"When I received my PhD in 1985 from the University of
Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Oprah asked me where I was going to work," said Jo
Baldwin in the summer of 2010. "I said I would be applying for a
position at Ebony magazine as a copy editor. Oprah said she did not like Linda Johnson Rice [owner of Ebony] and I should come to work for her instead. So I did."
That is the fateful start that Oprah's cousin Jo Baldwin had when she started in the employ of Oprah Winfrey in 1985 as a speechwriter. Later, she promoted Baldwin to the Vice President position of Harpo, Inc.
Kitty Kelley, Oprah's unauthorized biographer and author of the book Oprah: a Biography, describes Jo Baldwin as "a tenured professor at Mississippi Valley State, [and] is also an
ordained minister who preaches at two churches every Sunday. Deeply
religious, her parishioners call her Reverend Jo."
Eventually, Oprah fired Baldwin with no notice. Being fired with no notice is bad enough, but the real cause for Baldwin's unemployment was the fact that Oprah thought that Baldwin talked about Jesus too much and was overly religious. Baldwin describes her sudden unemployment at the hands of Oprah: "I was to work for her for three years, but she fired me without notice
after two years... I heard from someone later that she got rid of me
because she got tired of me talking about Jesus all the time... Oprah
preferred the teachings of Shirley MacLaine's books, such as Dancing in the Light and Out on a Limb, which Oprah made me read but I didn't think much of. Mainly, Oprah wanted to shame me for being a follower of Jesus as if to
say, 'What is He doing for you that's so great?' Oprah inflicts
emotional wounds that could lead to physical illness, if they aren't
healed. My faith has kept me from getting sick [over her]."
Oprah's family, as whole, share Baldwin's resentment of her shunning traditional religion, not only because of the own feelings on religion but also the way they have been treated by Oprah. "The power of Oprah's vast wealth makes most of her relatives quake", Kitty Kelley says. "They want to be part of the luxurious life that she offers on occasion
(her lavish Christmas presents, her birthday checks, even her
hand-me-downs) but they chafe at the way she has dismissed them since
becoming famous and they know that she does not cherish them as family.
She prefers instead her celebrity friends. Oprah holds Maya Angelou as
the mother she should've had; she sees Sidney Poitier as her father,
Quincy Jones as her uncle, and Gayle King as her beloved sister."
But Oprah's family is not well to begin with. "The family is tangled with so many secrets and so much fear," said
Baldwin. "I admit I was afraid of Oprah for 20 years. Absolutely
terrified. She's powerful and dangerous. She told me if I ever opened my
mouth [about what I know] she'd sue my pants off."
A chilling example of Oprah's shunning of her family is best described in a fact Kitty Kelley divulged in her book: "Oprah will not give her mother, Vernita Lee, her personal phone number.
If her mother needs to call Oprah, she must call the studio and talk to
Baldwin, according to Kelley, "feels her famous cousin has lost her way and is mired in godless New Age mumbo jumbo." Truer words may never have been spoken.
This story and its quotes are taken from Kitty Kelley's post on Gawker.com. Click here to read it.