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Former BET CEO Debra Lee has a new memoir out. While it talks about her legendary career and the challenges she encountered, it also has eyebrow-raising revelations.
In her new memoir, I Am Debra Lee, BET’s former CEO gets candid on many topics in her life, including the time she hit the late Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, and Oprah Winfrey with a “NO,” something those two women are not used to hearing.
Lee said in the memoir that dealing with both women gave her the necessary tools to navigate a world dominated by men.
Speaking with PEOPLE, Lee said, “I didn’t have very many female role models. I never worked for one,” and “prominent people in my career were always men. So, it was great to get to know Aretha, and I was a little terrified of her at first.”
She talks about shutting down Franklin’s requests like “a full winter wardrobe” or “a diamond Harry Winston watch worth $50,000” when she was BET’s COO. Lee says they didn’t agree to many of Franklin’s requests in the book, but they reached compromises.
The two would become friends, with Lee attending Franklin’s 2015 performance at the Justice Department during a ceremony for then-Attorney General Eric Holder as one of her special guests. “I learned a lot just from watching her,” Lee said, speaking on their friendship.
Debra Lee On Shutting Down Oprah’s Requests
Regarding her dealings with Oprah, Lee described shutting the billionaire mogul down after Winfrey asked to purchase ad slots on BET to promote her television network, OWN, because she felt they were competitors.
“It felt not pleasant,” Lee told PEOPLE. “But I also knew I couldn’t let her do that. I wouldn’t let any other Black targeted network buy time on BET. And, as I explained to Oprah, ABC doesn’t let NBC advertise on their network, and the same with CBS. It was difficult, but I explained to her my rationale, and I hope in the end that she understood it.”
Debra Lee Confirms Her Affair With BET Founder Bob Johnson
But there is one part in the book that has Twitter talking, and that is Lee speaking on her affair with BET’s founder Bob Johnson while they were both married.
In the book, Lee says she released she was manipulated into the relationship with Johnson and that he would use his power to do things like booking her hotel room next to hers, dictate her schedule, and book private meetings.
“I never thought it would turn into something other than a professional relationship. And then, when it did, I had to deal with it. And then when it wasn’t working anymore, I had to deal with that, too,” Lee said when speaking with ESSENCE.
As expected, the confirmation of the rumored affair has social media talking. Some applauded Lee for opening up about her relationship with Johnson, highlighting the toxic behavior in the corporate world.
While some people are calling her a hypocrite.
You can see those reactions in the gallery below.
Photo: Patrick McMullan / Getty