Oprah details childhood abuse, revealing her grandma ‘whupped’ her regularly


Oprah Winfrey has opened up in further detail about the abuse she suffered as a child, speaking candidly about how her grandmother would ‘whup’ her regularly and for the ‘slightest reasons’ — and how that turned her into a ‘world-class people pleaser’ who had trouble setting boundaries well into adulthood.

The 67-year-old mogul had detailed the trauma of her own upbringing in her new book, ‘What Happened to You?: Conversations on Trauma, Resilience, and Healing,’ and has shared some of her harrowing experiences as a young child on Instagram this week.

Oprah is now a billionaire with a longtime romantic partner – however she grew up poor and ‘rarely feeling loved,’ spending the first six years of her life with an abusive grandmother before moving in with a mother who was ‘cold’ and allowed her to be banished to sleep on the porch of the boarding house where they lived.

Candid: Oprah Winfrey has opened up about the abuse she suffered as a child, speaking about how her grandmother would ‘whup’ her regularly and for the ‘slightest reasons’

Sad: She spent the first six years of her life in rural Mississippi with her grandma, Hattie Mae, who regularly beat her

Sad: She spent the first six years of her life in rural Mississippi with her grandma, Hattie Mae, who regularly beat her

'As a young girl, I was "whupped" regularly,' she wrote. 'At the time it was an accepted practice of punishment to discipline a child. My grandmother, Hattie Mae, embraced it'

‘As a young girl, I was “whupped” regularly,’ she wrote. ‘At the time it was an accepted practice of punishment to discipline a child. My grandmother, Hattie Mae, embraced it’

Repercussions: She said it turned her into a 'world-class people pleaser' who had trouble setting boundaries well into adulthood

Repercussions: She said it turned her into a ‘world-class people pleaser’ who had trouble setting boundaries well into adulthood

Tragic cycle: Her grandmother, too, suffered abuse at the hands of her grandfather

Tragic cycle: Her grandmother, too, suffered abuse at the hands of her grandfather

Oprah has shared three rare photos from her childhood on Instagram, posting two sweet images of herself as a toddler and one as a cautiously smiling grade schrooler. 

‘The most pervasive feeling I remember from my own childhood is loneliness,’ the mega-star wrote. 

‘My mother and father were together only once, underneath an old oak tree. Nine months after that singular encounter, I arrived.’

She spent the first six years of her life living in rural Mississippi with her grandmother, who regularly beat her.

‘As a young girl, I was “whupped” regularly,’ she wrote. ‘At the time it was an accepted practice of punishment to discipline a child. My grandmother, Hattie Mae, embraced it.

‘But even at three years old I knew what I was experiencing was wrong. I was beaten for the slightest reasons. Spilled water, a broken glass, the inability to keep quiet or still. My grandmother’s home was a place where children were seen and not heard.’ 

Oprah said this mistreatment didn’t just harm her as a child, but had lasting repercussions that impacted her well into adulthood.

Flashback: Oprah shared several photos of herself as a young child, including this smiling shot

Flashback: Oprah shared several photos of herself as a young child, including this smiling shot

'The most pervasive feeling I remember from my own childhood is loneliness,' the mega-star wrote

‘The most pervasive feeling I remember from my own childhood is loneliness,’ the mega-star wrote

Lonely: At six, she moved to Milwaukee to live with her mom, who had 'no time for nurturing' and was 'distant' and 'cold'

'I rarely remember feeling loved,' she admitted

Little girl: At six, she moved to Milwaukee to live with her mom, who had ‘no time for nurturing’ and was ‘distant’ and ‘cold.’ ‘I rarely remember feeling loved,’ she admitted

‘The long-term impact of being whupped — then forced to hush and even smile about it — turned me into a world-class people pleaser for most of my life,’ she said. 

‘It would not have taken me half a lifetime to learn to set boundaries and say “no” with confidence had I been nurtured differently.’

After her grandmother died, Oprah was ‘shuttled’ between her mother, Vernita Lee, in Milwaukee and her father in Nashville. 

‘When I went to live with my mother at six years old, I did not feel welcome,’ she recalled. ‘The night I arrived in Milwaukee, the woman my mother was boarding with, Ms. Miller, took one look at me and said, “She’ll have to sleep on the porch.”

‘Ms. Miller was light-skinned. She could almost pass for white, and she was not going to have this “nappy-headed dark child,” as she said, stay in the house,’ she wrote.

But while one might naturally hope their own mother would advocate for them, Oprah’s did not.  

‘My mother said, “All right.” As I watched my mother close the house door to go to the bed where I thought I’d sleep, I was consumed with a terrified sense of loneliness that brought me to tears,’ she said.

'I always felt like a burden, an "extra mouth to feed,"' she said

‘I always felt like a burden, an “extra mouth to feed,”‘ she said

When she moved to Milwaukee to live with her mother, the boarding house owner refused to let her sleep in the house, and her mother didn't argue

When she moved to Milwaukee to live with her mother, the boarding house owner refused to let her sleep in the house, and her mother didn’t argue

Ms. Miller said she was not going to have this 'nappy-headed dark child' stay in the house, Oprah recalled

'That was my first lesson in learning other people (even your mother) can disappoint you, but God doesn't,' she said

Banished: Ms. Miller said she was not going to have this ‘nappy-headed dark child’ stay in the house, Oprah recalled

In her words: The 67-year-old mogul had detailed the trauma of her own upbringing in her new book , 'What Happened to You?: Conversations on Trauma, Resilience, and Healing'

In her words: The 67-year-old mogul had detailed the trauma of her own upbringing in her new book , ‘What Happened to You?: Conversations on Trauma, Resilience, and Healing’

‘I imagined a robber snatching me from the porch or somehow breaking through the windows and choking me. That first night, I got on my knees and prayed to God to send angels to protect me. HE did. And that was my first lesson in learning other people (even your mother) can disappoint you, but God doesn’t.’

Living with her mother continued to be difficult, and Oprah does not describe her as a particularly warm person. 

‘My mother worked as a maid for fifty dollars a week doing what she could to care for three young children. There was no time for nurturing. My mother felt distant, cold to the need of this little girl,’ she said.

‘All of the energy went to keeping her head above water, surviving. I always felt like a burden, an “extra mouth to feed.” I rarely remember feeling loved, which impacted my ability to experience love as an adult.’

Oprah has spoken about about her difficult relationship with her mother before, once revealing that she chose never again to have children ‘because I wasn’t mothered well.’ 

But she later made amends with Vernita and, in one touching 1990 episode of the Oprah Winfrey Show, Oprah gave her mother a makeover.

Vernita later said that her proudest moment was seeing her daughter in Steven Spielberg’s The Color Purple in 1985.

Emotional: Oprah has spoken about about her difficult relationship with her mother before, once revealing that she chose never again to have children 'because I wasn't mothered well'

Emotional: Oprah has spoken about about her difficult relationship with her mother before, once revealing that she chose never again to have children ‘because I wasn’t mothered well’

Moving forward: She later made amends with Vernita and, in one touching 1990 episode of the Oprah Winfrey Show, Oprah gave her mother a makeover

Moving forward: She later made amends with Vernita and, in one touching 1990 episode of the Oprah Winfrey Show, Oprah gave her mother a makeover

Living on: Vernita later said that her proudest moment was seeing her daughter in Steven Spielberg's The Color Purple in 1985

Living on: Vernita later said that her proudest moment was seeing her daughter in Steven Spielberg’s The Color Purple in 1985

Huge heart: Oprah helped support her mother financially after she found success as a television star, saying she felt a sense of 'responsibility'

Huge heart: Oprah helped support her mother financially after she found success as a television star, saying she felt a sense of ‘responsibility’

Oprah helped support her mother financially after she found success as a television star, saying she felt a sense of ‘responsibility.’

But working through what she suffered as a child took time for the star, and she hopes that sharing her story in the new book she authored with Dr. Bruce Perry will ‘help us heal and shift from asking “What’s wrong with you?” to “What happened to you?”

She explained: ‘Most of the struggles I endured as a child resulted in trauma that would define many relationships, interactions, and decisions in my life. It took decades of work, conversations, and healing to break those cycles and make peace with my past.’  

Appearing on The Dr. Oz Show today, Oprah spoke further about the abuse she suffered at the hands of her grandmother, recalled a specific incident when she was beaten after bringing a bucket of water back to the family home.

‘As I was bringing the water back, I was, like, playing with the water with my fingers like that in the water and my grandmother was looking out the window,’ Winfrey said. ‘And when I brought the bucket in and I’m sloshing the bucket cause I’m a little girl, and she’s like “Were you playing in the water? Did you have your fingers in that water? That’s our drinking water.”

She continued: ‘I was like, and I said, “No ma’am” and she said, “I saw you and your fingers in the water,” so she grabbed a switch and I got a really bad whupping for it.’ 

More talk: Appearing on The Dr. Oz Show today, Oprah spoke further about the abuse she suffered at the hands of her grandmother

More talk: Appearing on The Dr. Oz Show today, Oprah spoke further about the abuse she suffered at the hands of her grandmother 

The talk show host got emotional while discussing the injuries she had in the wake of the beating.

‘Later, when I put on my clothes to go to church, one of the welts from my back opened up and bloodied the dress. So my emotion now is not because I feel such deep pain about it, I just feel pain for that little girl,’ she said.

In the exchange with Dr. Oz, Oprah painted a broader picture of her upbringing in rural Mississippi, noting how her grandmother was facing her own abuse at the hands of Oprah’s grandfather, and how she still has lingering trauma about sleeping.

‘My grandmother and I slept in the bed together,’ she said. ‘My grandfather was in a room on the other side of the wall and one night, in the middle of the night, my grandfather gets out of bed and comes into the room and I wake up and he has his hands around my grandmother’s neck and she is screaming. 

‘She manages to push him off of her and step over him. He falls. She steps over him and runs to the front door. I run out of the bed with her.’

Oprah said her grandmother began to call out for a family friend they called Cousin Henry who lived nearby.

Details: The talk show host got emotional while discussing the injuries she had in the wake of the beating

Details: The talk show host got emotional while discussing the injuries she had in the wake of the beating

No holding back: Oprah has been candid about some of the abuse and trauma she suffered in her childhood and adolescence

No holding back: Oprah has been candid about some of the abuse and trauma she suffered in her childhood and adolescence

‘Cousin Henry comes down the road in the middle of the night to help my grandmother get my grandfather up off the floor,’ she recalled, choking up as she admitted it was the first time she was publicly telling the story. ‘And after that my grandmother put a chair underneath the doorknob and some tin cans around the chair.  

‘And that is how we slept every night. I’m sleeping, I always slept with, listening for the cans. Listening for what happens if that doorknob moves.’   

Oprah has been candid about some of the abuse and trauma she suffered in her childhood and adolescence. 

She previously revealed that she was raped and abused by family friends, who have not been publicly identified, while living with her mother in Milwaukee.

After getting pregnant at age 14, she moved to Nashville to live with her father. 

She went on to give birth to a son, who died before he left the hospital at just a week old. Oprah never even got to hold him.  

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk