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“Stedman is a really nice person,” says a friend of the couple.“Perhaps even nicer than Oprah.” Adds Winfrey’s buddy, singer Patti La Belle: “When I heard the news, I thought, ‘It’s about time, because the man was too good to let go.’ ” Graham’s gentlemanly nature was molded in Whitesboro, N. An occasional sportswear model, Graham has features so flawless that Winfrey’s staffers were moved to question his intentions when he began dating her back in 1986.Though she has candidly discussed being sexually abused by two family members and giving birth at 14 to a premature baby who died shortly afterward, recovery from those psychic wounds has been understandably slow.“All these years I have done show after show about low self-esteem,” she has said, “but because I was on TV, was famous, was making pots of money, I never thought I might be talking about me.” After one former boyfriend, William “Bubba” Taylor, refused to marry her back in the 1970s, Oprah reportedly threatened suicide.
Friends pointed to Winfrey’s desire to have a family. She knows exactly what she needs at a certain time.” What she doesn’t need, she says, is an engagement ring.
” says Graham’s business partner, Armstrong Williams. “He knows that most people see him as Oprah’s boyfriend,” says Williams. He’s at peace with himself.” After a lifetime battling deep-seated problems of her own, Winfrey too seems more settled.
Born out of wedlock to Vernon Winfrey and Vernon Lee on a farm in Kosciusko, Miss., she is still haunted by her painful childhood.
J., where he grew up one of six children of Stedman, a painter and contractor, and Mary a housewife. “They figured if he looked like that, he either had to be a jerk or want something,” Winfrey recalled at the time. “He’s kind and supportive,” she said just months into her relationship with “my Steddy,” as she calls him. But you want someone who’ll help you catch the bus.” For his part, the limelight-shy Graham often returned the compliment to his “O,” maintaining that her love has made “all the suffering, all the pain” of public scrutiny worth the trouble.
Sprouting to 6’6″, Graham first showed his mettle on the basketball court at Middle Township High, where he was one of the team’s best players. Since the two have been simpatico for so long, then, the intriguing question is this: Which one has been holding out on marriage?