Whoopi Goldberg (born Caryn Elaine Johnson; November 13, 1955) is an American actress, comedienne, and television host.
She is one of only thirteen people who have won an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar, and a Tony Award, including Daytime Emmy Awards. In 1990, she became the second African American female performer after Hattie McDaniel to win an Academy Award for acting. She has won two Golden Globe Awards and two Saturn Awards for her performances in Star Trek Generations and Ghost.
Goldberg was born Caryn Elaine Johnson in New York City and raised in Manhattan's Chelsea neighborhood, the daughter of Emma (née Harris), a nurse and teacher, and Robert James Johnson, a clergyman. Goldberg's mother was a "stern, strong and wise woman" who raised her as a single mother after Goldberg's father had left the family. Her stage name was taken from whoopee cushion, which she initially used as her stage name; she stated that "If you get a little gassy, you've got to let it go. So people used to say to me, 'You're like a whoopee cushion.' And that's where the name came from." She chose the surname "Goldberg" after Jewish ancestors of hers who bore the surname, having said that "Goldberg's a part of my family somewhere." In 1991, she referred to herself as a "Jewish-Catholic girl from New York"; she has also stated that her mother is Jewish and referred to herself as a "Jewish-American Princess". A DNA test, broadcast in the 2006 PBS documentary African American Lives, traced most of her ancestry to the Papel and Bayote people of modern-day Guinea-Bissau. Her racial admixture test revealed her genetic makeup to be 92 percent sub-Saharan African and 8 percent European.
In an anecdote told by Nichelle Nichols in the documentary film Trekkies, a young Goldberg was watching Star Trek, and upon seeing Nichols' character Uhura, exclaimed, "Momma! There's a black lady on TV and she ain't no maid!" This spawned life-long fandom of Star Trek for Goldberg, who would eventually achieve a recurring guest-starring role in 1987's Star Trek: The Next Generation.
Goldberg's on-screen talent first emerged in 1981-82 in Citizen: I'm Not Losing My Mind, I'm Giving It Away, an avant-garde ensemble feature by San Francisco filmmaker William Farley. Goldberg created The Spook Show, a one-woman show devised of different character monologues, in 1983. Director Mike Nichols was instantly impressed and offered to bring the show to Broadway. The self-titled show ran from October 24, 1984 to March 10, 1985 for a total of 156 sold-out performances. While on Broadway, Goldberg's performance caught the eye of director Steven Spielberg. He was about to direct the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, The Color Purple, written by Alice Walker. Having read the novel, she was ecstatic at being offered a lead role in her first motion picture. Goldberg received compliments on her acting from Spielberg, Walker, and music consultant Quincy Jones. The Color Purple was released in the late autumn of 1985, and was a critical and commercial success. It was later nominated for 11 Academy Awards including a nomination for Goldberg as Best Actress. The movie did not win any of its Academy Award nominations, but Goldberg won the Golden Globe Award.
At age 18, during her marriage to 26-year-old Alvin Martin, Goldberg gave birth to their first and only child Alexandrea c.1973. After Goldberg's divorce from Martin, she moved to California and helped found the San Diego Repertory Company, where she used the stage name Whoopi Cushion. Before succeeding as an actress, she worked as a bank teller, a bricklayer, and a mortuary cosmetologist. Goldberg later went on to marry David Claessen, but they divorced after two years, in 1988. Whoopi later married Lyle Trachtenberg, but their marriage lasted only one year. In 2000, Whoopi broke up with her boyfriend of five years, Frank Langella.
Goldberg has three grandchildren through her daughter, Alexandrea Martin. The eldest, named Amarah Skye, born on November 13, 1989, shares Goldberg's birthday.
In 1993, Goldberg was briefly involved with Ted Danson, her co-star in Made in America. Danson was married at the time and caring for his wife, who had survived a stroke while giving birth in 1979. There was controversy following a comedy routine at a Friars' Club roast in which Danson performed in blackface. Goldberg wrote the script.
Goldberg was involved in controversy in the summer of 2004 when, at a fundraiser for John Kerry at Radio City Music Hall in New York, Goldberg made a sexual joke about President George W. Bush, by waving a bottle of wine, pointing toward her vagina and saying: "We should keep Bush where he belongs, and not in the White House." Slim-Fast, the biggest company in US health shake market, took exception to these comments made by Goldberg and dropped her from their current ad campaign.
Goldberg is one of few to win an Oscar, a Grammy, a Tony, and an Emmy. She has starred in over 150 films, and during a period in the 1990s, Whoopi was the highest-paid actress of all time. Her humanitarian efforts include working for Comic Relief, recently reuniting with Billy Crystal and Robin Williams for the 20th Anniversary of Comic Relief.
In February 2002, Goldberg sent her Oscar statuette from Ghost to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to be cleaned and replated. During this time, the statuette was taken from its shipping container, and later retrieved by the shipping company, UPS.
She is currently working on creating the Stanton Award, awarded to best comedic performance. (From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)