Biographer says Oprah is all business, no pleasure

NEW YORK Mon Apr 12, 2010 8:39pm EDT

Talk show host Oprah Winfrey waves to people at the Main Street in Copenhagen, September 30, 2009. REUTERS/Scanpix/Jeppe Michael Jensen

Talk show host Oprah Winfrey waves to people at the Main Street in Copenhagen, September 30, 2009.

Credit: Reuters/Scanpix/Jeppe Michael Jensen

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Celebrity biographer Kitty Kelley says talk show host Oprah Winfrey spends so much energy on her career that the world's most powerful woman in media and business has nothing leftover for her personal life.

Kelley's new book, "Oprah: A Biography," hits U.S. book stores on Tuesday and already has disappointed some media watchers who hoped it might end years of speculation that Winfrey may be gay and answer questions about her relationships with fiancee Stedman Graham, and her friend, Gayle King, editor of "O, the Oprah Magazine".

But after some 850 interviews, Kelley, who has written tell-alls about the Bush family, Frank Sinatra and Nancy Reagan, said she concluded Winfrey, who has been engaged to Graham since 1992, was just not interested in anyone.

"She is 56 years-old, she would almost have to be described as 'asexual' because she has put all of her sexual energies into her work, into her career, into building her empire and the financial rewards that she has gotten have been enough, really, to sustain her," Kelley told Reuters.

Winfrey refused to be interviewed for Kelley's book and her spokeswoman, Angela DePaul, said the talk show host had no comment about it or any of Kelley's assertions. Oprah has in the past denied being in a gay relationship with King.

Yet "Oprah: A Biography" is one of the most anticipated books in U.S. publishing this year precisely because Kelley has made millions selling gossipy tales. The Crown Publishing Group, owned by Bertelsmann's Random House, printed 550,000 copies for its initial run.

But reaction has been mixed with some critics noting "Oprah: A Biography" does not reveal enough new details about Winfrey or her personal life.

"Her devotees are probably too loyal to enjoy Ms. Kelley's mean streak," said The New York Times on Monday, later adding in regards to Graham and King: "Without new information, she resorts to blind gossip-column items that suggest any and all of the above may be gay, unless of course they aren't."

"INSATIABLE DRIVE"

Winfrey became a powerful cultural influence in the United States after she turned her show of almost 25 years, "The Oprah Winfrey Show" into a huge money maker and amassed a fortune of $2.3 billion as estimated by Forbes Magazine.

The 525-page biography examines Winfrey's upbringing in rural Mississippi, including having a baby at age 15.

Kelley, who claims she has never been successfully sued for incorrect information and writes about aspects of public figures that news reporters are unable to touch, said Winfrey's biggest trait was her ambitious nature.

"Oprah has immense drive, a really insatiable drive. She never stops working and her career and her empire is the first priority in her life," she said.

Contrary to the "warm, embracing, uninhibited, spontaneous woman," cultivated on her talk show, a behind-the-scenes look tells a different story of Winfrey's personality, she said.

"Off camera she is much more reserved, very, very aloof, she can be icy cold, she is an ace businesswoman, and she now sees herself as a brand really," Kelley said. "And that is different from seeing herself as a person or even as a celebrity."

Such is Winfrey's influence that Kelley, who said she received death threats after her Nancy Reagan biography, said she had difficulty finding a publisher "because they are all so dependent on her."

(Editing by Bob Tourtellotte and Vicki Allen)