Born Caryn Johnson in New York on Nov. 13, 1955, Whoopi Goldberg’s unique talent and voice have made her one of the few entertainers to hit a Grand Slam (a.k.a. EGOT): she’s won a Grammy, an Oscar, a Tony and two Emmys.
Her Grammy came for the 1985 recording of her one-woman show Direct from Broadway… that cemented her place in the comedy stratosphere, with an amazing range and depth of characters, including a Jamaican Rastaman and the angry young junkie Fontaine.
Goldberg, who dropped out of high school and became a heroin addict in her teens, has spoken openly about her past. "I think it was the times," she told Howard Stern in 2013. "Because those were the times. It looked cool. This was before the rock stars did it. The beginning of the '60s was a whole different groove. All of my friends from that time are dead, all the people who were doing the same kind of stuff. They saved me. They were slightly older than me and they said, ‘This is not for you. This is not the life for you, and we are not going to help you anymore. You need to stop.’ All the money went to drugs, heroin, acid, whatever was there. The people who I was using with stopped too and we all helped each other. It took about 10 days, but they cleaned me up.”
'The vape pen has changed my life. I’m not exaggerating. In fact, her name is Sippy. With each sip comes relief.'
While Goldberg was highly praised for her lead role in the adaptation of Alice Walker’s The Color Purple (1985), it was her portrayal of a wacky medium in Ghost (1990) that earned an Oscar (she was nominated for both films and won a Golden Globe for the former). Goldberg was later caught on tape saying she smoked “the last of her homegrown” before giving perhaps the most sincere Oscar acceptance speech ever, with glistening eyes.
She was only the second black woman to win an Oscar (Hattie McDaniel was the first for Gone With the Wind). Fittingly, Goldberg’s first Emmy came for hosting the special Beyond Tara: The Extraordinary Life of Hattie McDaniel in 2002.
Goldberg also received an Emmy for Outstanding Talk Show Host for The View in 2009, the same year she defended Michael Phelps’s famous post-Olympic bong hit on the show, outing herself on the air by saying, “God help me, I’m going to make an admission and I hope you all are sitting down. I have smoked weed.”
Five years later, she became a columnist for the Denver Post's pot site, The Cannabist, debuting in April with an article titled “My Vape Pen and I, a Love Story” that revealed her use of marijuana for glaucoma. "The vape pen has changed my life," she wrote. "No, I’m not exaggerating. In fact, her name is Sippy. Yes, she’s a she. And yes, I named her Sippy because I take tiny, little sips - sassy sips, even - from her. And with each sip comes relief - from pressure, pain, stress, discomfort."
Her second column criticized New York’s new medical marijuana law for not allowing patients with glaucoma, migraines or severe menstrual disorders to get legal weed. "As a patient not yet covered, I will wait, with hopes that my condition, and the others not yet recognized by the state of New York can one day, very soon, legitimately and legally be serviced by cannabis, and included in New York’s medical marijuana laws," Goldberg persuasively pointed out.
On The View, she recently challenged former assistant US Attorney Sunny Hostin to visit a marijuana grow house with her and get educated. "I know the good things about marijuana," Goldberg opined.
Among her other films are Sister Act, Sarafina, Ghosts of Mississippi and Girl, Interrupted. She's also co-hosted numerous Comic Relief specials with Billy Crystal and Robin Williams, and is a recipient of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation Vanguard Award.
She was nominated for an Emmy again this year for the documentary Whoopi Goldberg Presents Moms Mabley. Her Tony came in 2002 for Thoroughly Modern Millie, which she produced.
Goldberg has been married and divorced three times, and has one daughter and three grandchildren.