OPRAH Winfrey’s mum died on Thanksgiving Day aged 83, it has emerged.
Vernita Lee was born on May 2, 1935, and worked as a housekeeper throughout her life.
A Winfrey spokeswoman today issued a statement saying Lee died at her Milwaukee home and a private funeral service has already been held.
Lee was 18 when she gave birth to Winfrey in Mississippi in 1954.
She originally named her daughter Orpah, after the bible character, but the girl became known as Oprah because it was so commonly mispronounced.
Soon after this, Lee moved north for work and Winfrey was sent to live with her maternal grandmother before returning to her mum’s care in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, when she was 6 years old.
As adults the pair were reported to have a complicated relationship, though they reconciled in later years.
Oprah once said: “I was asking the question… what is a mother? What are you supposed to feel about your mother?”
Lee was featured getting a makeover on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” in 1990.
She returned to the show in 2011 alongside a woman named Patricia, who turned out to be another daughter she had secretly put up for adoption in 1963.
Winfrey said she was stunned to discover she had a half-sister, but forgave her mum, adding: “To my mother, I say, ‘You can let this shame go.”
Lee is also survived by another daughter, Patricia Amanda, and four grandchildren. She was predeceased by a son, Jeffrey, and by a daughter, Patricia.