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Kitty Kelley has written an interesting but highly disjointed biography. There doesn't seem to be any coherent structure and no particular arc or themes emerge. Chapters start off seeming to be about one topic, lurch onto another and then end somewhere else again. This makes the book hard to follow. Basic dates or facts like when and how Oprah met and became friends with Gayle King/Maria Shriver or why she parted ways with Jeff Jacobs are skimmed over or left out.

In fairness to Kelley it's apparent that she did a lot of research, but most people don't want to go on the record about Oprah, either because they're friends of hers or because they're afraid of her. Consequently Kelley relied heavily on published sources and developed an obsession with catching Oprah out in every lie or inconsistency, rather than using the sources as guidance to develop an understanding of who Oprah is. So we find out that no, Oprah didn't have cockroaches for pets - she had a dog! No she didn't miss out on having a doll, she had lots of dolls! No she wasn't raised on a pig farm, there was only one pig! And so forth. Does it really matter? Intriguingly, Kelley claims to know who Oprah's real father is, but won't disclose it because she doesn't think that's fair to Oprah, who doesn't know. It seems hard to believe that she would choose to sit on a bombshell like that.

The book isn't a one-sided hatchet job. Kelley admires Oprah's instincts, her generosity, her incredible work ethic and her ability to go for the jugular even when interviewing friends. While she recognizes that Oprah steals ideas from other sources (eg Oprah's Book Club), she has the ability to make them her own - and an enormous success.

Essentially Oprah emerges as someone who grew up in a broken and poor family. After suffering sexual abuse as a child, she became promiscuous and experimented with drugs, but she was smart enough to clean herself up. She was highly ambitious from the start and while initially she was hungry for fame and money, later it became more about impacting people's lives. When she moved into media she was a quick learner and made some very smart decisions early on: surrounding herself with talented people and advisors (especially Jeff Jacobs), which meant that she owned her empire and was able to maximise how much money she retained. While highly charismatic, she is definitely not as nice and friendly a person as you'd think from seeing her on TV. She is extremely controlling with her staff and in fact with almost anyone who comes into contact with her and freezes out anyone who displeases her. On the other hand she is very generous with her friends. Less evolved and self-confident than she seems, she is highly sensitive to criticism, over-eats and has issues with romantic commitment.

It was particularly interesting to learn the way that the Oprah we feel we all know is a facade: yes it's her, but it's not entirely her. Her image is carefully controlled, and even seemingly spontaneous moments on her show are "as choreographed as a Kabuki doll".

At the end of the day I found the book interesting to read, but I don't feel like there were any major surprises or that Kitty Kelley got to the core of who Oprah is. She focuses too much on what she's done and not enough on who she is. Why is control so important to her? What is the nature of her relationship with Stedman? Why did she choose to end her series now? I've still no idea, but what is clear is that she is a far more cold, complicated and controlling individual than her public persona suggests.
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on 13 June 2010
I found Kitty Kelley's biography of Oprah disappointing. At times it read like she was putting a lot of negative spin on things that Oprah did or said that didn't seem that bad to me. Everything that Oprah has done is discussed in relation to her ego, including her charity work, her show topics, the party she threw for the 'Legends' (black women who paved the way for Oprah and others to have freedom and reach success). She takes this argument way too far and the book loses its credibility in the process.
There was some new information, but overall I learnt very little about Oprah through reading this book. Instead of feeling uplifted and inspired by her life, I felt like I was listening to someone slagging her off relentlessly. Kitty Kelley doesn't grant Oprah the space to be human.
So to summarise, there was lots of detail about things I wasn't interested in or had heard before, lots of information I didn't find (about Oprah's gruelling work schedule, the help she gets to manage her work/life/domestic jobs etc), and the book was very negative with a few token bits of positivity. I would not recommend it - not even to fans of Oprah.
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on 19 April 2010
I have just finished reading the book and it was pretty much what I thought it would be. No new surprises and actually nothing really offensive in it that Oprah should worry about. She is human and has made mistakes and you simply do not get to where she is today without stepping on a few toes. There is no one who doesn't have things in their past that they either omit or embellish on as time goes by. The book is not a bad read but nothing less or nothing more.
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on 30 January 2013
This is a meticulously researched book about one woman's thirst for money power and control. Can be achieved in America. In a strange way it's a fascinating though disgusting read! Ms Winfrey is the prophet of the American dream but is actually living the dark side . In one way this is an apocalypse novel. But if. The dark side fascinates you a good read and less scatty than the dark side of Camelot about JFK
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on 4 November 2012
I picked this book for a holiday. I was eager to read it although it is not by Oprah herself, but still continue reading. In simple words, the writer wasted her time in criticizing Oprah and trying to pretend that she is unbiased. Let me tell you Kitty you were biased and the more you try to show how mean you think Oprah is the more I don't see it. Hey! We got it! You think Oprah did not suffer! Ok then what???. A book with 78 pages of notes, credits and acknowledgments!!! Would not recommend it to anybody nothing really new.
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on 15 June 2012
First of all I want to say that I am not an Oprah fanatic and I was reading this book purely because there was nothing else to read around. The premise of this book is that it was unauthorized and the author feels very strongly that her "mission" is to be truthful. Since the first pages you understand that she clearly hates Oprah Winfrey. She goes as far as hinting that she wasn't raped etc.

I believe that even evil dictators have some good sides so I find really hard to believe that Oprah is behind the scenes as horrible as the author describes her. She makes a big deal about people working for her having to sign a confidentiality agreement. Well most companies have one and I did sign many myself in most of the companies I worked for. The list of stuff I feel is not really objective could go on for ages.

I think if you like gossip and you enjoy reading stuff being aware it might not be completely true is fine. If you are looking for a proper biography this is certainly not one.
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on 10 February 2011
Half-heartedly bought this book as I thought (with all the tv coverage over the years)that everyone knew pretty much everything about Oprah. However, Kitty Kelley never fails to impress with her indepth, incisive but fair analysis of a character - however complex, although contriving never to appear so - certainly does not disappoint and certainly worth buying and keeping on your shelf. Can't wait to read Kitty's next biography.
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on 21 April 2014
When Kitty homes in on a subject it is always worth reading the results..... pimples,ulcers and warts.How we tend to worship the superficial......rely on Kitty to expose the true personality..
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on 31 August 2012
Very informative book on Oprah Winfrey . It is not really as salacious as the reviews would have you believe.
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on 16 October 2014
I really wanted to read this but the print was so small i couldn't!
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