Though her talk show ended two years ago, Oprah Winfrey is finally opening up — about Stedman Graham, that is.
The 59-year-old host/ actress/ mogul, famous for her ability to get people to share their personal stories on national television, has been notoriously silent about her relationship with her longtime fiancé even as she faced gay rumors with her best friend, Gayle King.
But now, after experiencing self-doubt and nearly suffering a breakdown because of OWN’s bumpy launch, it seems Ms. Winfrey has had a change of heart.
In an interview with People, Oprah recalls a painful moment when she flew from her New Orleans movie set (where she was filming “Lee Daniels’ The Butler”) to interview Kony 2012 founder, Jason Russell.
“Jason was talking about having a nervous breakdown, and I was thinking, ‘I have those symptoms,'” she reveals, adding that it was a few days later during a voice-over recording session that she reached her breaking point. “I remember closing my eyes while I was reading. I thought, ‘I cannot have another thing enter my brain.’ I needed to pull back.”
That may be easier said than done for someone running a network, returning to the big screen after a 15-year hiatus, and doing roughly 1 million other things all at the same time.
Enter her fiancé of 21 years, Stedman Graham.
“He was amazing,” Oprah shares. “He said, ‘You can’t even think about quitting.'” And while he encouraged her, he didn’t sugarcoat the challenges she faced. Oprah remembers Stedman’s advice verbatim: “You have been in cruise control,” he told his longtime love. “It’s gonna turn around, but you’ve gotta do the work.”
Apparently, Stedman has always been the determined type. Describing their first date 30 years ago, Oprah seems struck by his perseverance. “We went waterskiing,” she explains. “Stedman tried 28 times [to get up] and wouldn’t give up. I thought, ‘What is wrong with him? Good lord, this is exhausting! ‘ He would not quit.”
That can-do attitude might have seemed crazy to Oprah at that first outing, but it has served the pair well over the long haul. After all, it’s not always easy to be with one of the most powerful women on the planet.
“I’ve seen people crawl over him, push him aside,” she laments before adding, “He’s learned how to navigate that. That takes a confident man. That embodies who he is.”
Even when they’re apart, Oprah reveals she keeps him close. “I have an iPad filled with things he says. He is the most positive person ever.” She goes on to praise him as an “extraordinary man,” admitting that her only complaint is that she can’t seem to get him to sleep in.
“We’re like an old married couple,” she muses. And we suppose she’s right … except they’re not actually married. Well, and she happens to be Oprah.