Oprah Winfrey: 'I'm Not a Lesbian'

Media mogul opens up on private relationships with Gayle King, Stedman Graham.

ByABC News
December 7, 2010, 1:29 PM

Dec. 8, 2010— -- For 25 years, Oprah Winfrey has dazzled television audiences with her bold personality and candor, sharing her struggle with her weight, surviving sexual abuse as a child and letting her fans in on her personal relationships, including her close friendship with Gayle King.

"She is ... the mother I never had. She is ... the sister everybody would want. She is the friend that everybody deserves. I don't know a better person. I don't know a better person," Winfrey, 56, told Barbara Walters, through tears.

"It's making me cry because I'm thinking about ... how much ... I probably have never told her that. Tissue please. I now need tissue. I've never told her that," she continued.

Over the years, Winfrey and King, who met while working at a local Baltimore television station in the 1980s, have been inseparable both professionally and personally, sparking constant rumors that the two are gay.

"I'm not a lesbian ... I'm not even kind of a lesbian," Winfrey said. "And the reason why it irritates me is because it means that somebody must think I'm lying. That's number one. Number two ... why would you want to hide it? That is not the way I run my life."

Watch the interview on "A Barbara Walters Special: Oprah, The Next Chapter," Thursday at 9 p.m. ET

While her friendship with King has taken center stage -- (the duo's latest adventure was a camping trip in Yosemite National Park that aired on the talk show) -- another big part of Oprah's personal life is an increasingly private and misunderstood relationship with Stedman Graham, a businessman, entrepreneur and speaker.

Winfrey and Graham have been a couple since 1986 and were engaged in 1992, but never married. Over the last several years, they have made few public appearances together, fueling tabloid speculation about the legitimacy of their relationship.

"Every time we showed up in public... there'd be another exploitive story ... so I made a conscious effort around 2003, 2004, to pull back on my public appearances with Stedman," she said.

When pressed by Walters, Winfrey said Graham is still the man in her life.

"The love ... the lover ... the man ... the partner ... the mate," she said of Graham. "I do not know of another man on this planet ... who could have lived this life with such dignity, with such grace and such respect and humility in it. And still hold his own and be his own."

CLICK HERE to see photos of Winfrey through the years.