Inside Maria Shriver's Close Relationship With Oprah

Hollywood's history is littered with iconic best-friend duos. There's Affleck and Damon, Stone and Lawrence, Pitt and Clooney, Fallon and Timberlake. Then there's Winfrey and Shriver — Oprah Winfrey and Maria Shriver, that is. The entertainment mogul and the journalist have a long relationship that stretches back for decades, ever since they met while working in local news together in Baltimore in the 1970s.

During a 2021 appearance on Hoda Kotb's podcast "Making Space," Shriver offered up a number of words to describe her long history with Winfrey. "I would describe it as deep. Simple. Low-maintenance. Trustful. Loyal. Constant. Consistent. Honest. Tried-and-true. Want me to keep going?" Shriver said. Winfrey added, "I'd say that there is a spiritual connection."

The two women have been by each other's side through several personal and professional setbacks, challenges, and triumphs. They've attended events together, supported one another behind the scenes, cheered each other on in public, and dealt with a bit of jealousy in their own time. Here's a peek inside Maria Shriver's close relationship with Oprah Winfrey.

Oprah Winfrey and Maria Shriver met in a bathroom decades ago

Oprah Winfrey and Maria Shriver's fast friendship began more than four decades ago in a surprising location. In a joint appearance on Hoda Kotb's podcast "Making Space," Winfrey described the fateful day when their paths crossed for the first time. "I first met her in the bathroom. WJZ-TV, early in the morning," Winfrey said, referring to the Baltimore, Maryland, news station where she worked at the time. "I was coming in to do the morning cut-ins, and she was doing the evening magazine and had been up all night," she explained. Winfrey recalled Shriver literally splashing water on her face in an effort to stay awake, and they struck up a conversation that would ultimately change both of their lives. "I forever think that that was, like, a divine moment that happened," Winfrey reflected.

Their friendship has endured for decades since that very first day, and Winfrey said there was one particular reason they've remained so close. "The thing that got me through all of those years, I would say, grounded in the truth. Oh my god, Maria's gonna tell you the truth, no matter damn what." Shriver concurred, insisting that honesty is the foundation of their relationship. "She does it right back," Shriver revealed. "She has had to hit me over the head a few times over the years, and sometimes that truth has leveled me, but in my darkest moment ... moments ... she was right there."

Oprah used to be afraid of Maria

In those early years, as their friendship was still solidifying, Maria Shriver was trying to find her place in the world. She was a Kennedy, after all; her mother, Eunice, was John F. Kennedy's sister. As a result, she was insecure, hoping that people wouldn't think she got her job at the TV station purely because of who her uncle was. "I had to prove myself at every juncture. I worked hard," Shriver said in an interview with Oprah Winfrey for O, The Oprah Magazine. "I thought I had to show people that I would get in early, stay late or even all night, work on holidays. I didn't want to be the rich kid who was along for a free ride."

As a result, Winfrey recalled, she found her future best friend quite intimidating. "I was a little afraid of you when you first came to WJZ-TV," Winfrey confessed. She elaborated, "You were such the talk! I don't know what gave me the courage to engage with a Kennedy, but you turned out to be so friendly."

Funny enough, Shriver was intimidated by Winfrey, too. "You had a nice apartment and furniture," Shriver reminded her friend, only a hint at Winfrey's lavish lifestyle to come. She would even fret about her career when they got meals together. "I'd think, 'But you're already on TV doing the news and the weather, and you're preaching on Sunday!'" Shriver said. "To me, all that was big."

They used to go out for the same jobs

It's funny to think about Oprah Winfrey being jealous of someone else getting a broadcasting job, but that's exactly what happened in the early days of her friendship with Maria Shriver. Back then, on-camera journalism jobs were hard to come by, and Winfrey wanted a spot at "CBS Morning News." In an interview with Shriver for O, The Oprah Magazine, Winfrey recalled, "It was the dream job we all wanted!" She had to convince her agent to let her go out for the gig because they weren't sure Winfrey would even be considered. "You're never going to get a position like that because they already have Bryant Gumbel, and there's only going to be one black person on network television," Wifnrey's agent told her.

Instead, the job went to Shriver, and she took the position at a pivotal time in her life. "I took the CBS job three weeks after I got engaged to Arnold [Schwarzenegger], and I moved to New York to start working," Shriver recalled. "I was thrilled."

Ultimately, it all worked out for the best. Shriver started working at "CBS Morning News" in 1985. The following year, 1986, saw the premiere of a little show that would change the course of television history: "The Oprah Winfrey Show."

Maria took Oprah to meet the Kennedys

Eventually, as their friendship became even stronger, Maria Shriver took her new pal, Oprah Winfrey, back to the Kennedy compound to meet her famous family. Winfrey found herself surprised by just how competitive the family was. "I thought, 'God, I'm actually here on the lawn with all the Kennedy cousins.' But the games never ended," she said in her interview for O, The Oprah Magazine, recalling one time a Kennedy came looking for her to start yet another round of sport. "I ran into a closet and closed the door because I'd already done three games — enough!" Winfrey said.

Still, that early visit wound up being a meaningful one to the future entertainment mogul. She described using a bathroom at the Kennedy house and realizing the decor included framed letters from Nikita Khrushchev. "I'm just sitting on the toilet, trying to act like it's normal to have the First Secretary of the Soviet Union's Communist Party in there with me," she said, feeling insecure about the fact that she'd come from such a different world than this. At that moment, Winfrey made a choice to let her guard down. "So I made a decision," she said. "I'm just going to be myself."

Despite a scandal, Maria Shriver showed up for her friend

On May 9, 2011, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver released a statement announcing that they were now living separate lives. "This has been a time of great personal and professional transition for each of us," they wrote. There had, after all, been signs that Schwarzenegger and Shriver's marriage wasn't going to last. A few weeks later, the world learned that the split had been caused by the revelation that Schwarzenegger had fathered a child out of wedlock, having gotten their maid pregnant while having an affair a decade earlier. "This is a painful and heartbreaking time," Shriver wrote in a statement to ABC News on May 17.

That very evening, though, she had somewhere to be. Even though a scandal involving her personal life was world news, Shriver couldn't let down her friend, Oprah Winfrey. On the night of the 17th, Shriver appeared at the taping of a farewell episode of "The Oprah Winfrey Show." Onstage, Shriver sent her friend some love — and sent her ex-husband some shade. "Oprah, for more than 30 years, you bestowed the most amazing friendship on me, given my love, support, wisdom, and most of all, truth," Shriver said. The crowd went wild, understanding "truth" to be a message to the former California governor.

Oprah supports Maria's writing career

Oprah Winfrey and Maria Shriver try to lift one another up in public whenever possible. Shriver is a writer who has published several books, so she's lucky that her friend presides over a media empire that's used to elevating books into bestsellers. Sure enough, Winfrey has promoted Shriver's work many times over the years, supporting her friend's writing career in a series of joint interviews.

In 2008, the two women linked up for their interview published in O, The Oprah Magazine. It was in recognition of Shriver's book "Just Who Will You Be?" which contained reflections on her life and inspirational words for anyone trying to find their path. "I made the mistake of thinking that external accomplishments would bring me peace. I thought it was about the job or a book or making a name for myself," Shriver told Winfrey. "I decided that I was going to be the Kennedy who makes her own name and finds her own job and works like a dog." The book, then, was about how untenable that path was.

A decade later, Shriver wrote "I've Been Thinking: Reflections, Prayers, and Meditations for a Meaningful Life." Winfrey heaped praise on her friend's writing, telling readers that she'd added Shriver's book to the collection on her bedside table. "It's a big-hearted chronicle of her personal journey toward a deeper understanding of what she's been put on earth to do," Winfrey wrote (via 

Maria Shriver wrote Oprah a poem

Oprah Winfrey isn't the only one who supports her friend's career. When Winfrey was set to receive the Sherry Lansing Leadership Award at the 2013 edition of The Hollywood Reporter's annual Women In Entertainment breakfast, Maria Shriver wrote a poem to introduce her friend. In the poem titled "Becoming," Shriver paid homage to her friend's decades-long journey to the top of the entertainment business. "It has been a long road to becoming. Think back to when you weren't sure. To when you spoke to God and asked him to guide you. Becoming asks that you listen, not just to them, but to you," Shriver recited.

When Winfrey took the stage to accept her award, she was reportedly very emotional. She devoted part of her acceptance speech to talking about the importance of showing up for one another. "What I know for sure is that getting to use who you are to elevate the higher good of everyone else ... that is the true purpose of leadership," she said. "How do you use your power to elevate the life of somebody else? That's what everyone in this room has been called to do."

Winfrey's drive to help others is what caught the eye of Sherry Lansing, the award's namesake. She told The Hollywood Reporter, "What I really admire is her philanthropy, in particular as she uses it to help young girls. That is one of the most wonderful things anyone can do."

Oprah and Maria Shriver are enjoying getting older together

Thanks to their many decades of friendship, Oprah Winfrey and Maria Shriver have been by each other's side as they've gone through some of life's biggest changes. To that end, they're happy to talk with one another about everything that comes with getting older, including menopause. They appeared together on the Paramount+ show "The Checkup with Dr. David Agus," swapping stories of going through menopause and emphasizing the importance of having someone to talk to about what your body is going through.

Winfrey, in particular, struggled to learn about menopause because her mother didn't want to discuss the natural end of a woman's menstrual cycle. "I couldn't get my mother to talk about it," Winfrey recalled (via Today). I was just trying to find out what are the possibilities of me having hot flashes or something." Instead, when Winfrey did find herself experiencing symptoms, she had no idea what was going on. "I have journals filled with, 'I don't know if I'll make it until the morning.' I thought I was going to die every night," the talk show host admitted.

Shriver backed up her friend, reiterating the importance of talking about such things publicly. "The stigma will go away if women feel empowered and feel like there's not something wrong with them if they talk about these issues they're going through," she said.

Maria Shriver's mother encouraged their friendship

Unlike her best friend, Maria Shriver, Oprah Winfrey did not have a particularly close relationship with her own mother. In her appearance on Hoda Kotb's podcast "Making Space," Winfrey revealed that she admired the close connection Maria Shriver shared with her mom, Eunice Kennedy Shriver. "Both Maria and Gayle [King] had these intense relationships with their mothers, and you know, Gayle would call her mother so many times during the day, I'd say, 'What could you possibly talk about?'" Winfrey marveled. "I had the opposite of that." Like Winfrey's other best friend, Maria, too, spoke with her mother constantly. The former First Lady of California recalled to, "I didn't make a move without her. Talking stuff through with her calmed me as nothing else could."

Eunice supported her daughter's friendship with Winfrey, and she pushed them both to be the best versions of themselves. In the wake of the 2004 tsunami in Indonesia, Winfrey ran into her friend's mother in the Bahamas. "I was lolling on a boat, and suddenly there's a woman furiously paddling out in a dinghy, wearing a bathing cap," Winfrey recalled. It turned out to be Eunice. "She grabs onto the side of my boat and says: 'You have to do something for these people! No more time for vacation. You and Maria could be putting together a fundraiser.'" They didn't ultimately do that, but Winfrey never forgot Eunice's insistence that they try.

Maria Shriver is one of Oprah's few friends

After all they've been through over the years, it's no surprise that Oprah Winfrey and Maria Shriver are still best friends. What might be a surprise, however, is that Winfrey considers Shriver one of her only friends, period — well, not counting her decades-long friendship with Gayle King. While they appeared on Hoda Kotb's podcast "Making Space," Winfrey acknowledged that many other people have come and gone throughout her life. "[Maria Shriver] was one of my true, grounded friendships that carried me through my entire career. I don't have a lot of friends," Winfrey said. "Everybody knows Gayle. There's Gayle, there's Maria, there's Bob. And that's about it, you know? ... I never really expanded that circle until recently."

Shriver, too, is looking to expand her circle. In an appearance on "The Today Show," she joked, "I'm in the market!" She elaborated that it's important to be open to new connections and not just rely on the people you've known since you were young. "You want to meet people at different parts of your life because they bring different things to your life," she said. "You want to keep growing and keep going forward, so why wouldn't you want to add new friends to your life?"