Photography is one of the most powerful tools of persuasion. For decades now, leaders have used photos to stir up emotion and fight in their constituents; families have hung pictures of their loved ones on the walls to trigger happy memories and fondness. A perfectly timed image can change the world — or a pair of lives.
Ashley Thomas and Latoya Wimberly learned the life-changing powers of a photograph in recent years. The two best friends thought nothing could alter their incredible friendship. A single picture posted to social media, however, changed their relationship forever.
Nothing in the world compares to a best friend who knows you inside and out, and Ashley Thomas and Latoya Wimberly were just like that. There was just something about both of them that when they met, they immediately knew they’d be best friends for life.
The two first met at a 2004 birthday party in Phildelphia when they were only young teenagers. It was as if the forces of the universe brought two people who were so alike together at last.
Frankly, people thought it was bizarre how identical the two girls were. They shared such obscure common interests, and they seemed to always finish each other’s sentences as if their brains were linked.
The girls were inseparable, and they even started spending holidays together, becoming closer with every year that passed. They were truly two peas in a best-friend pod, and it all happened by accident.
Fashion sense was another aspect of life the girls shared. They shopped at the same stores, and each friend could pick stuff out of the other’s closet, and top or accessory or whatever would match perfectly with their personality.
They even had the same taste in drinks! It’s not every day you meet someone with such identical traits, and the girls knew they had something special together. On top of that, Ashley and Latoya had similar physical features!
Both of them had high-set cheekbones, the exact same skin complexion, and they even wore the same size shoe. They also both had a gap in their front teeth that really made their looks unique.
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Ashley Thomas and Latoya Wimberly were truly something special, and everyone around them also knew it. They each had friends before they met, of course, but it was nothing like this particular relationship.
“We’re stuck to each other like glue,” said Thomas, and she was right. But even Elmer’s could not have bound the girls together any tighter than they already were. But, after 17 years of friendship, their relationship changed forever after one detail came to light.
It all started after an engagement party for Wemberly when she posted a bunch of photos online. Thomas’ mom saw one of the photos and had a very startling reaction.
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There was something different about the one particular Facebook photo that caught her mother’s eye, and the focal point of the picture was the father of Latoya Wimberly, Kenneth Wimberly.
Wimberly said, “Ashley’s mom’s best friend told her she had no idea my dad was Kenny. She said she and Ashley’s mom used to hang around him back when they were young.” The two even had a brief romantic relationship.
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This sparked some serious interest in both girls, so they had a DNA test administered to see if there was any possibility they were, in fact, related based on the connection.
The girls who were best friends for so many years — inseparable friends — were actually half sisters! In a bewildering turn of events, the women who had so much in common suddenly realized why.
As it turned out, Kenneth’s romantic relationship with Ashley’s mom led to the brith of Ashley, and he never knew. Because of that, he was the father of not only Ashley, but Kimberly as well!
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Thomas said of the discovery, “When Kenny told me he was my dad, chills went through my body. I couldn’t think. I couldn’t process it. I couldn’t even talk to them.”
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So, the two women who grew a bond between each other from early on realized there was a very special reason they were best friends: they were related! Though a difficult revelation to process, they had others to look to for guidance.
Deland McCullough was born in 1972 to a 16-year-old girl named Carol Briggs. His birth name was Jon, but it was changed to Deland after Carol gave him up for adoption to a family who was better suited to care for him. Carol never told Deland’s biological father about their son.
When Deland was six weeks old, a couple from Youngstown, Ohio, welcomed him into their family. At first, life was pleasant, but Deland’s adoptive parents eventually divorced when he was two, leaving him again without a father figure.
Deland’s mother Adelle was determined not to let the demise of her marriage get in the way of Deland living life to the fullest. She encouraged him to get involved with sports and activities after school. There was one sport Deland not only liked, but excelled at…
That sport was football. Football helped him keep his mind off tensions at home, and over the years, he got better and better. By senior year of high school, he was the star running back of the varsity team, and that meant college recruiters took notice of his talent.
One of the recruiters who took a special interest in the young boy was a man named Sherman Smith, a coach at Miami University in Ohio. Sherman was incredibly supportive of Deland, and over time, the two formed a close bond.
After many talks with Sherman, Deland agreed to play for his team at Miami University, which was a huge stepping stone in his career. After a stellar performance at college, Deland was offered a deal every college player dreamed of…
He landed a spot in the NFL on the Cincinnati Bengals! All of his hard work, passion, and drive to be the best finally paid off. Sherman, who he still kept in close touch with, couldn’t have been prouder. However, not long into his new career, tragedy struck…
Deland suffered a horrendous blow to his knee that ended his professional career. He was distraught, but his mentor Sherman was by his side the whole time. Sherman knew just how disastrous it was to have a lucrative NFL career come to a screeching halt.
Within the next few years, Deland got married and had kids. His professional career was behind him, but he still loved football, and he still very much knew how to think the game. So, he eventually found a way to spend time on the gridiron.
He became a teacher and football coach at Harmony Community School in Cincinnati. There, he was able to take the skills he acquired over the years and help young players on their journeys to greatness. Within two decades, he was coaching at the University of Southern California!
Working so hard to mentor young people made him think about his own past. Before too long, Deland developed a burning desire to find out who his real parents were.
In late 2016, Deland began his search for his biological parents. There had recently been a change in state law that allowed for easier access to adoption papers, so he took full advantage. Almost immediately, he discovered his birth name and information about his real mother. So, he reached out to her, slightly nervous about what he’d discover.
Deland contacted Carol Briggs via Facebook. Carol happily spoke with Deland, and the two had a pleasant conversation. Then Deland asked about his biological father. Carol responded, and Deland’s world flipped upside down…
Carol told him his father’s name was Sherman Smith! It was the same man who met him 28 years earlier and mentored him throughout his football career! Deland was speechless. The entire time he had been with his father and neither of the men knew it!
It took Deland hours to wrap his head around the bombshell Carol just dropped on him; the odds of this happening had to have been astronomically low. But, now that he thought about it, he remembered oddly coincidental clues throughout his life that pointed to this truth…
People would constantly tell him how much he and Sherman were alike. People said they talked the same, walked the same, and had many of the same mannerisms. Now it all made sense: they were father and son! Now, it was time to tell Sherman…
Deland called Sherman and told him the news. Sherman was equally flabbergasted, but he also felt pangs of guilt about not being there for his son while he grew up. However, after a friendly conversation where Deland assured him it was no ones’ fault, Sherman felt so much better. The entire family was now a unit again!
Deland’s adoptive family and his biological family eventually met for a gathering in Nashville, Tennessee. None of them could believe the revelation that occurred between Deland and Sherman, but everyone was ecstatic they finally figured out the wild truth after almost three decades of friendship!
Deland McCullough, coaching with the NFL’s Kansas City Chiefs in 2018, went on a hunt for his biological parents but never expected such a wild outcome! There was a reason he and Sherman Smith bonded so well, and that reason could only have been one thing: family.
Even if adoptive parents shower a child with love and support, like Deland’s had, it’s still natural for them to feel a powerful urge to seek out their biological family. But Just imagine finding out after all that time that your blood relatives are exactly who you always dreamed… or even greater?
Patricia Lofton was well aware that her mother gave her up for adoption when she was just a few days old because of financial strains. She accepted it, but it was always at the forefront of her mind.
Her mother already had three children when she gave birth to Patricia, and she was on welfare. Unfortunately, Patricia bounced around foster homes until the age of seven when she was officially adopted.
Throughout her childhood, Patricia never felt like she truly fit in with her family. She knew nothing about her biological mother, and she felt a noticeable disconnect between her world and the one surrounding the people in her life.
Patricia’s life grew even harder when she was in high school. She became pregnant with a baby girl, but unlike her biological mother, she intended to keep the child. She didn’t want her baby to spend her life wondering “what if.”
Around the time Patricia turned 20, perhaps because she was a mother herself, she felt an almost overwhelming urge to track down the woman who gave her up for adoption. She spent hours combing through her adoption papers, but in the end, she found no leads.
Patricia was pregnant with her second child by the time her daughter, Aquarius, was six years old. By then she was committed to the decision to raise both her daughter and soon-to-be son, Andre, by herself as best she could.
Through her 20s and30s, life was exhausting for Patricia as she tried to provide a stable environment for Aquarius and Andre. She managed to put food on the table and imbue a sense of respect and responsibility in her kids.
Still, the urge to locate her own birth mother never left Patricia, and while watching television one day, that urge took an astounding turn when the woman on the show she was watching captured her attention.
You see, a woman named Vernita Lee was discussing events in her life that matched Patricia’s adoption papers to the tee! Patricia immediately tried contacting Vernita — it could have very well been her mom — but she met roadblocks every time.
Despite the string of bad luck, Patricia pursued information about Vernita. While looking into the woman’s history, Patricia and her son found the name of another one of Vernita’s daughters that caused both of their jaws to drop: Oprah Winfrey.
Yes, it was true. Oprah Winfrey, perhaps the most powerful and recognizable celebrity in the world, was Vernita’s daughter. If Patricia’s suspicions were true, then, this would mean she and Oprah were half-sisters!
Through some intense investigation, Patricia learned of a restaurant in Wisconsin run by Oprah’s niece. She arrived with the adoption paperwork, which convinced the niece to take a DNA test. The results came back positive; it was a match!
Word made its way around the Winfrey family, and eventually, a meeting was scheduled between Patricia, Oprah, and their mother, Vernita. The two long-lost siblings clicked immediately; they had a lifetime of stories to share with each other.
Now that Oprah learned the definitive truth about Patricia, she told the world in the most grandiose way possible: she introduced her on her television program so everyone would know their story!
The joyful sisters embraced each other in front of a stunned and elated crowd. Oprah went on to chat with Patricia about the rocky road she traversed to finally find closure.
One aspect of Patricia’s journey Oprah took to heart was she never sold her story to the news to make a buck. Having the wealth and influence Oprah did meant people sometimes tried to take advantage, and Patricia was soon rewarded handsomely for her humbleness.
Oprah bought Patricia a sprawling mansion in Wisconsin priced at nearly half a million dollars! She also gave Patricia money to return to school at the University of Wisconsin to finish her degree in social work.
Patricia took none of what happened for granted, and she worked hard all the way through school. At 53 years old, she finally received her degree, and who was in the crowd cheering her on? You guessed it… Oprah!
Vernita Lee eventually passed away at the age of 83, but Patricia and Oprah will never forget how she was the key to their reunion. Two sisters, separated for decades, finally connected again.
You can imagine what a shock it was for Patricia to find out she was related to Oprah Winfrey. Of course, most people who go in search of their biological family don’t discover news this big, but that doesn’t mean the reunions are any less significant.