Oprah Winfrey has spoken out after she was ambushed by a man claiming to be her ‘secret son’ as she left a taping of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.
The 61-year-old media mogul was photographed as she attempted to deal with the man, Calvin Mitchell, during an awkward encounter outside the Ed Sullivan Theater in New York on October 15.
The National Enquirer had arranged for Mitchell to run into Oprah after he told the tabloid he wanted to reconnect with the talk show host after becoming estranged from her for 20 years.
In an interview with Entertainment Tonight’s Nancy O’Dell, Oprah revealed that although she didn’t immediately recognize Mitchell, she did try to make contact with him after their run-in.
She confirmed that Mitchell is not her birth son, but she admitted she was ‘so charmed’ by him when they met in the early 1990s, she did everything she could to help his family.
Oprah said that she has not spoken to Mitchell since he quit the private boarding she had enrolled him in more than 20 years ago but was keen to reconnect after seeing him again this month.
But now, after realizing he had sold his story to the tabloids and their encounter was a set-up, she wants nothing to do with him.
Oprah told ET: ‘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.
‘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.’
She explained that she took it upon herself to help the family move out of the projects, find employment for Mitchell’s mother, and enroll him in a local private school.
But 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.
They told her that they weren’t able to wake up on time to get Calvin to school.
‘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.’
Oprah said that Calvin was eventually expelled from the school.
She added: ‘I had a long conversation with him about how disappointed I was but I was going to give him another chance.’
She then paid for Mitchell to attend the private Christian boarding school, The Piney Woods School, in Mississippi, until he dropped out at age 17.
‘I found a school in Mississippi that was a private boarding school because I thought if I could remove him from the environment that he’d been accustomed to growing up in, that maybe that would be helpful to him.’
Oprah said that, at the age of 16, Calvin said that he couldn’t stay at the boarding school because ‘the teachers didn’t like him’.
‘I said, ‘Calvin, this is the moment. This is a seminal moment for you. I know you are 16 and can’t see the road ahead, but if you leave this school and refuse to get an education – I have tried to offer you an education twice – there isn’t another school I can put you in.
‘If you leave this school, I am done. There is nothing else I can do.’
‘And that was my last conversation with Calvin in the early ’90s.’
And when she ran into Mitchell earlier this month, Oprah already suspected that he told his story to the tabloids because she was asked by a media outlet for comment about her ‘secret son’.
She said: ‘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?’
‘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.’
But she added that she’s not hurt, but is ‘disappointed’.
Oprah also revealed that it was her experience with Mitchell 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.’
On Monday, Mitchell told Radar that Oprah once asked his mother to adopt him at the age of 11 after he and the billionaire mogul met on the 1992 set of ABC’s movie-of-the-week, There Are No Children Here.
Mitchell said that he became suicidal and depressed after their relationship ended years ago. He reportedly pleaded with Oprah for forgiveness after she asked him why he had spoken to a tabloid.
The two-time Oscar nominee was seen acknowledging Mitchell outside the studios and pressed her hand against his chest in the familiar way she frequently does with fans.
‘I’m sorry, I’m sorry, but it was the only way to get in touch with you,’ Mitchell reportedly told her.
He then asked if they could talk, at which point she is said to have told him; ‘Honey I’m on my way to the United Nations right now so I can’t talk to you.’
She then reportedly added: ‘Calvin, you just take care of yourself.’
Mitchell said he charmed Oprah when they first met by offering her a Diet Coke, and she offered him a job as her ‘personal bodyguard’ before asking his mother Eva if she could adopt him.
‘It felt strange because I felt if someone wanted to help me with my children, that’s one thing,’ his 56-year-old mother told the site.
‘But to actually adopt one child knowing I have others? I couldn’t allow her to separate my children.’
Oprah – who boasts a $3 billion fortune – would allegedly send gifts to the boy with notes addressed: ‘To my son Calvin, I love you.’
He said the 20-time Emmy winner paid for him to attend the private Christian boarding school in Mississippi until he dropped out at age 17.