This is the first of a two-part world exclusive interview with Barbara Winfrey, the ex-wife of Oprah’s father Vernon. In Part 2, to be published tomorrow, Mrs. Winfrey will reveal the shocking details of the big blowup between Oprah and her boyfriend Stedman Graham, the truth about her relationship with Gayle King and how she really feels about being in her own skin.
Barbara Winfrey can pinpoint exactly when her divorce turned more ugly than she had ever thought possible.
It was Friday 2 November 2012, her sixty-fourth birthday, and the day she received the telephone call that turned the implosion of her marriage into an 18-month legal battle with one of the most powerful celebrities on the planet – her stepdaughter, Oprah Winfrey.
Barbara listened as Oprah delivered her thunderous ultimatum: ‘You say I never talk to you?
I want to talk to you now. You have until Monday to get out of MY house.’
Earlier this month Barbara was finally served with an eviction notice. She has until 29 May to vacate the $1.4million house just south of Nashville that was home throughout her 14-year union to Oprah’s father, Vernon Winfrey.
Now, Barbara is breaking her silence and speaking publicly for the first time about her devastation at what she regards as Oprah’s callous and calculated betrayal.
In an emotional and wide-ranging interview Barbara has given her account of the dispute, reveals the part Oprah played in ‘destroying’ her marriage, and gives an excoriating insight into the woman behind the global brand.
Speaking exclusively to MailOnline she said, ‘I have lost everything. It’s not just a house, this is my home. All my memories are here.
‘I’m trying to keep it together but there are some days I just don’t understand how I could have made her so angry that she would kick me out on the street and think nothing about it. But that’s Oprah – she’s judge and jury.’
A world away from the inspirational figure beloved by millions, the Oprah Barbara describes is manipulative and high-handed, treats family like staff and uses her wealth to control others.
She claims that Oprah, 60, and longterm partner Stedman Graham, 63, are not bound by romance but a pragmatic cocktail of shared secrets, convenience and money.
She describes Oprah’s relationship with close confidante Gayle King, 59, as ‘bizarre’ and ‘unhealthy,’ and points to it as the reason that neither woman is married.
And at the heart of it all, Barbara claims, the ‘real Oprah’ – hidden behind the image she projects so well – is a woman unhappy in her skin and, as Barbara has learned to her cost, unforgiving to those who inspire her wrath.
Barbara said, ‘You find out quickly where your place is with Oprah and you get in that place and you stay in that place.
‘My crime, I think, was to talk to her like a normal person and she didn’t like that one bit.’
Barbara was Vice Principal at Brentwood High School, a respected public school in Nashville, when she first met Vernon Winfrey.
Winfrey’s barber shop in a rundown area of East Nashville was a local landmark – it has been there for more than 50 years – and his work as a local councilman made him a well-known figure in the community.
Barbara recalled: ‘I used to send difficult students to his shop to work there at weekends, sweep floors that sort of thing, help them stay out of trouble.’
Fifteen years after first meeting him, they reconnected and the passing acquaintance became something more.
They married on 17 June 2000 in a ceremony at Nashville’s Hermitage Hotel. Looking back, Barbara admitted, ‘I don’t think Oprah really wanted to be there but she couldn’t not be at such a big event. How would that look?’
Barbara and Oprah’s first meeting some weeks earlier at the star’s Indiana farm had not been easy.
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