Patricia Lofton was born under precarious circumstances, but little did she know, the truth behind her family tree would later shock the world. The adopted Lofton’s yearning to return to her biological parents became such a major part of her life that she couldn’t ignore it. When she finally learned about her birth mother, she also discovered that her sister is one of the most famous women on Earth. Lofton’s name, too, would soon be plastered on magazine covers around the world. Read on to learn how the discovery of her celebrity sister changed the course of her life forever.
1. Life On Welfare
By the time Patricia Lofton’s mother discovered she was pregnant, she’d already had enough on her plate. She was on welfare and struggling to take care of her existing children – having another one simply wasn’t an option. She had to think on her feet to find a way out of the situation.
The struggling mother was working hard to get off welfare and decided raising Patricia Lofton in poverty wasn’t acceptable. When it came down to it, there was only one other option she could stomach. Her decision would change the course of Patricia’s life forever.
2. The Adoption
It was one of the hardest decisions Patricia Lofton’s mother would ever make, but she was determined to secure her youngest daughter a better life. When Patricia was born, her mother had made up her mind: she would put her up for adoption.
Some would argue that, in her youngest years, Patricia’s life didn’t necessarily qualify as better than what it could have been, as her mother had hoped. She lived in many a foster care until she was seven, when she was finally adopted. Despite the challenges, Patricia would have one of the most extraordinary life stories in recent times. Read on to find out exactly what happened.
3. A Mistake?
Even after she was adopted, Patricia Lofton went through intense hardship. Her childhood was “difficult,” she has said, as she never felt like she fit in with her adopted family. She longed to be reunited with her biological mother, though she did not know who she was.
That longing wouldn’t dissipate anytime soon. Patricia had always had this strange gut feeling that her mother hadn’t really intended to give her away. She wanted to know why she felt that way – there had to be a reason. Soon, she’d find out.
4. A Curious Mind
As Patricia Lofton got older, she continued to wonder about her birth parents – as well as whether she had any siblings. Who were they? Why did they give her away? That curiosity only intensified with age. She just felt she was destined to learn the answers to those questions.
Eventually, she’d discover something about her biological family that would absolutely blow her mind. But first, she’d face a challenge of her own. In fact, she had to face a challenge that was strikingly similar to the one her birth mother faced before her.
5. Doing It The Right Way
Before the age most people even graduate high school and begin their adult lives, Patricia became pregnant with a baby girl. Unlike her mother, though, Patricia decided she didn’t want to give her daughter away. She didn’t want to make what she saw as a devastating mistake.
And it was far from an easy conclusion to reach. Patricia wasn’t married when she had her baby girl, Aquarius. Her child must have intensified her urge to meet her birth mother, because what she did next would lead to the discovery of a lifetime.
6. Initial Attempt
When Patricia Lofton turned 20, she couldn’t take the curiosity any longer. She had to know at least something about her birth parents, and she would take it upon herself to do something about it. Feeling determined, she started by shuffling through her adoption records.
She quickly gave up the search, though, due to her attempts to juggle various responsibilities in her private life surrounding work and raising her daughter. But she’d be back at it soon enough, and what she would learn would make headlines all over the world.
7. Another Child
By the time Patricia Lofton’s daughter turned six, she was pregnant with her second child. Keeping her family together was important to Patricia given her past. When her first son, Andre, was born, she’d raise him herself alongside her daughter Aquarius.
Patricia began working two jobs to take care of her two children. She wasn’t going to make the same mistake her parents had made. Patricia put her quest to find her parents on hold until two decades later, when something truly incredible would happen.
8. Back To The Search
Patricia Lofton focused on raising her children throughout her twenties and thirties, putting the search for her biological parents on hold. It was important to her, but not at the expense of raising her children. But in her forties, that nagging feeling returned.
The feeling of emptiness haunted Patricia – she needed to know who her parents were, and she wasn’t going to wait any longer. She accessed her adoption records to scrape for anything she could find. The first order of business? Finding her mother.
9. Her Mother’s Cold Shoulder
Patricia Lofton reached out to her birth mother, whose name she still didn’t know, through her adoption records. But her mom gave her the cold shoulder. Perhaps out of embarrassment, Patricia’s birth mother didn’t want anything to do with her.
But sometimes in life, fate takes the wheel. That’s what happened on the day Patricia was rejected by her mother. On that day, something incredible would happen. She’d learn who her biological mother is, yes. But she’d learn something more bizarre as well, and it would soon shock the world.
10. Familiar Dates
What happened on the very same day Patricia Lofton was denied by her mother must have been destiny. She happened to be watching the news on television when she heard something very peculiar. It was a story about a woman named Vernita Lee.
Lee happened to be discussing her son, Jeffrey, who passed in 1989, and her daughter, Pat, who also passed, in 2003. Patricia Lofton knew those dates! She knew who those people were. Soon, she’d learn why everything sounded so familiar.
11. The Dates Match
The dates and locations of Jeffrey’s and Pat’s passing exactly matched the information about Patricia’s biological family that she saw in her adoption records. “The hair on the back of my neck stood up,” Patricia has recalled of the incident. “I said, ‘No, that can’t be.’”
But that’s not all. There was a reason for which this particular story was featured in the news – someone important was part of the family. Patricia didn’t know it yet, but that someone happened to be one of the most famous women in the world. But who was she?
12. Vernita Doesn’t Budge
Patricia’s son, Andre, knew his mother was onto something, so he researched Vernita’s information. He learned that all that his mother heard on the program added up – the dates, the locations – everything! She had to reach out once more.
Patricia tried contacting Vernita Lee again – and more than once. When that didn’t work, she asked her pastor to contact Lee’s pastor. Lee wouldn’t budge. That’s when Patricia and Andre noticed something else – Patricia’s sister. She was the missing piece to the puzzle.
13. How Can This Be?
After careful review of Vernita’s past, another name stood out to Patricia and her son. That name was Oprah Winfrey. That’s right, Oprah was listed as one of Vernita Lee’s daughters. Could it be that Patricia was related to media mogul Oprah Winfrey?
She was sure as heck going to find out, with Vernita’s help or without it. But, contrary to what some might expect of a woman who had just discovered she is related to a celebrity, Patricia didn’t go to the press. She had a better idea.
14. Diligent & Determined
With the stealth fit for a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, Patricia Lofton discovered a restaurant in Wisconsin owned by Oprah Winfrey’s niece. That establishment, she decided, was the key to learning the truth about her family tree. But what was she going to do?
She paid the restaurant a visit to get to the bottom of the mystery. At first, Winfrey’s niece was skeptical. That was until Patricia showed her relative the adoption records. She and Winfrey had to be related, Patricia told her. Winfrey’s niece was in shock. But what happened next?
15. DNA Test
Oprah Winfrey’s niece stared at the adoption records – she couldn’t believe her eyes. Still baffled, Patricia convinced her to join her for a DNA test to put an end to the doubt. Patricia knew she was related to the media mogul, but she was going to get proof of it.
Patricia Lofton was right: the results were positive. It turns out her quest for the truth paid off. In that moment, discovered she was related to one of the biggest pop culture icons of the century. But the story certainly didn’t end there.
16. Time To Involve Oprah
After Patricia Lofton’s incredible discovery, the shocking news began to circulate within the Winfrey family. Different relatives began discussing the new addition to their family over email. Nevertheless, they kept it between each other. Who was going to tell Oprah?
From the beginning, Patricia thought it was Vernita Lee’s place to tell the world about her daughter. Still, selling her story to the press wasn’t on the table for her – she would remain loyal to her newly discovered sister. The rest of the family agreed. They did, however, decide to tell Oprah. But how would she react?
17. Oprah Confronts Her Mother
When Patricia Lofton’s story reached Oprah Winfrey, the media mogul was intrigued. She had reunited so many family members over the years on national television, and now it was her turn. Could it be true? Did she really have a long-lost half-sister?
By now, Oprah Winfrey herself was doing the investigating. She had to talk to her mother. Was it true? She asked her, but Vernita Lee denied all of it. Soon, Oprah would learn the truth, and it would come from an unlikely source.
18. Lights, Camera, Action
On one chilly October day, Oprah Winery was in the studio, and she was getting ready to walk out onto the stage to do a show. It was then that Oprah remembered that she had asked her assistant to look into Patricia Lofton’s claims.
Before walking out to the stage, she called over her assistant. It was the moment of truth – she’d finally learn the big secret about her family tree. She glanced over at her assistant and asked, was Patricia Lofton indeed her sister?
19. Indisputable Facts
Oprah Winfrey’s assistant looked her boss in the eye and said decisively: Yes. Patricia Lofton was her long lost half-sister, and she was given up for adoption by her mother, Vernita Lee. Winfrey couldn’t believe her ears. Why would her mother lie to her?
She confronted her mother with the indisputable facts, and she finally admitted the truth. Vernita had Patricia in 1963, Patricia was Oprah’s half-sister, and she was given up for adoption – she confessed it all. Oprah Winfrey was in shock – she had to meet her sister immediately.
20. Tension In The Air
Before Patricia and Oprah Winfrey met, though, the former had some unfinished business. She would reach out to her birth mother for the third time in her life, and this time, Vernita Lee would agree to meet her one on one.
Why did she agree? It probably had to do with Oprah’s involvement. In any case, Patricia and Vernita would finally come face to face, for the first time since she was born. It was an emotional encounter, but not as glamorous as the one that was about to come.
21. The Meeting Of A Lifetime
The meeting of a lifetime would take place on Thanksgiving. Patricia and Oprah Winfrey would both drive to their mother’s residence in Milwaukee, and the two would meet each other for the first time. Patricia was so eager to meet her long-lost sister that she arrived first.
Immediately, Oprah noticed something about Patricia. “You look just like Pat!” Winfrey screamed, referring to her deceased sister, Pat. The two were in shock, staring at each other and smothering each other with hugs. But the story didn’t end there.
22. A Lifetime To Discuss
When Patricia met her sister for the first time, the two spent the afternoon getting to know each other. They had a lifetime to discuss, it seemed. “It was a Beloved moment,” Winfrey said of the experience, referring to a movie in which a daughter returns from the dead.
But Oprah Winfrey appreciated Patricia Lofton for more than just the fact that she was her sister. As you’ll soon learn, there was something about this whole story that caught Winfrey’s attention – and it would turn out in Lofton’s favor.
23. A Grandiose Introduction
Just a few months after the Thanksgiving that Patricia Lofton met Oprah Winfrey and Vernita Lee, Patricia would partake in an experience she’d never forget. Oprah Winfrey actually introduced her newfound sister to the world on the Oprah Winfrey Show.
The entire journey turned out to be a wild ride for Patricia, and it certainly didn’t end after she discovered her big-shot of a sister. But there was more to come – Oprah had more in store for her sister. Just what did Patricia do to deserve it all?
24. What Did Patricia Do?
The whole experience was a dream come true for Patricia Lofton. Not only did she meet her mother and discover her sister was one of the most famous women on the planet, but she also won her newfound sister’s trust.
The media mogul was incredibly impressed with her sister. There was something Patricia did – or, rather, didn’t do – that won over Winfrey’s good graces. The best part? Patricia didn’t think anything of it – she just saw it as the right thing to do. So what was the thing she did?
25. A Loyal Sister
Oprah Winfrey was tremendously impressed with her new-found sister. Apparently, Patricia displayed loyalty to Winfrey that very few people in the world have by refusing to sell her story to the press. “There have been few times I’ve been anywhere and I haven’t been sold out,” Winfrey told ABC News.
“There have been few times where you can bring anyone new into your life and not have that person in some way betray you or use you or take advantage of you,” she continued. But amid all the excitement, there were still questions that loomed large.
26. Why The Lies?
The newly-bonded sisters were still confused by their mother’s actions. When Vernita Lee put Patricia Lofton up for adoption in 1963, she didn’t tell anyone. More than that, she kept it a secret throughout her entire life, not even telling her children that they had a half-sister.
Even when confronted multiple times, she denied it all until the evidence was in front of her. So why did she? Why did she initially reject Patricia’s request to talk? And why did she deny everything when Oprah asked her? The astounding truth would soon be revealed.
27. ‘A Terrible Thing’
In a taped interview, Vernita Lee answered those questions. “I thought it was a terrible thing that I had done,” Lee said, reiterating that she felt she wouldn’t have been able to take care of an additional child and get off welfare if she had kept Patricia.
Still, she added, “I did think about the baby. I went back looking for her and they told me she had left.” Then, at that very moment, she also said something that would touch Patricia Lofton’s heart. It was something she hadn’t heard before.
28. A Cute Girl
During the same interview, Vernita Lee said something that brought Patricia to tears. She referred to her as a “cute little girl.” It was something Patricia Lofton wasn’t used to hearing, and it really got to her – especially considering it came from her biological mother.
“I am just trying to take it all in right now, because I never heard that I was a pretty baby,” she said, holding back tears. But that wasn’t all. Soon, Patricia would receive the surprise of a lifetime. It would be something she’d wished for all her life.
29. Perks Of Being Oprah Winfrey’s Sister
Just three years after being introduced to the world on Oprah Winfrey‘s talk show, Patricia Lofton’s life would change forever. It had already changed, yes – but this time the change would come in the form of something more concrete.
In 2014, Patricia Lofton’s newly discovered celebrity sister bought her a half a million-dollar residence in Wisconsin. She also began giving her a monthly allowance so she could go back to college to fulfill her dream of becoming a social worker. But that’s not all.
30. A Special Guest
Patricia began studying at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She was so grateful to her sister for making it all possible – for helping her turn her life around so drastically and realize her dreams. But Oprah would surprise her one final time.
That emotional surprise came at Patricia Lofton’s college graduation. When Patricia finally achieved her dream of graduating college at age 53, she spotted someone in the crowd. Guess who it was? There here sister was, cheering her on. She even tweeted about it.
While they celebrate good times together, they also find comfort in one another during trying times like when the following occurred.
31. Vernita Lee Passes
Vernita Lee, Oprah Winfrey and Patricia Lofton’s mother, the key to solving the whole mystery for Lofton, sadly passed away on Thanksgiving Day, 2018 at her Milwaukee house. She was 83. In true Oprah style, Winfrey paid tribute to her mother with a tribute accompanied with a picture of family members surrounding precious Lee.
Thank you all for your kind words and condolences regarding my mother Vernita Lee’s passing. It gives our family great comfort knowing she lived a good life and is now at Peace,” Oprah Winfrey posted on Instagram. Thanksgiving weekend was filled with highs and lows seeing that Winfrey hosted a big dinner at her home the day her mother passed away.
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