Jan. 25, 2011 at 9:26 AM ET
Before Monday’s much-hyped episode of “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” the host announced that she would soon share a family secret with viewers — one that “shook (her) to (her) core.” Everyone now knows that big reveal turned out to be a half-sibling that Winfrey only learned about months ago.
Our readers' reactions to the big news ranged from “Who cares?” to “Interesting...” but no matter what anyone thought after the news broke, Winfrey’s simple promise to share a secret was enough to gain plenty of attention. Maybe that’s because the talk titan has a reputation for holding little back when she gets personal. After all, O's sister secret wasn’t her first private matter to become public on her show.
In 1986, Winfrey surprised viewers with her frank revelation of the sexual abuse she suffered as a child at the hands of a relative. She said she shared that story to encourage others to speak out without shame.
Later, in 1995, another of Winfrey’s personal secrets came out on the show. While speaking to a guest who smoked crack cocaine, the daytime host made an emotional confession of her own.
"Let me say this, and this is probably one of the hardest things I've ever said," Winfrey began. “In my 20s, I’d done this drug and I know exactly what you’re talking about.”
Just like the half-sister reveal that came 16 years later, Winfrey decided to share that particular part of her personal life because she wanted to tell the story herself, rather than allow the tabloids a chance to tell it with their own angle.
"It's my life's great big secret,” Winfrey said at the time. “It was such a secret because -- I realize the public person I have become — if the story ever were revealed, the tabloids would exploit it and what a big issue it would be."
Of course, Winfrey had good reason for her fear of tabloid coverage. In 1990, a family member sold a story to the National Enquirer announcing to the world that the Queen of Talk was pregnant at the age of 14.
“(The family member) sat in a room, told them the story of hidden shame and left their offices $19,000 richer,” Winfrey later explained in O magazine. “I took to my bed and cried for three days. I felt devastated, wounded, betrayed. How could this person do this to me?”
After revealing her latest family secret this week, Winfrey expressed gratitude that her newly discovered sibling never considered “selling her out.”