In the midst of a tabloid story that Oprah Winfrey was “ambushed” by her “secret son,” Calvin Mitchell, outside the Ed Sullivan Theatre in New York earlier this month, the media mogul has set the record straight in an exclusive interview with Entertainment Tonight’s Nancy O’Dell.
Clearing the air, the 61-year-old media mogul narrated the story of how she met Mitchell in the 1990s during the filming of There Are No Children Here, how she tried to help Mitchell whose family were stuck in the Projects. Moved them to a better home, got Mitchell enrolled in school, but he ended up disappointing her.
‘I met Calvin around the early ’90s, I think it was 1992. I was doing a film for television called There Are No Children Here,” she told ET. “We were shooting in the projects in Chicago and I was sitting on set during a break, and this cute little sparkly-eyed boy came underneath the yellow tape to hand me a soda. I was so charmed by him that I started talking to him about his family, his school life, and found out that he was in a situation where his mother didn’t have a job and they were stuck in the projects.”
Oprah said she shouldered the responsibility to help the family move out of the projects, by searching for employment for Calvin’s mother, and enrolling Calvin in a local private school.
According to her, when the principal called to inform her that Calvin hadn’t been attending class, Oprah and her partner, Stedman Graham, paid the family a visit.
“We realized they don’t have any clocks in the house,” she said. “We went out, Stedman and I, went to K-Mart that moment, got a bag full of clocks, came back to the house, taught them how to set the alarm and all that.”
“I had a long conversation with him about how disappointed I was but I was going to give him another chance,” she said, and moved him to a private Christian boarding school, The Piney Woods School, in Mississippi. He dropped out before the age of 17, and she was done with him. They never contacted each other again, until he ambushed her in New York, claiming to be her ‘secret son’, a story he sold to a tabloid.
Oprah said she wanted to contact him again after they met this month, but when she learned that he had sold a story to the press, she was disappointed.
“I could see the little boy in his eyes, even though time has changed a lot for him, and I said to him, ‘What are you doing? Why did you go to the tabloids?'” Oprah said.
“As I left, and he was looking so forlorn, he was like, ‘Can I speak to you?’ So I said to somebody on my team, ‘Will somebody get Calvin’s number so I can contact him later?’ I didn’t realize the whole thing was a setup.
“When I realized the whole thing was a setup, I was no longer interested in speaking to him,” she continued, noting that she’s not hurt, but is “disappointed.”
Oprah also said that it was her experience with Calvin that inspired her to open her Leadership Academy for Girls in 2007.
“I learned from that experience, if you really want to change somebody’s life, you gotta be able to spend enough time with them to change the way they think about what their life can be,” she said. “It isn’t enough to give a person a new life or money or a new car, you have to teach them how to fish themselves.”
Radar Online publication has it that Mitchell has since then asked for forgiveness but Oprah rejected him with a “Calvin, you just take care of yourself.”