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Who is Oprah Winfrey's partner of almost 40 years? Meet Stedman Graham

The OWN founder has been with the author since 1986

Oprah Winfrey and Stedman Graham attend Tyler Perry Studios grand opening gala at Tyler Perry Studios on October 05, 2019 in Atlanta, Georgia© Getty
Beatriz Colon
Beatriz Colon - New York
New York WriterNew York
June 24, 2024
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Oprah Winfrey has been a fixture of television, Hollywood, and beyond for 40 years, having launched her award-winning talk show The Oprah Winfrey Show in 1986 after getting her start in radio and television in her early 20s, and going on to build a media empire from that.

She is one of the world's most famous faces — and has given us unforgettable Internet-loved moments like "You get a car!" and "Were you silent or were you silenced?" — and through it all, she's had her partner Stedman Graham by her side.

Still, despite the OWN founder's life and career in the spotlight, she's much more private about her relationship with her long-term partner. Here's what we know.

The Remarkable Life Of Oprah Winfrey

How did Oprah and Stedman meet?

Oprah and Stedman met in 1986, the year she launched her eponymous talk show, at a charity event, though they were only friends at first.

Recalling how they went from friendship to dating, she wrote for Oprah Daily in 2020: "One day, though, we were both visiting a mutual friend who was ill and later died of AIDS. The guy with the girlfriend had come to the friend's home alone, and so had I. We left together, and I asked if he wanted to get a beer. (Yes, I drank a lot of beer then and wore cowboy boots every day.) He said he didn't drink. (Still doesn't — not one sip of nothin’ alcoholic since I've known him.)"

They made their red carpet debut together that December, when they attended the premiere of Native Son at the Apollo Theatre in New York City, in which Oprah starred as Mrs. Thomas.

Stedman Graham and Oprah Winfrey attend an event at the White House in Washington, D.C., on June 27, 1989© Getty
Oprah and Stedman in June of 1989

Are Oprah and Stedman married?

The couple got engaged in 1992, however they called it off the following year, and decided to remain as life partners instead. 

In her 2020 essay, Oprah revealed: "I realized I didn't actually want a marriage. I wanted to be asked," explaining: "I wanted to know he felt I was worthy of being his missus, but I didn't want the sacrifices, the compromises, the day-in-day-out commitment required to make a marriage work. My life with the show was my priority, and we both knew it."

Stedman Graham hugging Oprah Winfrey, as she shows off the two Emmy awards she won for best TV talk show & best host at the Daytime Emmy Awards, 1995© Getty
Stedman has supported Oprah prioritizing her career

In 2016, she dispelled rumors that the two had allegedly tied the knot, writing on X: "Six people who know me well have called today congratulating me or surprised they weren't invited to my wedding," and maintaining: "It's not true!!"

MORE: Oprah Winfrey rushed to hospital, longtime friend Gayle King reveals details live on air

Two years later, she opened up to Gwyneth Paltrow on her Goop podcast about moments like that leading her to shy away from making public appearances with him, explaining: "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."

Oprah Winfrey & Stedman Graham at the ET/GLAMOUR Emmy Party Celebrating a Night of GLAMOUR, 2002© Getty
The couple in 2002

Does Oprah have children?

Oprah has long been candid about the trauma she faced as a child growing up in rural Mississippi, including being raped several times by different family members. When she was 14, she gave birth to a son, though died shortly after, and in 2020, she revealed she had decided to retroactively name him Canaan.

She and Stedman never had children — he has one daughter from a previous relationship — and similarly to her feelings about the responsibilities that marriage requires, she told People in 2019 that "the depth of responsibility and sacrifice that is actually required to be a mother" wasn't compatible with her work life.

oprah stedman graham © Getty
The author was previously married to Glenda Graham from 1974 to 1980

MORE: Oprah Winfrey reflects on brother's 'extremely cruel' death at 29 in impassioned message — the heartbreaking story

She added: "I never thought that that mothering instinct was something for me. I like babies, but I like them like, 'Hi baby, okay, now go over there.' I like children when they can actually speak to me and tell what is the problem," as she noted that some of the young girls who are students of her Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls — the boarding school in South Africa she opened in 2007 — are who she considers "the daughters I did not have."

Oprah Winfrey and Stedman Graham attend Tyler Perry Studios Grand Opening Gala - Arrivals at Tyler Perry Studios on October 5, 2019 in Atlanta, Georgia© Getty
Oprah and Stedman no longer make frequent public appearances together

What does Stedman do?

Stedman, originally from New Jersey, is an educator, author, businessman, and public speaker. He began his career at B&C Associates, a strategic consulting firm, and in 1985, he founded a Chicago-based non-profit organization focused on providing scholarships and educational talks to disadvantaged youth.

In 1988, he also founded S. Graham & Associates, a corporate and educational marketing and consulting firm, plus he was an adjunct professor at Full Sail University in Florida, and has written over ten self-help books.

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