Oprah Winfrey's 3 Siblings: All About Jeffrey, Patricia and Pat

Oprah Winfrey didn't learn of her second sister, Patricia, until 2010

OWN Communications Oprah Winfrey Vernita Lee Patricia 2018
OWN Communications Oprah Winfrey Vernita Lee Patricia 2018

Oprah Winfrey has reunited many families on her eponymous talk show over the years — but she never imagined she’d turn the cameras on her own.

Born on Jan. 29, 1954, in Kosciusko, Miss., Oprah was the first and only child of Vernita Lee and Vernon Winfrey. Vernita went on to welcome two more children: Pat and Jeffrey, Oprah’s siblings who died in 2003 and 1989, respectively.

But in late 2010, Oprah learned of a “bombshell family secret” that left her “speechless:" Vernita had a third child, Patricia, whom she had placed for adoption at birth. In a TV special focused on bringing the family together, the iconic talk show host reunited with her younger sister.

"I think I've seen just about everything and heard every story," Oprah said on The Oprah Winfrey Show in 2011, while breaking the news to her audience. "I thought nothing could surprise me anymore. But let me tell you, I was wrong."

Related: Oprah Winfrey and Stedman Graham's Relationship Timeline

The sisters met for the first time in 2011, and have developed a close bond in the years since.

Here is everything to know about Oprah Winfrey's three siblings: Jeffrey, Patricia and Pat.

Oprah saw her siblings sporadically growing up

<p>Oprah Instagram</p> Oprah.

Oprah Instagram


Oprah was raised primarily by her maternal grandmother, Hattie Mae Lee, on a farm in Mississippi. At age 6, she moved to Milwaukee, Wis., where her mom was living with her younger sister Pat, and would soon give birth to a baby boy, Jeffrey.

The Emmy winner opened up about the adversity and traumas she faced as a child in her 2021 book What Happened to You? Conversations on Trauma, Resilience, and Healing. As her mom struggled to make enough money as a maid to provide for her three children, Oprah was sent back and forth between her mom in Milwaukee and her dad in Tennessee. In her teenage years, she moved to live with Vernon full-time.

Patricia was placed for adoption at birth

<p>OWN</p> Oprah and her sister Patricia on 'The Oprah Winfrey Show'.


Oprah and her sister Patricia on 'The Oprah Winfrey Show'.

Vernita welcomed her fourth child, a baby girl, in Milwaukee on April 26, 1963. At the time, she was struggling to provide for her older children, and was hoping to get off of welfare, according to Oprah’s website. She decided to place Patricia for adoption, later explaining during the family’s reunion in 2011 that she “wasn’t able to take care of her." Vernita also opened up about the shame she’s carried since, sharing that she felt “it was a terrible thing for me to do.”

As Patricia grew up, she held out hope that her birth mother would attempt to contact her someday. "I had some disbelief that she didn't mean to put me up for adoption. I just would always wish that my birth mother was going to come back and get me," Patricia said. "Then, as you get older, you know that that's not going to happen."

Patricia doesn’t hold any resentment towards Vernita; instead, she focuses on all the love and support she grew up with. "What I'm grateful for is the people who I've had in my life and the people who have given me strength and the people who have loved me," she said during the reunion. "I don't regret the fact that my mother gave me up because that's not the way my life was supposed to go. This is."

Patricia grew up in the foster care system

Patricia was raised by multiple foster parents, moving repeatedly throughout her early childhood before being adopted at age 7. The experience was deeply formative for her, and later inspired her to pursue a degree in sociology in order to give back to foster children.

“Because of the fact that I was in foster care, my dream is to be able to go help foster children,” she said during a 2013 interview on the Oprah Winfrey Network. “The very first home that I was placed in, I know that I was loved, as a baby and all the way up until 4 years old. I had a lot of love, so I believe that that really is what helps and grounds you as an adult."

Jeffrey inspired Oprah to start her show

In March 2024, Oprah accepted the Vanguard Award at the 35th GLAAD Media Awards and revealed a secret about the conception of The Oprah Winfrey Show, which ran from September 1986 to May 2011.

In her speech, Oprah shared that her late brother, Jeffrey, had inspired her to make the talk show.

"All the years of the Oprah show for me were about sharing stories that actually helped people be more of their authentic selves and I know that that is the truest form of what it means to be free," Winfrey recalled. "To have personal freedom. To be able to fully be who you are. To have the truest expression of yourself as a human being."

The media mogul went on, "At the time, I didn't know how deeply my brother internalized the shame he felt about being gay. I wish he could have lived to witness these liberated times and be here with me tonight.”

Patricia is a mom of two

Patricia welcomed her first child at age 17, a baby girl named Aquarius. "I had my daughter very young, and my whole goal with wanting to have my daughter is to have a part of me — to be able to look at her and see a part of me," she told Oprah in 2011. Six years after becoming a mother, she gave birth to a second child, a son named Andre.

Her children were instrumental in her decision to track down her birth family, encouraging her to request her adoption records in 2007. She’d tried once before, at age 20, but didn’t pursue further research at the time.

The second time around, she received her birth records. "I was like, 'Oh, my God,' " she said. "I have a family." The documents did not reveal the names of her family members, but let her know she had three siblings.

She kept her relation to Oprah a secret for years

<p>OWN</p> Oprah and her sister Patricia on 'The Oprah Winfrey Show'.


Oprah and her sister Patricia on 'The Oprah Winfrey Show'.

While watching an interview with Vernita, in which she discussed the deaths of Jeffrey and Pat, Patricia noticed several overlapping details in their family tree. "The hairs on the back of my neck stood up,” she said, as she began to realize she might have found her birth mother. "I said, 'No, that can't be.' "

Patricia then attempted to contact Vernita three times, but her birth mother told her she was not ready to meet. "I was very hurt," Patricia said. "I just had to let it go." She kept the information to herself, taking care to make sure the media wouldn’t find out and leak the story. "I remember just still worrying about my older sister and just praying to God that nothing gets out," she said. "I did not want her hurt."

This discretion was the basis for Oprah’s decision to eventually meet her sister, she explained during the reunion episode. "What is so remarkable to me about this story, and it's going make me cry, so just be patient," Oprah told her sister. "Since I have been a person known in the public, there have been few times that I've been anywhere and not been sold out,” she said, expressing gratitude for Patricia’s considerate handling of the situation.

“Patricia tried and tried and tried again to get responses from my mother and other people in the family. She never once thought to go to the press. She never once thought to sell this story. ... When I heard this about you, I said, 'Regardless if it's true or not true, I had to meet you because I wanted to meet somebody who had that kind of character.' So thank you."

Patricia went back to college

<p>Oprah Instagram</p> Oprah and her sister Patricia.

Oprah Instagram

Oprah and her sister Patricia.

Patricia was able to pursue her lifelong dream of getting a college education, graduating from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in December 2017 with a bachelor’s degree in sociology.

There to cheer her on was big sister Oprah, who shared a sweet tribute to her “lil sis” on Instagram to celebrate the milestone.

"My sister Pat who discovered she was a part of our family 6 years ago, had 1 big dream when I met her," she wrote alongside a smiling photo of her and Patricia. "To go to college and finish strong! Today that dream came true. Congratulations lil Sis."

Jeffrey died in 1989

Jeffrey died at age 29 of AIDS-related complications.

According to the South Florida Sun Sentinel, Oprah released a statement following her brother’s death in December 1989, expressing her grief. “For the last two years, my brother, Jeffrey Lee, had been living with AIDS,” she began. “My family, like thousands of others throughout the world, grieves not just for the death of one young man, but for the many unfulfilled dreams and accomplishments that society has been denied because of AIDS.”

Oprah has helped to educate the public by spreading awareness of HIV/AIDS in the decades since. In June 2024, the talk show host marked Pride month with a message on Oprah Daily dedicated to Jeffrey.

“I often think if he’d lived he’d be so amazed at how much the world has changed, that there actually is gay marriage and a Pride Month," she wrote. “How different his life might have been had be lived in these times. In a world that saw and appreciated him for who he was rather than attempting to shame him for his sexuality.”

Patricia resembles her late sister, Pat

Meeting Patricia has been a deeply healing experience for Oprah and her nieces Alisha and Chrishaunda, who all agree that she bears an uncanny resemblance to Pat, who died in 2003. The sisters had a tumultuous relationship, as Pat struggled with addiction and substance abuse until her death.

"It feels like [this is] closure for my sister Pat who passed," Oprah explained in 2011. "My sister Pat, I did the best I could for her and many of you know, I had to put her through drug rehab twice, and when she came out, she just didn't survive it.”

Oprah also told her nieces that Patricia reminds her of “Pat on her very best day."

"I think that she has her own personality and her own gifts, but she, for me, is a constant reminder of the goodness that my mother represented, personified," Chrishaunda added. "My mother had a lot of demons that prevented her from being her best self. We know about that, but I feel like my mother speaks through her."

Oprah and Patricia share a close bond

<p>OWN</p> Oprah and her sister Patricia on 'Oprah: Where Are They Now?'.


Oprah and her sister Patricia on 'Oprah: Where Are They Now?'.

After initially reconnecting in 2010, the two grew closer as they spent more time together. "It's a process,” Oprah said at the time, praising her sister’s sensitive handling of the situation. “She's so sweet. She would call me and say, 'Are you alright? I know this is hard for you to process.' Yes, it is. I'm still processing. So we're going to be getting to know each other in the months and days and years to come,” she explained.

They’ve since shared several sweet moments together, from getting dressed up to attend the 2011 Academy Awards, where Oprah was awarded an honorary Oscar for her philanthropy, to celebrating Patricia’s 50th birthday together.

To mark the milestone in 2013, Oprah shared a touching tribute to her sister, calling her the “perfect sister" and a “remarkable human being.”

For more People news, make sure to sign up for our newsletter!

Read the original article on People.