Updated: Nov 17, 2021
The world has known Cher as the Queen of Pop for six decades, since she began as a folk artist in the 1960s. Since then, she's evolved her sound to the chart-topping pop music for which the world has come to know and love. Beyond her glitzy fashion, grand performances, and upbeat music, the star has managed to balance a rather tumultuous personal life throughout her career.
Her full name is Cherilyn Sarkisian, and she was born on May 20, 1946. Before being in the spotlight, Cher’s mom helped her get booked as an extra on shows like The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet when she was a kid.Cher was originally from El Centro, California, but dropped out of school and moved to Los Angeles when she was 16. She has had a life-long struggle with dyslexia. Her father, John Sarkisian, fell victim to the vices of substance abuse and gambling and abandoned Cher and her mother, Georgia Holt, when she was just a baby.
Before she earned the level of fame worthy of going by a single name alone, Cher had several other stage names that she tried out. For the release of her first single in 1964, she went by Bonnie Jo Mason. After that, she became one half of Sonny and Cher, but they first performed as Caesar and Cleo.
She met Sonny Bono, 11 years her senior, when she was a teenager and the two quickly became romantically involved while Bono helped Cher start her career.
If you listen closely, you may be able to hear Cher’s vocals on classic tracks like the Ronettes’ “Be My Baby” and the Righteous Brothers’ “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’.” She was enlisted as a background singer on these and more after Bono introduced her to Phil Spector in 1962.
Cher and Bono's show was an Instant hit The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour was a household name during its three years of being broadcast, attracting up to 30 million weekly viewers. Cher and Sonny decided to have a private wedding ceremony, just the two of them. It was held in the bathroom of their apartment and they exchanged souvenir rings as wedding bands.
In the 1970s, the toy company Mego produced Sonny and Cher fashion dolls. Her doll specifically was even more popular than Barbie at one point, becoming the highest selling doll of 1976. Since then, several other dolls, including this one, have been made to commemorate the performer.
She divorced twice in the 1970s. Her first marriage to Sonny Bono lasted from 1969 to 1975, and her second to Gregg Allman from 1975 to 1979. Cher’s split from Bono was largely due to his controlling behavior as a husband and business partner. She cited “involuntary servitude” as the reason for filing for divorce and accused him of withholding her earnings from their show.
Cher has had strained relationships with both of her children, Chaz Bono and Elijah Blue Allman. She was initially not pleased when Chastity came out as a lesbian (before identifying as transgender), but was fully supportive when they decided to undergo gender reassignment surgery and become Chaz. Her relationship with Elijah was always challenging because of his substance abuse.
There have been plenty of rumors about the extent of Cher’s plastic surgery, and the performer has confirmed that she’s gone under the knife for her breasts and nose, and had operations for her teeth.
Cher was offered the part of Thelma Dickinson in the 1991 film Thelma and Louise, but she turned down the offer to star in Mermaids.
Cher admired Audrey Hepburn and enjoyed watching her films. She was particularly enchanted by Hepburn’s friendship and partnership with designer Hubert de Givenchy, and formed a similar relationship with costume designer Bob Mackie.
SHE MET HER IDOL: Reflecting on winning an Oscar for Moonstruck, Cher once said, “The biggest thing in my life was winning that award. The second biggest thing was shaking hands with Audrey Hepburn and having her say, ‘I’m so happy you won.’”
SHE'S BILLBOARD RECORD-HOLDER Cher is the only artist in history to rank on a Billboard chart for six consecutive decades. In the ‘60s, ‘70s, and ‘90s, she topped the Hot 100; in the ‘80s, she charted in Adult Contemporary; and in the 2000s and 2010s, she topped the Dance/Club Play Songs chart. Cher’s racked up a slew of awards and nominations, including one win and seven Grammy nominations, one win and two Academy Award nominations, and one win and seven Emmy nominations.
SHE'S HAD A NUMBER OF HIGH-PROFILE RELATIONSHIPS: Cher’s dated celebrities, including Gene Simmons, Val Kilmer, and Tom Cruise, who is 16 years her junior. When Cher’s 1998 single “Believe” was released, it was an instant hit, reaching number one on the Billboard Hot 100 and holding its rank for four weeks. The song’s heavy use of auto-tune was a new technique at the time, but has since become widely accepted in pop music.
The success of “Believe” was a milestone for Cher, who at 52 years old at the time of its release, became the oldest woman to have a number one song.
Cher was diagnosed with Epstein-Barr virus which left her seriously ill and unable to work for two years. She had to resort to doing informercials to make money, before she was able to start performing on stage before and re-starting her career.
Cher has always maintained a close relationship with her mom, who is now 92. The singer dedicated her last album Dancing Queen, which was released in 2018, to her mom.
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