Talk-show queen Oprah Winfrey revealed a "bombshell family secret" today, telling her viewers that she recently learned she has a half-sister whom her mother had hidden from her for decades.
"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," said Winfrey, 56.
Winfrey's half-sister Patricia, a single mother of two, had been given up for adoption in Milwaukee, Wis., by Winfrey's mother, Vernita Lee, in 1963.
"I was 9 years old at the time of [Patricia's adoption], living with my father in Nashville, Tenn.," Winfrey said. "I had no idea my mother was even pregnant."
Winfrey had two other siblings, a brother and a sister, who are both dead. Vernon Winfrey, Winfrey's father, is not Patricia's father.
"For the most part, my life has been an open book and on the show I think I've seen about everything," Winfrey said. "And I thought nothing could surprise me anymore, but let me tell you I was wrong."
Winfrey described learning about her half-sister as news that "shook her to her core," and left her "speechless."
Patricia, whose last name was not revealed on the show, said that she first discovered her link to the media mogul in 2007, after years of searching for her birth mother.
After her birth mother refused to meet with her, Patricia, on the phone with her son, Andre, happened to overhear a local news report about Winfrey's mother, who was giving new details about her other children.
"Her mother said that two of children had passed away, and I knew [from my records] that I had two siblings who passed away. She said one was named Patricia and one was Jeffrey," Patricia said. "The hairs on the back of my neck stood up, because I knew that one of my siblings and I shared the same name."
"I said no, that can't be," Patricia said.
But it was. DNA tests proved that Patricia was an 85 percent match to Winfrey's niece, who is the daughter of the first Winfrey sister named Patricia, who died in 2003.
"Here's a woman who legitimately had a story to sell and didn't," said King. "She was trying to find her mother. Oprah, of course, just turned out to be a bonus."
Tuesday morning, Winfrey will appear on King's program, "The Gayle King Show," on the OWN cable channel to talk about her revelation.
Winfrey spent much of today's episode lauding Patricia for not going to the media with her revelation. Now in the middle of the final season of her ratings-shattering, 25-season-long show, Winfrey made it clear that she wanted to be the one to tell the public her family secret.
"Needless to say, it's something you need to process when it happens and my family and I agreed that we wanted to do it on our own terms and not have it be some big tabloid spectacle," Winfrey said.
Patricia and the rest of Winfrey's family kept the secret so well from the talk-show host that it was an assistant to Winfrey who finally told her the news at the end of October.
"My assistant Libby told me 10 minutes before a taping," Winfrey said, explaining that she and her cousin had been playing phone tag, and much of the family wanted her mother to be the one to tell her the news. "It was through my assistant, that's how I found out.