Relentless Perseverance. Activist. Icon.
Long, lustrous wigs. Intricate Bob Mackie headpieces and costumes. A voice that sends tingles down your spine. The icon. There is only one Cher, and she is a legend.
From her early days on The Sonny and Cher Show to her critically acclaimed film career, to her celebrated Las Vegas residency, Cher has solidified herself as one of America’s greatest all-time performers. Now in her seventies, the diva shows no signs of slowing down. In addition to her famed Vegas performances, it was just announced that she will embark on a world tour, including New Zealand for the first time in thirteen years. Her career, which has spanned more than five decades, is only part of Cher’s inspiring story.
Born Cherilyn Sarkisian on May 20, 1946, in El Centro, California, Cher was raised by her mother, an aspiring model and actress. Cher, her mother, and her sister struggled financially, so much that the children were briefly in the care of child services when their mother was looking for work. Despite the hardships, Cher found herself drawn to the arts early on. She was inspired by her mother’s small acting and singing gigs and knew that she wanted that life for herself. Cher was not, however, interested in school. She suffered from severe dyslexia which made her assignments overwhelmingly difficult. Eventually, she left her formal education to make the move to Los Angeles for voice lessons and to break into the music business.
It was in LA that the teenage Cher met 28-year-old singer Sonny Bono at a coffee shop. Bono, already a successful performer appearing on television, was initially only interested in a friendship with Cher. The two moved in together as roommates, but a romance blossomed between them, and they married in 1964.
As a couple they found overnight success just a year later with their unforgettable hit, I Got You Babe. Their fresh good looks, unique bohemian costumes, and socially aware songs entranced young fans and took the couple to global stardom. Sonny and Cher even had their own comedic variety show in the early 70s, which was nominated for an Emmy.
Despite outward success, the couple struggled in their marriage. In later interviews, Cher admitted that Sonny had been a difficult and controlling partner, especially in business, from the very beginning. The two divorced in 1975. The divorce, however, was amicable and the couple remained friends until Sonny’s death in 1998.
Cher’s ongoing success has relied less on reinvention that reinvigoration. She was always multi-talented and capable of evolving not only her sound, but her life experiences have catapulted her into new realms. After her divorce, Cher struggled to find her place as a solo artist.
She took up modeling to make financial ends meet but was back on the top 10 charts by the end of the decade. She also began to shift her focus to her acting career. Having always enjoyed her television and film appearances, she started out working on Broadway before making the transition to full-blown movie star. In 1983 she starred next to Meryl Streep in Silkwood. The role of the lesbian roommate, Dolly Pelliker earned Cher her first Golden Globe and Academy Award nominations as best supporting actress. Throughout the 80s Cher starred in iconic film classics like, Suspect, The Witches of Eastwick, and Moonstruck, for which she took home the Oscar for best actress.
Despite her late-1980s diagnosis with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Cher continued to produce hits on-screen and off-screen in her music career throughout the 90s and well into the 2000s. After a failed retirement and farewell tour in 2003, Cher returned to the stage, where it seems that she intends to stay--at least for the foreseeable future.
What many people do not realize about the talented performer is that she is also a fierce humanitarian and activist. Cher is extremely active and vocal on Twitter about a host of causes including LGBTQ+ equality and issues related to feminism like #MeToo and #TimesUp. She is also the head of the Cher Charitable Foundation, dedicated to supporting and giving voice to disenfranchised populations, especially military veterans and their families.
Cher was also deeply moved after her appearance in the film Mask, in which the main character suffers from a craniofacial condition. She is now the Children’s Craniofacial Association’s National Spokesperson. Over the years she has also dedicated her platform, time, and money to organizations like GLAAD, DoSomething.org, Music Rising, Operation Helmet, New York Restoration Project, and amfAR.
For her iconic career, unmistakable personality, immense talent, perseverance, and her dedication to activism and charitable causes, Cher is this week’s #WCIW.