The last time Oprah Winfrey appeared on CBS on a Sunday night, she was interviewing the Duke and Duchess of Sussex in a bombshell special that resulted in shock waves around the world. Last night’s sit-down, with British singer-songwriter superstar Adele, won’t cause nearly as much of a stir – but CBS doesn’t carve out two hours in prime time for just anyone, so there were plenty of noteworthy moments.
Titled “Adele One Night Only,” the two-hour special (timed to this Friday’s release of her highly anticipated fourth studio album, “30″) was a combination concert and interview. Adele performed on a gorgeous evening at Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles, in front of a crowd filled with celebrities from Lizzo to Melissa McCarthy to Drake. She sang a mix of 10 old and new songs including “Hello,” “Rolling in the Deep,” “Make You Feel My Love” and her latest record-breaking single, “Easy on Me.”
In between tracks, the camera cut to Adele sitting in Winfrey’s rose garden, as the talk show host asked about her divorce, her much-discussed weight loss, her relationship with famed sports agent Rich Paul and more. Here are the four most personal revelations from the interview.
1. Her final days with her estranged father.
There wasn’t much from the special that you wouldn’t already know if you read the magazine cover story profiles that Adele has already done in this latest press cycle, from Vogue to Rolling Stone. But there’s a big difference between reading about someone’s complicated relationship with their dying father and hearing them discuss it out loud.
Adele, 33, has spoken before about her estranged father, Mark Evans, who was an alcoholic; her parents split up when she was a baby. When Winfrey asked whether Adele could name a “deep wound” from the past that she has been trying to heal, Adele responded matter-of-factly, “My dad’s absolute lack of presence and effort with me.” She explained their estrangement affected her relationships because she taught herself not to have expectations, assuming the other person would just leave her someday either way.
But after her father was diagnosed with cancer in the last few years, they started talking again. He had never heard any of her music because he thought it would be too emotionally painful, but this spring when he took a turn for the worse, she insisted he listen to some of her new album, including the song “To Be Loved.”
“My main goal in life is to be loved in love. And so I wanted to play it to my dad being like, ‘You’re the reason I haven’t done that yet,’ ” Adele said. “He was the reason I haven’t fully accessed what it is to be in a loving relationship with somebody.” They both cried as he heard the song, she said, and he wound up listening to her previous albums as well. By the time he died in May, they had found peace with each other.
As if the conversation couldn’t get more devastating, Winfrey referenced a detail in the recent Vogue cover story: “Didn’t your therapist at one point say, ‘You need to sit with the 7-year-old Adele’? And when you did that, sat with the 7-year-old Adele, what did you find?”
Adele paused for a long time. “A very sad little girl,” she said.
“Mmmm,” Winfrey said. Another silence ensued.
Adele looked choked up, then abruptly snapped out of it. “No!” she exclaimed. “You’re trying to make me cry.”
“No, I’m not!” Winfrey protested, as if Adele had never seen a Winfrey interview. But Adele composed herself and said she eventually learned to appreciate everything in her past, because if it didn’t happen, she might not be where she is today.
2. The guilt she feels over her divorce and her son.
Adele’s 9-year-old son, Angelo, was in the audience at Griffith Observatory – the singer told the crowd it was the first time he had seen her in concert. She joked to Winfrey that he still doesn’t quite realize his mom is famous, and he was much more impressed when she took him to a Taylor Swift show.
During the interview, Winfrey said she thinks women are going to feel “liberated” by Adele choosing to leave a marriage that wasn’t working, rather than stick it out only for her child. “I’ve read where you said you weren’t miserable, but you also knew you weren’t happy,” Winfrey said. “And so you wanted to bring a happy version of yourself to your son. Which I think is about the best gift anybody can give to their children.”
Adele said she still loves her ex-husband, charity executive Simon Konecki, but shortly after they married in 2018, she had the difficult realization that she was just “plodding along” instead of living life. They separated soon after and officially divorced this year.
The two remain friends; he lives in a house across the street from her in Los Angeles. And yes, Adele said, he is aware that her upcoming album will address their split, though it’s not a frequent topic of conversation. (“We don’t sit around and talk about it like . . . ‘Easy on Me’ is at 40 million streams, how are you feeling?”) Although she’s glad Angelo now sees her in a much better place, she has always been fixated on the idea of a nuclear family after her childhood, and feels an extreme amount of guilt.
“I’m still not fully over it, of me choosing to dismantle my child’s life for my own – it makes me very uncomfortable,” Adele said. She hopes her son will understand her painful choice someday.
“I never questioned whether I’d made a bad decision,” she later added. “But it was just like – maybe it would have been better had I just kept my mouth shut, you know? . . . Just in terms of hurting two people that I love the most in the world.”
3. How she feels about fan reactions to her weight loss.
Every time Adele has posted a photo recently, a tabloid is nearly guaranteed to pick it up for a story about her “transformation.” The singer has lost about 100 pounds since 2019, and she told Winfrey that weight loss was not the goal when she started an intensive workout program: She had “the most terrifying anxiety attacks” after she left her husband, and the gym was the one place where she felt calm and in control. With the help of a personal trainer, she got to the point where she could dead-lift 170 pounds. (This was one of the few details that genuinely shocked Winfrey.)
Winfrey brought up that when she went through her own much documented weight loss, her fans felt that she had “abandoned” them. “Lots of people are talking about your weight and are all in your business about it,” Winfrey said, and asked what it has been like experiencing people’s varied reactions.
“I’m not shocked or even fazed by it because my body has been objectified my entire career,” Adele said, noting that people will judge her as being “too big” or “too small” no matter what, which makes any criticism difficult to take seriously. “I never looked up to anyone because of their body.”
“And when you were heavier, you were fine,” Winfrey said.
“I was, and I was body positive then and I’m body positive now,” Adele said. “But it’s not my job to validate how people feel about their bodies. And I feel bad that, you know, it’s made anyone feel horrible about themselves. But that’s not my job. . . . I’m trying to sort my own life out. I can’t add another worry.”
4. Her new relationship.
Winfrey took great pleasure in referring to Adele’s new boyfriend as “super agent” Rich Paul, an accurate description as the agent who represents LeBron James and other NBA superstars. “I’m blushing!” Adele said at one point, but Winfrey insisted on knowing the details.
Adele said she and Paul met at a birthday party a couple of years ago, and first hung out alone at a dinner that he thought was a business meeting. (She doesn’t buy that: “I’m like, ‘A business meeting about what?!’ “) They started dating this year and went public over the summer.
“He’s so funny. No, he’s hilarious. And very smart. . . . It’s quite incredible watching him do what he does,” Adele said.
“This relationship is the first time you’ve actually . . .” Winfrey trailed off.
“Loved myself and been open to loving and being loved by someone else,” Adele confirmed. “Yeah.”