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What Is Oprah's Big Family Secret?

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What Is Oprah's Big Family Secret And Who Is Oprah's Sister?

Usually, Oprah Winfrey is in the business of helping others reveal their family secrets via her talk show.

But in 2011, the iconic host revealed a shocker of her own. It was about time we got something substantial from the media giant.

Who is Oprah's sister?

On a 2011 episode of her show, Winfrey was reunited with the half-sister she never knew she had, whose name was revealed to be Patricia Lofton. She was nine years old when Lofton was born, and, at the time, Oprah was living with her father.

The two are the daughters of Vernita Lee, Oprah's mother.

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It turns out that Lee put the baby up for adoption because she felt she could not provide for her. She never told Winfrey, keeping the secret under lock and key for almost 50 years.

At the time, Oprah said, "Imagine my shock just a few months ago, at the end of October, when I found out I have another sister living just 90 minutes away." 

"I thought it was a terrible thing for me to do, that I had done, gave up my daughter when she was born," Lee had said. "I made the decision to give her up because I wasn't able to take care of her. So when I left the hospital, I told the nurse I wasn't going to keep the baby."

Lofton found out in 2007 that she was related to Winfrey after her two grown children insisted she search for her long-lost family.

At first, she got a disheartening call from the state telling her that her biological mother had been contacted and did not wish to reconnect. But that same day, Lofton happened to see a story on the news where Lee described how Winfrey's siblings had passed away.

The information matched what was in her adoption papers: that she had two sisters and a brother, and only the older sister was still living.

To make matters more eerie, Lee also happened to mention that her deceased daughter's name had been Patricia. 

"The hairs on the back of my neck stood up," Lofton said. "Because I knew one of my siblings and I shared the same name."

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She tried unsuccessfully to contact Winfrey many times, but never went to the press with the story. That deeply touched Winfrey, as her other sister sold a personal story to the media years ago about Winfrey's pregnancy, and the death of her child, at age fourteen.

"She never once thought to sell the story," Winfrey said. 

Why not? Lofton's explanation was simple. "Family business should be handled by family. It couldn't be handled by anyone else. That's not fair. It wouldn't be fair to you," she told Winfrey.

DNA tests confirmed that the two are indeed half-sisters, and Winfrey called the revelation "the miracle of all miracles."

We couldn't be happier for both of them.

Sadly, Lee passed away in 2018. But Winfrey and Lofton still have each other and seem to have only strengthened their bond over the years since they found each other.


A post shared by Oprah (@oprah) on Dec 17, 2017 at 1:32pm PST

Winfrey was even in attendance at Lofton's 2017 graduation from the University of Wisconsin.

At the time, Winfrey proudly took to Instagram with a photo of the two half-sisters at the ceremony and the caption, “Pat had one big dream when I met her [which was] to go to college and finish strong! Today that dream came true. Congratulations lil sis.” 

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Jenna Birch is a freelance writer whose work has been featured in publications like Girls' Life Magazine, MSN Glo, The Grindstone, AND Magazine, Front Row View, and Wetpaint.

Editor's Note: This article was originally posted on January 2011 and was updated with the latest information.