Oprah Winfrey has revealed her big secret. On Monday’s broadcast of The Oprah Winfrey Show, she announced she has a half sister that she never knew about. “This, my friends, is the miracle of all miracles” Oprah stated, adding that it’s, “a bombshell family secret that left me speechless.”
On the show — which was aired live in Chicago where Harpo is based — Oprah told the story of how she found out about Patricia, her half sister who was born to her mother, Vernita Lee on April 26, 1963 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. At that time Oprah was 9 years old and living in Nashville with her father. Oprah said she never knew her mother was pregnant. Vernita gave up the child at birth and kept it a secret all these years.
Patricia, who is now 47, and still living in Milwaukee, has 2 adult children Andre and Aquarius, who she raised as a single mom. At their urging, Patricia decided to search for her birth mother. She requested her adoption papers, and discovered that she had 3 half siblings. Although she was not given access to the names of her mother or siblings, she did find out their birth dates and that two of her half siblings have died. Her oldest sister, she discovered was still alive and born in 1954, the same year Oprah was born, but she never imagined that she was related to Oprah. She thought her sister was still living in Tennessee. “She’s probably down there cooking up a storm and got about 10 kids.”
Patricia reached out to her birth mother who refused to see her. That same day she was rejected, Patricia saw an interview with Oprah’s mom on a local Milwaukee news program where Vernita revealed that she had two dead children who were half siblings to Oprah (who was born in 1954) and the pieces started to fall in place.
Patricia naturally was stunned at the possibility of being related to Oprah , but she wanted to be sure. “When Partricia first discovered the connection in 2007” Oprah says, “she tried 3 times to reach Vernita, but Vernita wasn’t ready.”
“I was very hurt” was Patricia’s reaction, “I just had to let it go.” But she kept it a secret fearing it would become a media frenzy.
Eventually, Patricia saw an article in a magazine about Oprah’s niece, Alisha who own’s a Milwaukee-area restaurant called Pat’s Rib Place, named after Alisha’s mom Patricia who died in 2003. Yes, the Patricia who was searching for her mom has the same name as her half-sister who passed away. Even more bizarre is that the living Patricia was given up for adoption at birth and Vernita never named her daughter. It is a complete coincidence that they ended up with the same name!
When Alisha met her aunt Patricia, she was stunned at how much Patricia resembles her mother. Patricia, seeing the pictures of her dead half-sister Patricia on the walls of the restaurant was stunned, “oh my God, that is me. We just look so much alike.” From there the pieces of the puzzle came together. Eventually Vernita confirmed that Patricia was indeed her daughter and Oprah was told just before Thanksgiving of 2010. On Thanksgiving day, Oprah and Stedman drove to Milwaukee to meet Patricia.
Patricia appeared live on the Oprah show to tell her side of the story, but Oprah’s mom would not come on the live show. Oprah did show a taped interview with Vernita who explained why she never told Oprah that she had a half sister, “I thought it was a terrible thing… what I had done, to give up my daughter when she was born.” Vernita says she wanted to get off welfare. “I made the decision to give her up because I wasn’t able to take care of her.
Oprah decided to reveal the information on her show because she said, “there’s no way with how the media works today that a story like this wouldn’t get out in the press and wouldn’t be exploited. I didn’t want that to happen because it’s true… and I wanted you to hear it from me first.”
Oprah emphasized the great respect she has for her half-sister, Patricia for “not selling her out”. She adds “as you can imagine, Patricia and I are still sorting of all this out. It’s a process…. So we’re going to be getting to know each other in the months and days and years to come.”
The Oprah Winfrey Show airs live in Chicago weekdays at 9am CT, and on tape in the afternoons in other markets.