How the tabloids forced Oprah to stop stepping out with Stedman

Suzy Byrne
Editor, Yahoo Entertainment

For every successful celebrity who rises to the top, there’s a room of tabloid editors ready to take them down.

Oprah Winfrey, who has long been a tabloid target, talked about that, among other topics, on Gwyneth Paltrow’s premiere Goop podcast on Thursday. What was surprising, however, was how the Wrinkle in Time star, who has the money to buy up the tabloids and just shutter them all if she wanted to, admitted that she’s had to change her life — specifically her personal life with her beau of a zillion years, businessman Stedman Graham — because of the magazines.

Stedman Graham was by Oprah Winfrey’s side when she was honored at the Golden Globes in January. However, they skipped the red carpet. (Photo: Michael Kovac/Getty Images for Moët & Chandon)

Winfrey talked to Paltrow about how she’s “lived every other week” in the tabloids, and recounted how Maya Angelou once told her that the stories in the rags didn’t actually have anything to do with her. “It has to do with whoever sat down at the computer at that moment,” O said. “‘What can we say that is going to sell some stories?’” However, she then admitted, “It’s also why I stopped making as many public appearances with Stedman — because I realized that every time there’s a new photograph, there’s a new story. It’s an invitation.”

“I picture it,” she continued, going on to imagine the inner workings of a tabloid. “They’ve got the pictures on the wall. What do we have this week? What expression do we have? What can we create out of that?

Oprah Winfrey and Stedman Graham smile as they arrive at the Vanity Fair Oscar party in 2015, but that isn’t good tabloid material. They look too happy! (Photo: Steve Granitz/WireImage)

Can you blame her, though? If you’ve ever even glanced at a rack of tabloids, you know exactly what she’s talking about. More than many other stars, stories about Oprah have dominated the rags for decades. All the way back in 1990, a relative received a paycheck from the National Enquirer for breaking the news that Oprah had a baby at the age of 14. “I took to my bed and cried for three days,” Winfrey said in 2007, describing herself as “devastated. Wounded. Betrayed.” Another one, from 2009, was about how she had three years to live.

She’s sued over stories. She’s gone public with very personal things about herself — that she smoked crack cocaine in her 20s and that she discovered she had a long-lost half-sister — to beat the mags to the punch. She set the record straight in some cases — such as the one with her so-called secret son in 2015. She’s made fun of their ridiculousness.

Second to Oprah’s weight, the favorite topic of the tabs is her relationship with Stedman. They’re breaking up. He’s cheating. She’s cheating. They’re in a fake romance because the world won’t accept her closeted homosexual relationship with her BFF, Gayle King. She’s in a sex scandal. So. Much. Garbage. Let’s look at some of the more ridiculous headlines/themes about them over the years…

1. “New Oprah Shocker! Fiancé Stedman Had Gay Sex With Cousin”: We referenced lawsuits, and this was one. In 1992, that headline led the pair to sue a Canadian tabloid called News Extra for defamation, invasion of privacy, and intentional infliction of emotional distress after it ran a story claiming Graham “once had a gay affair with his own cousin.” The couple came out victorious.

2. The “marriage bombshell” that Oprah and Stedman were “Ready to Wed After Dating for 30 Years”: This one came out two years ago. They’re still not married. She said in August that they never will be.

Oprah and Stedman did not have a dream wedding in 2016. (Photo: Star magazine)

3. Oprah and Stedman split … over President Obama. 

There has been more than one cover devoted to an Oprah, Stedman, Obama love triangle. (Photo: National Enquirer)

4. Oprah and Stedman split … over Gayle.

For years Oprah and Gayle have said they are just friends, but that hasn’t stopped this. (Photo: National Enquirer)

We also noticed that “betrayed” is a favorite in all Oprah-related covers.

Oprah being betrayed — or betraying someone — is a common theme. (Photos: National Enquirer/ Globe)

Tabloids bank on people caring about her getting married.

According to the tabloids, Oprah has been planning a wedding for decades. (Photos: National Enquirer/ Star/ Examiner)

And if Oprah and Stedman cheated on each other as much as the tabs have said they have — they are getting a lot of action.

With it being International Women’s Day, it’s hard not to view this obsession with Oprah’s relationship as anything less than bizarre. She’s achieved so much professionally. On top of that, she’s held down a romance for 30 years. So maybe it’s time for the tabs to tackle new topics. And let the woman have a damn date night in peace.

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