When Maria was a young journalist in her 20s, she took a job at a Baltimore news station and made her first friend outside the family—Oprah!
"I grew up in a clan, a tribe. It was kind of, 'We're in this together. Don't kind of go outside the tribe. Nobody will really understand,'" she says to Oprah. "You were like a friend that I made who was also a journalist. … But I didn't tell you much."
Oprah learned more about Maria the first time she visited her home. Inside, she says she saw framed pictures of President Kennedy sitting on shelves and letters from world leaders hanging in the bathroom. "I'm going, 'Oh, my God,'" Oprah says. "It strikes awe in you a little bit."
Years later, Oprah paid her first visit to the Kennedy compound in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts, and got a taste of the family's competitive spirit. After three games of touch football on the lawn, Oprah says she hid in a closet so she wouldn't have to play anymore. Then, later that night, she says they played charades for hours.
Not knowing any different, Maria says she thought every family discussed world politics at the dinner table and competed incessantly. "I thought that was fun, and I thought that was the way you were supposed to do," she says. "I did that with my own children."
Looking back, Maria says she had incredible experiences as a child, but she never wanted to be just one of the clan. "You can get lost in it," she says. "I thought [as] I grew up and everybody would say, 'Which one are you? Which Kennedy are you?' I was determined that I would go out and become successful on my own."