Whoopi Goldberg has been a stalwart of the entertainment industry for decades. The actress and talk show host began her career as a comedian, though not long after was discovered by one of the most prominent directors in the world. That led her to the world of cinema – and astronomical levels of fame.
Though Whoopi Goldberg has had a very successful life, it hasn’t always been that easy. At an early age, she had trouble in school. Later on, she experienced three failed marriages for which she knows who is to blame.
So how did Whoopi rise to fame in the first place? And who has she been married to? Here’s all you need to know about her!
Whoopi Goldberg – born Caryn Elaine Johnson – was born on November 13, 1955, in New York. Her mother, Emma, raised Whoopi and her older brother Clyde after their father abandoned the family early. They lived in a housing project in the Chelsea area of Manhattan. Whoopi’s mother worked several jobs to support her children.
At school, Whoopi had a tough time of things. She didn’t feel like she was grasping anything that was taught in the classroom, though it turned out that there was an explanation.
Whoopi had dyslexia. However, she didn’t get a diagnosis from a doctor.
“You don’t want to be retarded all your life,” she told Ebony Magazine in 1991. “I was retarded for a good part of mine, according to all the paperwork, and I just couldn’t handle it.”
Of course, as we all know, being dyslexic doesn’t mean you’re “retarded”. And most importantly, it turned out that Whoopi was a very gifted young woman, even if friends at the time called her “dumb.” Her mother became a vital person for Whoopi, always reminding her that she could be anything she ever wanted to be.
“I knew I wasn’t stupid, and I knew I wasn’t dumb. My mother told me that,” she said in 1994, adding that she grew up in a time where no one thought to tell her that she couldn’t achieve her dreams.
As a youngster, Whoopi dreamt about becoming an actress. As fate would have it, any ambitions she had of pursuing a career in the entertainment business, though, had to wait a while.
At only 18 years of age, Whoopi tied the knot with Alvin Martin. They were married between 1973 and 1978, and share a daughter, Alexandra.
Then, in 1974, Whoopi – who had dropped out of school – left the east coast for sunny California, along with her daughter. They lived in San Diego, Los Angeles, and San Francisco.
She tried pursuing her dream of a career in show business as best she could, working as a mortuary beautician to bring in money.
“I did hair and makeup on dead people,” Whoopi Goldberg said on Oprah’s Master Class.
“There was an ad in the paper! And I’m a licensed beautician as well, because I went to beauty school.”
“It’s a rough gig,” she added. “You have to be a certain kind of person. And you have to love people in order to make them worthy of a great send-off.”
At the same time, Whoopi was dedicated to pursuing a career in stand-up comedy. She took the stage name “Whoopi Goldberg” in honor of Jewish forebears, and it wasn’t long before people started talking about her.
After joining the improvisational theater group Blake Street Hawkeyes in San Francisco, Whoopi acquired a large local fan base for her work as a stand-up comedian.
Fast forward a short time and she was touring across the US and Europe with her one-woman production, The Spook Show. In 1983, during a New York gig, legendary director Mike Nichols happened to see her perform.
Nichols loved her so much that he wanted her to make The Spook Show on Broadway. She did, and it was a smash hit.
Nichols was a legendary director who loved Whoopi Goldberg on stage, and it turned out she had enough, similarly successful fan. His name? Steven Spielberg. He cast her in his film The Color Purple, turning her overnight into a star in Hollywood.
“So, I went to Steven’s theater, and I peeked out from behind the curtain. And there were all kinds of people,” Whoopi recalled of the audition.
“Quincy Jones and Michael Jackson. And just all these people who were watching me perform. And I just felt like ‘I hope I’m good’. Because all those people there, including Steven, were people who I had always dreamed about.”
“I turned it down at first,” she once said, “because nobody wants to suck.”