Oprah's Mom: The Interview
MILWAUKEE - She's been called the most influential woman in the world...Oprah Winfrey.. an international icon... She's a talk show host, actress, producer, publisher, author..in short a media mogul..
And also... the first African-American woman to become a billionaire.
Oprah was born in Mississippi, but spend much of her childhood right here in Milwaukee. She attended Nicolet High School.
The woman who gave her life, Vernita Lee, still calls Milwaukee home.
"I always knew Oprah was going to be something," she told our Carole Meekins in an exclusive interview.
Carole visited Vernita at her lakefront condo. The home is filled with mementoes of her famous daughter. She showed us a photo album from Oprah's Legend Ball.
"Only Oprah could bring this many stars together," Vernita told us. She admits she's had to learn to deal with the celebrity of being Oprah's mom.
We asked her if it's tough being recognized. "It used to be very tough," she admitted. "For me to answer all the questions they would ask...And I don't like to cut anybody short...But now I've gotten used to it more..and it doesn't bother me."
And like most mothers...Vernita Lee is not shy about telling Oprah what she thinks. "I'll say, did not like what you were wearing. But she doesn't get mad...No, she doesn't get mad"
But what gave Oprah the ability to grow into a worldwide force? That's what we wanted to know. "What do you think is the biggest gift that you've given your daughter?" Carole asked.
"I loved her the way that she loves peoples now."
And like Oprah... Vernita Lee also loved acting in plays as a child...
"Is there any moment that made you the most proud that Oprah Winfrey was my daughter?" we asked.
"When she did The Color Purple..I felt so proud of her."
Vernita showed off pictures of her two grandchildren. She lost two of her own... but her faith pulled her through.
"I am a Christian lady and if you are a Christian person it helps you to deal with situations like that"
Vernita's proud of Oprah's Leadership Academy for girls in South Africa. She hopes to visit this summer.
"What kind of advice would you give other women who want to raise a child that really is good to society and helps others," we wanted to know.
Vernita's answer is simple: Time. "The parents don't spend enough time with their children. I spent a lot of time with Oprah...and Jeffrey and Patricia."
"I know she's a loving generous person."
Loving words from a loving mother.