How a Snowstorm and Sleepover Led to Oprah Winfrey and Gayle King's 'Beautiful' 46-Year Friendship

The two friends are featured in People's The Beautiful Issue, on stands this Friday

Oprah Winfrey was a 22-year-old news anchor at WJZ-TV in Baltimore when she offered Gayle King, then a 21-year-old production assistant/writer at the station, a place to crash for the night.

They hardly knew each other but a heavy snowstorm was in the forecast, and Winfrey didn't want King stranded.

"We ended up talking all night long," says Winfrey, who spotted King a toothbrush and a dress for work the next day ("it was purple with a scoop neck and bell sleeves," King recalls to this day). "We've literally been friends ever since."

The powerhouse duo, who opened up about their 46-year friendship for PEOPLE's The Beautiful Issue, on stands Friday, have become a force of nature in their own right. Fiercely loyal and always truthful with each other ("even if you don't want to hear it", notes Winfrey) they share similar values and philosophies about life and relish a good meal, a great movie and a spirited discussion around current events.

Oprah Winfrey and Gayle King photographed in Santa Barbara on April 2nd
Oprah Winfrey and Gayle King. Joe Pugliese

To be sure, they're plenty different — King, 67, is an extrovert who "loves a good soiree," while Winfrey, 68, is happiest at home curled up with a book ­— but their bond runs deep.

Both are regularly approached by strangers who see themselves, and their own BFFs, in the inspiring pair. "I always get, 'This is my Oprah'," says King. "It's one of the biggest compliments."

Adds Winfrey: "And I always get, 'This is my Gayle'. I understand what that means: long-term, standing in the gap, no matter what I'm here for you."

For more on Oprah and Gayle's friendship and interviews with other famous BFFs, please pick up PEOPLE Magazine, on newsstands Friday.

Oprah Winfrey and Gayle King photographed in Santa Barbara on April 2nd
Oprah Winfrey and Gayle King. Joe Pugliese

The connection is something the women cherish and finding someone who is truly "happy for your happiness" is a gift, says Winfrey.

"And on the flip side, I [can] trust her about anything," says King. "Her advice is always very good."

"People will find this hard to believe, but we've never had a serious argument," adds Winfrey, who, like King, knows how lucky they are. "It certainly is a beautiful friendship."

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