Oprah Winfrey has shared her perspective on the criticism Prince Harry and wife Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, have received for requesting privacy while they continue to open up about their lives in television shows and podcasts.
The talk show legend is launching a new documentary series on Apple TV+ with Harry this weekend called "The Me You Can't See" about mental health. She spoke with Hoda Kotb on TODAY Friday about the backlash Harry and Meghan have faced as they share more of their lives publicly.
"You know, I ask for privacy, and I'm talking all the time," she said. "So I think being able to have a life that you are not intruded upon by photographers, or people flying overhead, or invading your life, is what every person wants and deserves — to not to be intruded and invaded upon.
"That's what people are missing. Privacy doesn't mean silence."
Oprah Winfrey opens up about childhood trauma, Prince Harry and moreMay 21, 202108:05
The royal couple created an uproar in March when they spoke to Winfrey in a bombshell interview about why they stepped back from their duties as senior members of the British royal family and started a new life in California. Meghan shared that she had thoughts of suicide at one point under the glare of the media spotlight, and also revealed that there were "concerns and conversations" about the color of son Archie's skin ahead of his birth because she is biracial.
"They have not shared any regrets with me," Winfrey said. "I understood what had happened to them, and I wanted the rest of the world to come away being able to answer the question, 'Why did they leave?' And I think by the time that interview was done, people understood."
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The new series aims to raise awareness and help others struggling with mental health, an issue Winfrey, 67, has faced herself after a childhood of trauma.
"I wouldn't take anything for having been raised the way that I was," Winfrey told Hoda. "It is because I was sexually abused that I have such empathy for people who've experienced that.
"It is because I was raised poor, and no running water, and going to the well, and getting whippings that I have such compassion for people who have experienced it. And so it has given me a broader understanding and a deeper appreciation for every little and big thing that I now have."
Harry also speaks in the series about his own childhood issues in the wake of the death of Princess Diana, accusing the royal family of "total neglect" and revealing he turned to drinking and drugs years after losing his mother.
Winfrey leaned on her faith to get her through a traumatic childhood.
"My grandmother, who was very harsh, like a lot of Black parents during that era, the idea of hugging and loving on your child or even allowing the child to feel seen was just not a part of her life," she said. "But she did give me Jesus. She did give me a belief in something bigger than myself. So I am grateful for that."
She reflects upon that time in depth in her new book, "What Happened to You?: Conversations on Trauma, Resilience, and Healing."
"This book made me think really differently about my own life," she said. "So I think that certainly all of the feelings of not fitting in, or my disease to please, or feeling like, 'If I don't do what everybody wants me to do, I'm going to be rejected somehow,' what I was afraid of in every instance, I'm afraid I'm going to get a whippin'.
"Even though I'm the boss lady, even though I'm the one in charge, even though I'm the one who's running the business, I was still trying to process and figure that part of myself out. I've never had a clinical therapist. I've never gone to a therapist. I've never laid on anybody's couch. I don't know if that's even real."
Winfrey's form of therapy was her eponymous talk show that ran for 25 seasons.
"The first time I was able to admit that I had been sexually abused, raped, assaulted as a 9-year-old happened on television," she said. "And it happened on television because a woman was sharing her story. And I thought, I swear, until that moment I was the only person who ever had that happen to me.
"So in the middle of her in a show sharing her story, I went, 'That happened to me.' And so that's how I got my therapy."
Winfrey now has what she calls "post-traumatic wisdom" after digging into what happened to her as a child.
"One of the reasons I do consider myself wise at this point in my life is because I've not only paid attention to my life, been observant of what's happened to me, but I've been a student of other people's lives and paid attention to what has happened to them," she said.
"One of the great lessons for me is that, in listening to other people's stories, is that everybody wants to be seen, and they want to be heard, and they want to know that their story matters."
The full interview with Hoda and Winfrey can be seen on the TODAY All Day streaming channel on Friday at 12 p.m. EST and again at 9 p.m. EST.