I’m introducing a new feature on DearWendy.com today called “If They Asked.” The idea is that we discuss the advice we’d helpfully offer celebs and people of note if they asked for it. Like, if Gwyneth Paltrow were to ask us how she could improve her reputation and re-endear herself to the American public, we might advise her to shut the fuck up about how hard it is for her to squeeze in five hours of exercise and manage to get her hair blown out every day. Or, if James Franco asked us if he should release a sex tape, we would tell him that yes, yes he should. After the jump, we address the big fat elephant in Oprah’s living room: should she give money to her long-lost sister?
On her show yesterday, Oprah revealed a huge family secret: she has a half-sister named Patricia whom she only learned about in November. Back in 1963, Oprah’s mother, Vernita Lee, gave Patricia up for adoption. Oprah was living with her father at the time and didn’t even know her mother was pregnant. In 2007, after years of searching for her birth mother, Patricia saw a TV interview with Vernita Lee and when information she gave coincided with what Patricia knew about her birth family, she realized she might be Oprah’s half-sister.
Can you imagine? You’re a lower-middle class woman working two jobs to support yourself and one day you’re just watchin’ TV when you realize the richest, most powerful woman in the world is probably your sister?! But to her enormous credit, Patricia never went to the media with her story. Instead, she spent years trying to reach out to her birth family — to her mother and to Oprah herself — with no luck. Finally, she was able to track down a niece and when DNA testing revealed that they were indeed related, she was finally reunited with Oprah and the rest of her birth family.
“She never once thought to sell the story,” Oprah said when she tearfully introduced Patricia to her audience on Monday’s show.
“Family business should be handled by family,” Patricia said. “It couldn’t be handled by anyone else. That’s not fair.”
So, the big question is: now that Oprah has been reunited with her half-sister, a woman who has already proven herself to be more trustworthy than most people Oprah has allowed into her inner circle, should she give her some money? Oprah’s worth billions, after all, and her sister is still working two jobs to support herself. She kept a secret that she could have sold to some media outlet for thousands — maybe hundreds of thousands of dollars. Oprah’s deceased half-sister, also named Patricia, once sold the story of Oprah’s teen pregnancy to a publication for $19,000, which devastated Oprah. But this Patricia didn’t sell her sister out like that. She kept the secret and she seems genuinely interested in forming a relationship with her birth family, which in addition to Oprah, includes their mother as well as nieces, nephews and cousins. But can a true relationship really be formed when Oprah is so filthy rich and her half-sister is financially struggling? Won’t such a drastic difference distance them?
If she asked, this is what I’d tell Oprah: give your sister a one-time chunk of money — a million bucks or something like that (pocket change to Opes). Give her enough to pay off her debts, pay off her kids’ debts, and donate a sizable amount to her church (Patricia is a very active member of her church and credits her pastor for helping her track down her birth family). Give her enough money that she’d be crazy to ask for more, so if she does, you’ll know she isn’t the genuine person she seemed to be. And if she never asks for money, you’ll know she’s provided for and that she was worthy of what you gave her initially. If nothing else, she should get something for being part of what was surely a huge ratings-boost during a pretty lackluster final season. Let’s face it, Oprah, your trip to Australia was kind of a snooze fest. A big family secret was exactly what you needed to finish your series with a bang and the one responsible should be rightfully rewarded.
What do you guys think? Should Oprah give Patricia money? If so, when and how much?