Whoopi Goldberg is a celebrated American actress, comedian and human rights advocate. She was born as Caryn Elaine Johnson on November 13, 1955, in New York City and was raised by a single mother in a housing project of Manhattan. Her father abandoned the family and her mother struggled to raise Whoopi and her younger brother Clyde, working a variety of jobs to keep the family afloat. She dropped out of high school at the age of 17 and got heavily addicted to drugs. She checked into rehab at the age of 17 and cleaned up her act. There she met her first husband with whom she had her only child – a daughter named Alexandria. The marriage didn’t last long, and Whoopi moved to California with her daughter with the intention of pursuing a career in show business. Adopting the stage name of Whoopi Goldberg, she became one of the founders of the San Diego Repertory Theatre.
Whoopi began to write comedic monologues and made a name for herself as a stand-up comedian. She toured America with her act called “The Spook Show” which showcased her natural talent for whacky and dramatic humor. Her act caught the attention of the film director Mike Nichols who converted her one woman act into a Broadway play. The show was so popular that all 156 shows were sold out and Whoopi established herself as one of the most celebrated actresses in New York. This brought her to the notice of the legendary Hollywood director Steven Spielberg who cast her in the leading role of his next movie. The movie was called “The Color Purple” and it was an adaptation of Alice Walker’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel. The film was a huge success, winning 11 Oscar nominations including the nomination for Best Supporting Actress for Whoopi. She did not win the Oscar, but took home a Golden Globe Award.
Her next major Hollywood role was that of Oda Mae Brown in the film “Ghost” – also starring Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore. The film was a phenomenal success and earned Whoopi an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress, making her the second African American to have won it. Whoopi also made several appearances on the popular TV show “Star Trek: The Next Generation” which she claims is a great honor for her, as she had always been a fan of the show. Her movie “Sister Act” released in 1992, was also highly successful and grossed over $100 million at the box office, along with another Golden Globe nomination and an American Comedy Award for Funniest Actress in a Motion Picture for Whoopi. She also started hosting her own late night talk show on TV, called “The Whoopi Goldberg Show”.
Her popularity led her to becoming the first African American to host the Oscars. She hosted the Awards a total of four times, that is, 1994, 1996, 1999 and 2002. She is also a talented voice artist, and has voiced several famous characters such as Stretch in “Toy Story 3”, Shenzi in “The Lion King” and Gia in “Captain Planet and the Planeteers”. In 1998, she began appearing on the celebrity game show “Hollywood Squares” for which she won two Emmy Awards. She also appeared as a moderator on the television talk show “The View” replacing Rosie O’Donnell who left the show after just one year.
Whoopi Goldberg is a leading human rights activist and works for LGBT rights and AIDS awareness. In 1987, she co-hosted HBO’s Comic Relief Benefit, to help raise funds for the homeless. She also works for hurricane relief and is a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador. Her trademark dreadlocks, contagious laugh and whacky sense of humor are iconic and she is currently one of the best loved comedians on television. She is one of the rare artists who can boast an Oscar, Emmy, Golden Globe and a Tony Award. Whoopi has been married thrice and has one daughter and three grandchildren. She is still an active performer and continues to make millions laugh with her razor sharp wit and offbeat antics.