I love Oprah Winfrey and Gayle King’s friendship. I think a solid friendship is something to be treasured. Usually, it’s hard to give a friend as much attention as your immediate family but that relationship should still be nurtured and respected, which Oprah and Gayle obviously do. I remember reading about how they met a few years back. It’s a good story and reminiscent of Mary Richards and Rhoda Morgenstern from the Mary Tyler Moore Show. I think that’s why it stood out to me because I know Mary Richards meant so much to Oprah. The beginning of Oprah and Gayle happened on a dark and stormy night when two young news ladies who barely knew each other ended up bunking together at Oprah’s so Gayle wouldn’t get stranded in a snowstorm. And the rest, as they say, is herstory.
Oprah Winfrey was a 22-year-old news anchor at WJZ-TV in Baltimore when she offered Gayle King, then a 21-year-old production assistant/writer at the station, a place to crash for the night.
They hardly knew each other but a heavy snowstorm was in the forecast, and Winfrey didn’t want King stranded.
“We ended up talking all night long,” says Winfrey, who spotted King a toothbrush and a dress for work the next day (“it was purple with a scoop neck and bell sleeves,” King recalls to this day). “We’ve literally been friends ever since.”
The powerhouse duo, who opened up about their 46-year friendship for PEOPLE’s The Beautiful Issue, on stands Friday, have become a force of nature in their own right. Fiercely loyal and always truthful with each other (“even if you don’t want to hear it”, notes Winfrey) they share similar values and philosophies about life and relish a good meal, a great movie and a spirited discussion around current events.
Both are regularly approached by strangers who see themselves, and their own BFFs, in the inspiring pair. “I always get, ‘This is my Oprah’,” says King. “It’s one of the biggest compliments.”
Adds Winfrey: “And I always get, ‘This is my Gayle’. I understand what that means: long-term, standing in the gap, no matter what I’m here for you.”
Honestly, if people looked over their friendships, I’d bet they’d have as many meet-cutes as they did the people they date. One of my friends is the first mom I officially asked out (she said yes!) Another friend is the wife of someone I’d grown up with. But the night we met, I’d invited them to mine for dinner because both our moms were in town. The reason that was significant, and what she tells everyone, is that my mom was in town because I’d had a baby three weeks prior and my friend could not figure out “why the f**k she was hosting a dinner party.” Everything about Oprah and Gayle’s story fits what we know about them. Oprah would never turn her back on someone she knew, even passingly, when they were in trouble. Of course they stayed up all night gabbing. Of course Gayle remembers the exact dress she borrowed, I’ll bet one of them still has it. The nicest part about Gayle and Oprah’s relationship is that they are willing to share it with the rest of us. They’ve endured several rumors about their relationship. They’ve had everyone and their brother weigh in on them, their friendship, comparing them, attacking them, etc. And yet, they have repeatedly shown their love and devotion to each other. It matters. It matters to see two women who have had to fight harder for everything they have celebrate each other in such a beautiful way.
I hear people say “she’s my Oprah” and “she’s my Gayle” just in my ordinary life. That’s so funny. What a neat legacy to have. One of their many legacies, of course.