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Oprah: A Biography [Kindle Edition]

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 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.

Über den Autor

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.

From the Hardcover edition.


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Die hilfreichsten Kundenrezensionen auf (beta) 3.3 von 5 Sternen  315 Rezensionen
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4.0 von 5 Sternen Move over Leona -- there's a new Queen of Mean. 13. April 2010
Von Susanna Hutcheson - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe|Verifizierter Kauf
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.

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.

Kelley doesn't really have what I'd call a bombshell in her new book about the queen of talk. Much of it is innuendo and things we've heard, even things Oprah herself has said. For example, Oprah may be gay. Or, she may not be. I guess Kelley couldn't pin that one down. And really - who cares?

But Kelley quotes Rosie O'Donnell (from a 2009 Howard Stern interview) saying Winfrey and King are the "emotional equivalent of a gay couple," and author Erica Jong saying, "I would not be surprised if Oprah is gay." Oprah comes off as more asexual than gay or straight.

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. She doesn't come off as the person so loved by so many. But, should this surprise us? Have we not all read Machiavelli? People are seldom what they seem.

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?

The queen even had a bathtub made to fit her body. And a gardener tells Kelley that Ms. O got too fat to use the pool at her Indiana farm. She was afraid of being photographed by paparazzi in all her girth.

The bottom line is, you'll have to draw your own conclusions about Oprah. If you love her, you won't like what you read. If you hate her, you'll enjoy it. If you're like me and don't care one way or the other, it's a fun book to read.

To me, not reading the latest Kitty Kelley book would be like saying no to dark chocolate. I just can't do it.

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.

Kelley's book, according to The Washington Times, ". . . has an initial printing of 500,000 copies. Kelley said some major news organizations have refused to schedule interviews for fear of "Oprah's power and displeasure."

Like the Wise Guys, Ms. O has Omertà going for her. No one wants to touch this book in the media. Well, I suspect there are many outside the media who will do just that. The publisher should crank up the presses for a second run.

Highly recommended.

- Susanna K. Hutcheson
45 von 50 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
3.0 von 5 Sternen Not Like Kelley's Other Unauthorized Biographies 29. Mai 2010
Von M. Hill - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe
I've read Kitty Kelley's other unauthorized biographies and sadly this one does not measure up to her others. The book is odd in that there are no great revelations and yet it is still an entertaining read. I was at no time bored, but also not completely absorbed in the words.

Apparently, Kelley has encountered a subject who carefully and completely sealed off a great deal of information through iron-clad confidentiality agreements with anyone and everyone crossing her path, including relatives. Information is available from a variety of sources yet the book feels, although interesting, not quite complete. Learning of her early prostitution, drug use, etc. helped flesh out a portrait of her, but most of the other shocking revelations are already known through Oprah's well timed public confessions.

People who reach this level of success are usually shrewd, single minded and manipulative, so it isn't surprising that these are characteristics Oprah apparently possesses. Vernon Winfrey's statements about Oprah, both as a child and as a woman, were fascinating information and added substance to the biography, but the book needed more. The fault doesn't rest with Kelley. From the research she did it is obvious it wasn't laziness or a lack of trying on her part that more wasn't revealed. Oprah's great wealth and power have effectively muzzled people she wants muzzled whether legally obligated by a confidentiality agreement, or not.

A breakdown of the reviews posted here finds almost an equal split between five star and one star reviews. Perhaps the real story is in the rest of the numbers -- those of us between either extreme. I have no strong feelings about Oprah, either good or bad and the book left that ambivalence unchanged. This is not a typical Kitty Kelley tell-all, can't-put-it-down book. So, there is some disappointment in that. But, the book is also interesting -- at least mildly interesting. So perhaps the best way to decide whether the book is worthy of your time is to factor in the level of interest in Oprah herself. The book will be more compelling if the reader loves or hates her.
78 von 90 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
4.0 von 5 Sternen Well-written, worth the read 28. April 2010
Von Jackie51 - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe|Verifizierter Kauf
I have been a so-so Oprah fan over the years ... I always felt she
was a pretty fascinating woman, deserving of much praise for her
help of others. I also felt that "0" was disingenuous a great deal
of the time...and I was turned off by her preaching platitudes to the
masses time and time again. I was also bothered by her oft times
cold/critical tone when interviewing guests who somehow triggered her
distain. I always felt that this was one person you would NOT want
to tangle with. Well, Ms. Kelley pretty much proves that point to
the max. I came away from this book marveling at the tales of utter
pettiness and revenge visited on those folks who DARED to offend
(purposely or not) the Queen. I have read elsewhere, and this book
confirms, that Oprah was a very open, friendly, down-to-earth person
in the beginning of her career. The old adage that "power corrupts"
seems apt here. With her history of hard times and her obvious dis-
content with herself both physically and emotionally and spiritually,
the stage is set for much pompous prosthelytizing. I find the bile
rising in my throat when Oprah is on and she lectures to the masses
to "be the best that you can be" -- with all her cheesy ways to do
just that. I am a person very interested in psycho-spiritual growth
and all, but Oprah is acting like she is a Goddess, when in actuality,
she comes across as very "Psych 101" in consciousness. All that being
said, "0" remains a pretty amazing person...many good deeds under her belt,
even if they fed her narcissistic side, they still help others. Bravo
to Ms. Kelley for taking on the juggernaut that is Oprah.
33 von 39 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
4.0 von 5 Sternen Very good but too long 7. Mai 2010
Von Mom of Sons - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe
There are so many other reviews here so I won't make this too long, other than to say I liked "Oprah" by Kitty Kelley a lot, but it's a big fat book, and with about 100 pages left, I really was sick of O.

Kelley's research is thorough but after a while I had the feeling I had just read 150 People magazine stories and still had 100 to go.

Oprah's childhood is fascinating and her early years coming up in the business are, too (who knew she knew John Tesh from all those years ago!). But two thirds of the way through, I knew everything about Oprah I wanted to know. . . but I still had all those pages to wade through, with no bombshells. The parts about her involvement in Barack Obama's were my least favorite parts, and I skimmed there, as this is where the book ends. And yes, Oprah does feel like she propelled him into office.

Recommendation: I think it will make hardcore Oprah devotees mad, so I wouldn't recommend it to them. So I don't know who I'd recommend this to. Maybe people like me who like Oprah but got sick of her show a few years ago, and don't want to do everything Oprah says, or read everything Oprah reads?
29 von 34 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
3.0 von 5 Sternen Interesting, but needed structure 1. Mai 2010
Von Julia Flyte - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe
Kitty Kelley has written an interesting but highly disjointed biography. There doesn't seem to be any coherent structure and no particular arc or themes emerge. Chapters start off seeming to be about one topic, lurch onto another and then end somewhere else again. This makes the book hard to follow. Basic dates or facts like when and how Oprah met and became friends with Gayle King/Maria Shriver or why she parted ways with Jeff Jacobs are skimmed over or left out.

In fairness to Kelley it's apparent that she did a lot of research, but most people don't want to go on the record about Oprah, either because they're friends of hers or because they're afraid of her. Consequently Kelley relied heavily on published sources and developed an obsession with catching Oprah out in every lie or inconsistency, rather than using the sources as guidance to develop an understanding of who Oprah is. So we find out that no, Oprah didn't have cockroaches for pets - she had a dog! No she didn't miss out on having a doll, she had lots of dolls! No she wasn't raised on a pig farm, there was only one pig! And so forth. Does it really matter? Intriguingly, Kelley claims to know who Oprah's real father is, but won't disclose it because she doesn't think that's fair to Oprah, who doesn't know. It seems hard to believe that she would choose to sit on a bombshell like that.

The book isn't a one-sided hatchet job. Kelley admires Oprah's instincts, her generosity, her incredible work ethic and her ability to go for the jugular even when interviewing friends. While she recognizes that Oprah steals ideas from other sources (eg Oprah's Book Club), she has the ability to make them her own - and an enormous success.

Essentially Oprah emerges as someone who grew up in a broken and poor family. After suffering sexual abuse as a child, she became promiscuous and experimented with drugs, but she was smart enough to clean herself up. She was highly ambitious from the start and while initially she was hungry for fame and money, later it became more about impacting people's lives. When she moved into media she was a quick learner and made some very smart decisions early on: surrounding herself with talented people and advisors (especially Jeff Jacobs), which meant that she owned her empire and was able to maximize how much money she retained. While highly charismatic, she is definitely not as nice and friendly a person as you'd think from seeing her on TV. She is extremely controlling with her staff and in fact with almost anyone who comes into contact with her and freezes out anyone who displeases her. On the other hand she is very generous with her friends. Less evolved and self-confident than she seems, she is highly sensitive to criticism, over-eats and has issues with romantic commitment.

It was particularly interesting to learn the way that the Oprah we feel we all know is a facade: yes it's her, but it's not entirely her. Her image is carefully controlled, and even seemingly spontaneous moments on her show are "as choreographed as a Kabuki doll".

At the end of the day I found the book interesting to read, but I don't feel like there were any major surprises or that Kitty Kelley got to the core of who Oprah is. She focuses too much on what she's done and not enough on who she is. Why is control so important to her? What is the nature of her relationship with Stedman? Why did she choose to end her series now? I've still no idea, but what is clear is that she is a far more cold, complicated and controlling individual than her public persona suggests.
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