Stedman Graham on finding an identity while dating an extremely successful person like Oprah

“Being able to walk out the door and be defined as Oprah’s man and losing your identity was necessary for me to be able to figure out how to discover mine.”

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The concept of identity best defines Stedman Graham’s body of work. As a man that came of age during the 1960s and 1970s, he struggled to find his voice in a society that was eager to reduce him to stigmas and statistics. As the partner of perhaps the most celebrated television personality in the world, for the better part of three decades, he had work to secure a legacy that survives on its own.

The New York Times bestselling author’s latest, book, Identity Leadership, which is his twelfth publication, feels very much like an intimate culmination of the ones that came before it. It details all of the things that animated Graham’s passion for self-actualization, effectively widdling down his belief system to the key ingredients.


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“A foundation for thinking and deloping and improving your life”

In celebration of the release of Identity Leadership, Graham spoke at Thrive Global in New York City. While stressing the importance of self-worth, the prolific author recalled the frustration he once felt about how frequently his achievements were condensed in print to the significant other of the beloved talk show host. Graham has never thought meanly of Oprah’s notoriety, in fact, the shadow it provided him with the necessary pressure to motivate him to define himself.

If identity is the protagonist of Graham’s bibliography, comfort is certainly the villain. Comfort is “addictive” … it lulls into a state of stasis and dims the roads to progress. Graham elaborated on this in a recent interview with Jenny Mccarthy. “Being able to walk out the door and be defined as Oprah’s man, and losing your identity was necessary for me to be able to figure out how to discover mine,” he said.

Graham went on to talk about having to use all of his emotional strength to empower himself in “Oprah’s World,” making all of the anxieties that accompany being associated with a high-profile figure work for him as opposed to letting it destroy him.

This concept speaks to another theme featured in Graham’s book, the idea that people are constantly seeking freedom externally. In his opinion, no one can give you empowerment, authority is achieved through resilience and rumination.

Graham’s own journey of self-actualization accents the necessity of learning how to define yourself independent from external factors, like the color of your skin or your professional success. When you know who you are, you become immune to limitations. At 68, the educator and businessman enjoys the fruits of his accomplishments and the accomplishments of his partner, without any sort of internal conflict.

As Graham explained on the Oprah Winfrey show: “We want each other to succeed. I want her to succeed and be as successful as she possibly can. So, I encourage that. That’s not always an easy thing to do when you’re a man in a relationship with a very powerful woman.

“I’m not threatened by her fame or her success or her money or all of that. That’s who she is. That doesn’t have anything to do with how I define myself.”


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CW Headley|is a reporter for Ladders and can be reached at cheadley@theladders.com.