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November 13, 1955: Whoopi Goldberg Was Born

Photo: Nancy R. Schiff/Getty

On November 13, 1955, Whoopi Goldberg was born Caryn Elaine Johnson in New York City to a single mother. After working odd jobs to pursue her acting dreams, she gained national prominence with her starring role in 1985’s “The Color Purple.” Ever since that groundbreaking role, Goldberg achieved celebrity status as a movie star, comedian and TV talk show host. Never forgetting her humble roots, Goldberg has remained consistent with her philanthropy and outspoken views throughout her career.

After growing up in a housing project in New York City, Goldberg was determined to make it as an actress. She had many side gigs, including bricklayer and mortuary beautician at a funeral parlor, while pursuing her dream. She perfected her stand-up comedy skills in California and won a Bay Area Theatre Award for portraying the comedienne, Moms Mabley, in a one-woman show. In 1983, she returned to New York City to star in the off-Broadway production “The Spook Show,” that featured her own original material addressing the topic of race in America. In 1984, director Mike Nichols loved the show so much that he moved it to Broadway. In 1985, Goldberg won a Best Comedy Album Grammy for the recording of selected skits from the play.

1985 was also the year that Goldberg starred in Steven Spielberg’s film, “The Color Purple.” She received an Oscar nomination and a Golden Globe award for her performance. After receiving strong critical acclaim, Goldberg skyrocketed to stardom. To date, she has starred in over 80 films and television shows. Goldberg’s most critically acclaimed role was starring opposite Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore as the storefront medium and spiritual advisor, Oda Mae Brown, in “Ghost” (1990). For that performance, in 1991 she won a Best Supporting Actress Academy Award, making her the second African American women ever to win an acting Oscar. Goldberg also won her second Golden Globe and the Black Entertainer of the Year Award from the NAACP for that role. She was nominated for another Golden Globe playing a lounge singer hiding out as a nun from the mob in the film “Sister Act” (1992).

Goldberg made her first foray into television with her TV talk show, “The Whoopi Goldberg Show,” in 1992. After the show ended in 1993, Goldberg returned to the small screen, making regular appearances on the celebrity game show, “Hollywood Squares.” She also became the first woman to host the Academy Awards in 1994. She reprised her Oscar host role in 1996 and 1999.

Beginning on September 4, 2007, Goldberg has been a regular moderator on the popular and often headline-grabbing TV talk show, “The View.” The outspoken star has been a key member of the show, never afraid to voice her liberal opinions about social issues and politics.

Aside from entertaining her countless fans, Goldberg has been dedicated to philanthropy. She once shared, “I fear waking up one morning and finding out that my life was for nothing. We’re here for a reason. I believe a bit of the reason is to throw little torches out to lead people through the dark.” Never forgetting her early struggles, she has used her celebrity status to help with many causes including homelessness, AIDS, children’s issues, health care, and substance abuse.

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