The TV presenter’s latest biography contains some astounding revelations
Marina is having a well-earned break chez Sting’n’Trudie in Tuscany, after the rigours of last night’s leadership debates – and while she did very well pooh-pooh-ing that pesky expenses issue (look, she paid the country back for that collection of Swarovski crystal animals, including five hedgehogs), a concern lingers. I mean, politics is a noble pursuit. But we at LiS HQ can’t help but feel that Marina has chosen the wrong month to pursue her calling.
Why? Because the biggest story in the world EVAH has broken this week. Who was the mystery man on the grassy knoll? Who cares? We’re talking gold-plated hot revelations, thanks to the literary event of the year, decade – nay, century: Kitty Kelley’s book on Oprah Winfrey. It has been trailed with the kind of glee that makes the members of Oprah’s audience look like the epitome of calm. And, oh my God, Kitty has really come up with the goods this time, confirming a rumour that has been circling for years. Scurrilous blogs have long alluded to this story but never before has anyone found sufficient proof to print it as a cold, hard, unactionable fact. Until now.
Are you ready? Oprah Winfrey – the Oprah Winfrey – is . . . black. No, not a hack – black. I know! It’s just extraordinary how she managed to keep it secret for so long but, you know what celebrities are like, paying off people who know the truth.
Although it is possible that Kitty’s only previous contact with a, you know, black person has been watching The Cosby Show, she handles the whole “being black” thing with the skill and tact for which she’s known, as this random quote from the book proves: “‘[The show’s makeup and hair people] were nothing short of miracle workers, because Oprah without her hair and makeup done is a pretty scary sight . . . They narrow her nose and thin her lips . . . and I can’t even begin to describe the wonders they perform with her hair.'” True, it’s a miracle. Muting someone’s African features is on a par with brokering world peace.
Just because Kitty’s not an actual black person herself doesn’t mean she doesn’t, you know, get them and sympathise with the struggles they have faced. So when describing the emotional abuse Oprah suffered from an ex-boyfriend, she opines: “African American women understand in their bones the slave mentality that leads sisters like Oprah to give their all to a man in complete subordination.” Ah yes, the sisters – Kitty totally vibes with the sisters who, in their bones, are actually just slaves. It’s their natural mentality, you see?
Then there’s the somewhat dubious-sounding anecdote from a “publishing executive” who claimed that Oprah once got upset with an audience member who didn’t stand up when she came on stage: “‘She began shuckin’ and jivin’ . . . She did her whole ghetto schtick. It was ugly.'”
LiS has no doubt that it was, though perhaps not as ugly as the thought of Kelley typing the words “shuckin’ and jivin'” (gotta love those omitted g’s – it just keeps the whole thing more real, you know?).
Similarly, one of Kelley’s sources claims that Oprah is with her “high-yella” boyfriend, Steadman, because “she needs to have a successful light-skinned man by her side to feel secure”. On and on it goes, with Kelley, a modern-day Harriet Beecher Stowe, chucking around phrases such as “skin-bleaching” and “dark-skinned” like Martin Luther King never happened.
And quite right, too. All good celebrity biographies need to have that golden revelatory nugget, and while revealing that Oprah is – it’s gonna take me a while to get over this one – black might not have the impact of, say, Mackenzie Phillips claiming she used to have sex with her father, the Mamas & the Papas’ John Phillips, it’s definitely memorable. Equally, some might say that Kitty’s tactical choice to reveal in a casual footnote that she “knows” who Oprah’s real father is but will not tell, is somewhat surprising from a person whose job description on visa applications presumably reads “bottom feeder”. But then, such restraint is just what we’d expect from someone with Kelley’s obvious taste, self-awareness and jivin’ empathy.