Don't call Stedman Graham Mr. Oprah Author: You may know him by the company he keeps -- namely talk show host Oprah Winfrey -- but he is a success in his own right. And he wants to share that success through his book.

March 07, 1997|By Sandra Crockett | Sandra Crockett,SUN STAFF

Stedman Graham -- business executive, author and boyfriend of mega-famous daytime talk show host Oprah Winfrey -- patiently sits for another interview.

His first interview yesterday was at 8 a.m. and his appointments were scheduled back to back until midnight. And, darn it, wouldn't you know, eventually everyone will get around to asking some version of the same old question:

So, how's it feel to be out of Oprah's shadow?

Graham, of course, knows the question is coming. Nobody talks to him without mentioning his girlfriend. But, if people see him only in terms of the famous Winfrey, well, that's their problem.

"I don't go around thinking of myself as Oprah's significant other," he says over lunch at a Washington deli. "I do have my own life."

So there!

Graham's life these days is busy with promoting his new book, "You Can Make It Happen; A Nine Step Plan for Success" ($23, Simon & Schuster, 1997). It's his positive take on successful living. Some of it applies to how he handles being called "Mr. Oprah" as the tabloids and others have dubbed Graham.

"Like many people, I wasted a great deal of my life worrying about what others thought of me and how they perceived me," Graham writes early on in the book. "I still struggle with that, even though I have come to realize that it does not matter what others may think of you ..."

Of course, others have thought of Graham as a "hanger-on," and a "money-grubber," living off his famous girlfriend's fame and fortune. And, for the record, he is not OK with being called "Mr. Oprah."

"Of course, that bothered me!" he says over bits of chicken salad. "It bothered me for a long time. But I know other men have to deal with that because there are so many powerful and strong women out there. Mine just happens to be so public."

Even without Winfrey, he is recognized just about everywhere he goes. A tall, handsome man, impeccably dressed in a dark blue suit, he appears always in control of his gestures and words. He admits to usually having a serious look on his face, though an occasional smile breaks through.

To all the women, and there are many, who approach him for a handshake or to request a picture, he is gracious. He always introduces himself -- "Hello, I'm Stedman Graham" -- as if they didn't know.

It may not have always been obvious, but Graham always had a life outside of being boyfriend to Winfrey.

He is the founder of an organization called "Athletes Against Drugs" which provides positive role models for children. He is busy running S. Graham & Associates, a management, marketing and consulting firm specializing in sports. He is president of Graham Gregory Bozell Inc., a marketing firm targeting African-American consumers.

He's also a columnist for Inside Sports magazine. And he is the co-author of another book, "The Ultimate Guide to Sport Event Management and Marketing."

"My regular routine is to get up at 5 or 5: 15 every morning," says Graham, who lives in Chicago but has offices both there and in New York.

Graham was born in Whitesboro, N.J., an all-black community. He was the third child in a family of six children and the only one to graduate from college. He graduated from Hardin-Simmons University in Texas with a degree in social work.

After college, he joined the Army and played on the military basketball team. Later, he played on a European basketball team.

Graham went on to get a master's degree in education and worked his way up at correctional institutions. He was director of education at a correctional institution in Chicago when he decided he would rather build a career around sports event marketing.

"When I worked at the correctional center, that was a job and not a career," says Graham, who turned 46 yesterday.

There are no shortcuts to getting the life you want, after you decide exactly what it is you want, he says.

"I learned you have got to be a hard worker. You can't give up. You don't have to be the smartest person in the world or the strongest person in the world. Because if you don't quit, you will reach your goal."

Graham says his book can offer freedom.

"I wrote the book for people who feel they are victimized, or people who are in a rut or have a degree and don't know what to do with it. Freedom is knowing who you are and being able to define your talents."

Some of Graham's nine steps include:

Check your id. "Before you decide what you want for your life, you first must understand who you are, what your influences are on life, why you act and think the way you do."

Create your vision. "To seek a better life, you first have to decide what you want for your life."

Develop your travel plan. "Once you have established your goals, you need a plan to pursue your vision."

Master the rules of the road. "Every day you will encounter distractions that might prevent you from working toward your goal, or at the very least, slow you down in your journey."

But nobody can succeed without the help of others, Graham says. He credits his mother and father for being good role models. And, yes, his girlfriend has been helpful.

"Oprah is one of the biggest influences in my life," he says. "She put it all in perspective."

Pub Date: 3/07/97

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