Ever since the 1980s, Whoopi Goldberg has never left the public eye, always going from project to project. From her humble beginnings as a high school dropout, she became the highest paid actress of the early 1990s and the only black woman to have the EGOT status, being someone who’s won an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony award. For the second week of black history month, let’s take a look at the incredibly talented Whoopi Goldberg.
Whoopi Goldberg was born Caryn Elaine Johnson in Manhattan, New York. She was raised by a single mother. She’s a high school dropout who moved to California where she worked odd jobs, including as a mortuary cosmetologist (putting make-up on dead people) and a bricklayer. She joined a theatre troupe and started teaching acting classes, with one of her students being Courtney Love.
Her first film opportunity was in the 1982 avant-garde Citizen: I’m Not Losing My Mind I’m Giving It Away. Soon after Director Mike Nichols discovered her during a one woman performance and brought her to Broadway, where she would catch the attention of Steven Spielberg, who cast her in The Color Purple, which was her first major success. The movie was critically and commercially successful, getting Goldberg her first Academy Award Nomination.
What Came After
Goldberg has appeared in 150 films, and countless other TV series and documentaries. She’s even appeared in children’s shows and Christmas movies. Like Idris Elba, whom I covered last week, she has an interesting range, appearing in both comedies and horror, and everything in between. Though she’s primarily known as a comedic actress. I would go so far as to say that every person in Generations X through Z have at least seen one of her movies or TV series’. Notable works include Sister Act, which made her the highest grossing actress when it came out and Ghost, the most successful film of that year. Nowadays, she co-hosts The View, a talk show, and has recently acted in The Stand, an adaptation of a Steven King novel.
Star Trek: The Next Generation
When Goldberg was growing up, it was reported that she saw Nichelle Nichols as Nyota Uhura in the original Star Trek, and noted that it was the first time she had seen a black woman be on TV and not be a maid. This led to a lifelong fascination with the series. Eventually, she was able to become a part of the show in Star Trek: The Next Generation playing Guinan. That’s what I call one lucky fan. It’s one of her most profound performances. When on The View, Patrick Stewart offered for her to reprise the role of Guinan in Star Trek: Picard, and she immediately accepted. So we’ll hopefully be seeing more of Guinan in the future.
From being a bricklayer to the highest paid actress in the world, whether you like her or not, Whoopi Goldberg has certainly made something of herself. Over a long and varied career, she’s done a lot and has hardly taken a break. Thank you for your many contributions, Whoopi. Keep going strong.
Black Media History: A Tribute to Whoopi Goldberg
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