Winfrey was 9 and living with her father, Vernon Winfrey, in 1963 and said she had no idea her mother, Vernita Lee, was even pregnant. According to Winfrey, her mother could not afford to keep Patricia.
In a confusing twist, Winfrey’s previously known half-sister, who passed away in 2003, was also named Patricia and lived in Milwaukee. Oprah said that her mom did not name the daughter she gave away and that it was just a coincidence.
Winfrey praised her half-sister for not going to the press with the story.
It’s been a revelatory year for Oprah Winfrey, who, as her legendary talk show winds down its 25th and final year on the air, has stepped out of her comfort zone to address a number of rumors about herself, including talk that her friendship with Gayle King is actually a romantic relationship and her thoughts of suicide as a teenager after she learned of an unwanted pregnancy.
“I was given some news that literally shook me to my core. This time, I’m the one being reunited,” Winfrey said in advertisements for today’s episode of ‘Oprah.’ “I was keeping a family secret for months, and on Monday you’re going to hear it straight from me.”
Earlier Monday, BlackVoices.com reported that Winfrey learned sometime around Thanksgiving of last year that her mother had another daughter. Winfrey, 56, believed for years that she was her parents’ only surviving child after her two younger siblings, Jeffrey and Patricia, passed away.
As soon as Winfrey announced that she would reveal “news that literally shook me to my core” about “a family secret,” the Internet lit up with speculation. “There has been speculation in the past that Vernon Winfrey is not her biological father,” In Touch Weekly Senior Editor Amy Palmer told CBS News, “so this is something people are saying it could be.”
Others — including Kitty Kelley, who famously wrote an unauthorized biography of Winfrey last year — had been correctly claiming that Winfrey would reveal a long-lost family member.