Oprah Winfrey honors her late brother for Pride Month

The 70-year-old author Oprah Winfrey spoke about her 29-year-old brother, Jeffrey Lee, who died of Aids (Getty Images)
The 70-year-old author Oprah Winfrey spoke about her 29-year-old brother, Jeffrey Lee, who died of Aids (Getty Images)

Oprah Winfrey has honored her late brother for Pride Month in a poignant post on Oprah Daily.

Taking to her eponymous platform on 4 June, the 70-year-old author spoke about her 29-year-old brother, Jeffrey Lee, who died of Aids, to commemorate the nationwide celebration of the LGBTQ+ community.

Winfrey noted how Lee tragically passed away in 1989 – a year afflicted by the HIV epidemic.

“It was 35 years ago that my younger brother Jeffrey Lee died from Aids. He was 29 years old,” she said. “The year was 1989 and the world was an extremely cruel place, not just for people suffering from Aids, but also for LGBTQ people in general.”

The former talk show host thought about what her sibling’s life might be like if he was still alive, predicting how pleased he’d be with how society has changed.

“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,” Winfrey noted. “How different his life might have been had he 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.”

That said, Winfrey hopes everyone now is living authentically with a strong support system because she believes the right to love is universal.

In March, the business mogul received the Vanguard Award from GLAAD Media – the largest “lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) media advocacy organization”, as stated on their website – for the work she’s done “promoting acceptance of LGBTQ people and issues”. At the 35th annual ceremony, she paid homage to her brother, acknowledging how he’s motivated her efforts and career trajectory.

“GLAAD’s Vanguard Award is presented to allies who have made a significant difference in promoting acceptance of LGBTQ people and issues,” the organization explained in their press announcement. “Previous honorees include Bad Bunny, Beyoncé and Jay-Z, Jennifer Lopez, Britney Spears, Kerry Washington, Cher, Janet Jackson, Elizabeth Taylor, Kacey Musgraves and Antonio Banderas.”

During her acceptance speech, she said: “At the time, I didn’t know how deeply my brother internalized the shame he felt about being gay. To have personal freedom. To be able to fully be who you are. To have the truest expression of yourself as a human being.”

Winfrey wished he was still with her but explained how his legacy lives on through her work on The Oprah Winfrey Show. For 25 years, the series frontwoman acted as a voice for anyone who wanted to share their story but didn’t have the strength or platform to do so. She helped them find stability and achieve serenity.

The Oprah Winfrey Show ran from 1986 to 2011. In 2009, Winfrey announced to her live audience that the series run would be ending.

“Twenty-five years feels right in my bones and feels right in my spirit,” she confessed.