Known to millions as 'Oprah's Boyfriend,' Stedman Graham talks about issues of identity

The Baltimore Sun

Stedman Graham is one self-help author who practices what he preaches almost every day of his life.

If he didn't, he would likely be lost in one of the largest and most overwhelming shadows in American life.

Graham, known to millions as "Oprah Winfrey's boyfriend," was in town last week promoting his 11th book, "Identity: Your Passport to Success," a guide to creating your own identity rather than letting others define and limit who and what you can imagine yourself being. One of his stops was Richard Sher's "Square Off" show, which airs at 11 a.m. Sunday on WMAR (Channel 2).

While Graham was at dinner Thursday night at a Baltimore crab house, a young woman poked her head into the booth at which he was seated.

Instead of introducing herself or saying hello to him, her first words were "I love Oprah."

How do you deal with that? Graham was asked during a taping of the show Friday.

"That's her identity," he said without hesitation, referring to Winfrey. "That's who she is. And I'm proud of her. I'm proud of the work she did in Baltimore. I'm proud of her 25 years of her being No. 1. … But that's her identity. It has nothing to do with me."

In an interview after the taping ended, the 61-year-old Graham elaborated on how the crabhouse anecdote ties into the themes of his book.

"When I say something like that, people are first of all taken aback by it, by the fact that you can have and control your own identity," he said.

"But the fact that I can control my own identity when people all over the world are putting me in a box does show that it's possible. I mean, I get the world saying that's who you are [Winfrey's boyfriend]. I get challenged that way every day all over the world. I have to practice it. If I can do it, you can."

Graham said his new book offers a guide for defining your identity and life.

"I've developed a nine-step success process as a way to teach people how to do that," he said. "It's not just telling people you need an identity; there's a process for organizing your life around the 24 hours you have each day."

Graham, who also runs a management and marketing firm based in Chicago, said the book aims to help readers navigate the social change of today.

"There has to be a new thinking that comes with the 21st century," he said. "And our thinking is: Take control of your own identity. Don't let a job do it for you. Take control of your own development. Take control of your own 401(k).Figure out how you're going to live for a long time with enough money to take care of yourself and your own family. You may have 17 different career paths. You may not have retirement or Social Security. So, you are going to have constantly think about what's the next level for you — and how you're going to get there."

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