going to sell some stories?’”
Oprah and Stedman met in 1986 at a charity event, according to Harper’s Bazaar. She had just launched The Oprah Winfrey Show, and they began dating that year.
Some of her friends were dubious about her new boyfriend because he was good-looking, Winfrey told People: “They figured if he looked like that, he either had to be a jerk or want something.”
The magazine claimed that six years into the relationship, Graham proposed to Winfrey in the kitchen of their Indiana home in 1992. “I want you to marry me. I think it’s time,” he told her.
Winfrey’s response? “Ah, that’s really great.”
Despite that, the topic of tying the knot was never seriously on the table for the couple, Winfrey said in August 2017.
“Nobody believes it, but it’s true,” she told US Vogue.
“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.’
“We would not have stayed together, because marriage requires a different way of being in this world.”
The Wrinkle in Time star said she and the businessman are comfortable with the status quo of their relationship.
“His 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,” she said.
“And I would not have been able to fit into that.”
One relationship Winfrey is happier to put out there? Her longstanding closeness with best friend, TV journalist Gayle King, 63.
They met in the 1980s at a Baltimore TV station, where Winfrey was a news anchor and King a production assistant.
Oprah defined the buzzed-about friendship in 2010 to Barbara Walters.
“I’m not a lesbian,” she said.
“I’m not even kind of a lesbian. And the reason why it irritates me is because it means that somebody must think I’m lying.
“Why would you want to hide it? That is not the way I run my life.”
Stedman has said he considers King “family” and is glad she’s so close to Oprah: “I love it. I hope [they’re] friends forever.”