Actress, singer, model, and fashion icon, Cher started from some very humble beginnings and worked her way up to take the world by storm in the ‘60s and ‘70s. She has transformed herself decade by decade, pumping out hits, movies, and looks—not to mention good ol’ fashioned drama. The age-defying star who has done it all shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon, so throw on some glitter and pull that feather boa closer around your shoulders; here are 50 facts about the original diva: Cher.
50. A Little Extra
Cher’s mother, Georgia Holt (nee Jackie Jean Crouch), was a bit actress on several TV shows and an occasional model. If you’re unfamiliar with bit acting, it involves directly interacting with the lead actors but having no more than five lines, so between an extra and a supporting actress. Holt made appearances on the popular shows of the ‘50s such as I Love Lucy and Studio 57.
49. A Taste of Fame
Because of her career, Holt managed to get her daughters parts as extras on shows like The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, leading to Cher’s very first onscreen appearance.
48. What’s in a Name?
Cher was born Cherilyn Sarkisian to Holt and her father, John Sarkisian, an Armenian-American truck driver. He was a gambler and substance abuser who abandoned Cher and her mother when she was just a few months old. He mother remarried twice, and her second husband adopted Cher and her younger half-sister, leading he to become Cherilyn Sarkisian LaPiere.
When Cher was 18 and released her first single, she changed her stage name to Bonnie Jo Mason. The single flopped, and she went on to create a singing duo with Sonny Bono. At first, they used the names Caesar & Cleo before changing to Sonny & Cher.
46. Brevity Is the Soul of Wit
Through two marriages in the ‘70s, Cher picked up two more last names, making her Cherilyn Sarkisian LaPiere Bono Allman. In 1979, following her divorce from Gregg Allman, she legally changed her name to just Cher.
45. First Impressions
When Cher met Sonny Bono in a coffee shop in Los Angeles, it was not love at first sight, though she was very impressed with his hair, which she describes as “something in between Caesar and Napoleon.”
44. Wall of Sound
When they met, Bono was working for then big-time music producer Phil Spector. Spector famously worked with The Beatles, Ike and Tina Turner, and the Righteous Brothers, among others. Spector ended up asking Cher to work as his housekeeper.
43. Opportunity Knocks
Cher, who was determined to get into the music industry any way she could, took the chance offered to her. She worked hard, and eventually started singing backup vocals for Spector’s artists, after he finally recognized her talent.
42. A Hunk of Burning Rejection
Cher revealed to David Letterman that after her divorce from Sonny, the one and only Elvis Presley invited her to one of his shows in Las Vegas, and she turned him down! Why, we’ll never know. But she did say that she regrets her choice.
41. Affair(s) to Remember
Cher’s immense beauty has caught the eye of many male celebrities over the years who vied for a chance to date her. She’s been linked to Tom Cruise, Val Kilmer, Warren Beatty, Gene Simmons, and Michael Bolton, among others.
40. From Rags to Riches
Cher’s life was not always glamorous. During childhood, her family experienced poverty to the point where Cher used rubber bands to keep her shoes together. Her mother even had to leave her children at a Catholic orphanage for weeks at a time in order to make ends meet, which left lasting trauma for both parent and children.
39. Mamma Mia!
Despite their rough times together in Cher’s early years, she and her mother have always remained close, and do so to this day. In fact, she Cher dedicated her latest album, Dancing Queen, which features covers of popular ABBA songs, to her mother, for always being her fan and believing in her during hard times.
38. Who Needs a Diploma?
Cher attended Fresno High School in California but never graduated. She has said on several occasions that she enjoyed learning in school, especially in English and Drama class, but her grades were always poor. She struggled to keep up and chose to drop out at 16.
37. It All Makes Sense Now
When she was 30, Cher was diagnosed with severe dyslexia, which may explain why she had such a hard time when she was in school.
36. Cher & Louise
Cher was offered the part of Thelma in the classic 1991 movie Thelma & Louise, but she turned it down in order to be in another film called Mermaids. The movie, which features Christina Ricci in her first film role, was generally well-received, if not as well-remembered as Thelma & Louise.
35. Tough as Nails
Regardless of whether or not she appeared in Thelma & Louise, it’s clear why she was offered the part—her life off-screen has included plenty of tough, carefree girl power moments like the ones in the movie. Cher revealed to Us Weekly that she and Meryl Streep once came to the rescue of a young woman being mugged in New York City. She also once crashed a small plane she was piloting during a snowstorm.
34. Oh, Golly Gee Damn!
As a teenager, Cher fell in love with Audrey Hepburn as Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and studied her mannerisms as well as her partnership with designer Givenchy, whose gowns Hepburn wore in the movie, and others. Cher tried to emulate Hepburn, and in the ‘60s, she established her own fashion partnership with Bob Mackie. When Cher won an Oscar for her performance in Moonstruck, she 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.”
33. Mick Jagger Saves the Day
After launching Sonny & Cher in the ‘60s, the duo was struggling to fit into the American music scene. “(The Rolling Stones) had told us…that Americans just didn’t get us and that if we were going to make it big, we were going to have to go to England,” Cher said. So the pair packed up and moved across the pond, and it worked “I Got You Babe” became an international hit, and their scandalous outfits led to an outrage in the media and the hotels they stayed in, growing their fan base.
32. Exclusive Club
It’s not every artist that can win an Oscar and have a No. 1 single top the charts, mastering both the acting and music industries. But Cher has done it. Her Academy Award for Moonstruck and her 1998 hit “Believe” gave her the keys to a very small club of individuals who have achieved both honors: Frank Sinatra, Barbara Streisand, Jamie Foxx, and Bing Crosby. Talk about an elite crew.
31. Don’t See Burlesque
Cher starred in 2010’s Burlesque alongside Christina Aguilera. Although the soundtrack won several awards, including a Golden Globe for Best Original Song, Cher is quick to express her disappointment with the project. In an interview with The Guardian, she outrightly blames director Steve Antin: “It could have been a much better film. It was always sad that it was not a good film…Terrible director! Really terrible director. And really terrible script.” Ouch. The truth hurts.
30. Cher’s Not a Fan of Cher
Interestingly, Cher has never felt fully confident as a singer. She admits that she enjoys the act of singing much more than hearing herself sing, and in her usual direct and honest manner, says most of her albums “are absolutely no good.” Instead of standing on stage in front of an audience, Cher’s favorite thing to do in the world is rehearse, to learn a song and play it again and again with no one to judge her for how she sounds. Not the answer anyone would expect from a woman who has been in show business for most of her life.
29. The Truth Comes Out
The world was shocked when Sonny and Cher split in 1975, but it wasn’t until after the divorce that the reasons their marriage fell apart came to light. Since then, Cher has spoken openly about how Sonny (allegedly) used her as an instrument and controlled her, not even allowing her to spend their shared earnings. She describes him as “a Sicilian man of his generation” who bossed her around constantly, to the point that her confidence suffered immensely.
28. Butting Heads
Most of us are familiar with her 1998 smash hit “Believe,” but what few know is Cher disliked the track at first. She and the song’s producer, Mark Taylor, fought over it constantly, as it didn’t sound up to par for either of them. Cher eventually stormed out of the studio and gave up on the project.
27. Autotune OG
That is, she gave up on “Believe” until she heard a young man using a vocoder on a British TV show. She had the idea to bring a vocoder into the studio to use for “Believe,” and the rest is history. She even won a Grammy for the song. The introduction of that style with the song “Believe” redefined the next two decades of popular music, and autotune is incredibly widely used now.
26. Live for the Applause
While most people have a specific talent or niche they want to pursue, Cher didn’t start out wanting to be an actress or a singer — she simply wanted to be famous. She recalls seeing two movies when she was very young, Dumbo and Cinderella, and wanting to become Cinderella on the big screen. She sang the songs from the movies all the way home in the car with her parents, remembering them even though she had just heard them for the first time. And when she first learned to write, all she did was practice her autograph.
25. Plastic Is Fantastic
Whether she likes it or not, Cher has become the face of plastic surgery. She admits to having cosmetic work done on her breasts, teeth, and nose, but rumors have persisted about other work, including having her butt lifted, lips done, ribs removed to shrink her waist, and facial restructuring.
24. Turn Back Time
The star has said she feels she physically peaked at 40, and it’s been downhill from there. When asked in Vanity Fair if she goes through with the procedures out of self-love or self-loathing, Cher admitted she doesn’t know which category she would fall under. What is clear is the diva intends on staying away from the aging process for as long as possible.
23. Not Going Up There Alone
Interestingly, Cher ended up in a duo with Sonny only because she suffered from extreme stage fright. When they were putting her act together and trying to brand her as a solo artist, Cher refused to go on stage by herself, so Sonny decided to go up there with her. Instead of looking at the audience and being overcome by her shyness, Cher would gaze into Sonny’s eyes while she sang.
22. Support the Troops
Cher ended up in a bit of a tense relationship with the US military after her notorious video for “If I Could Turn Back Time,” which featured the star scantily clad on the USS Missouri. While the video inspired outrage from those in uniform, her non-profit outreach has hopefully eased their opinion of her into a more positive one.
Cher’s charity work focuses on veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, partnering with an organization called Operation Helmet that purchases upgrade helmet kits and sends them to soldiers overseas. The kits consist of shock-absorbing pads and an improved strapping system, which keep troops safer as well as more comfortable.
Cher also went to Washington to appear before the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Tactical Air and Land Forces to demand better equipment for American troops.
21. Feeling Blue
Cher’s relationship with her son Elijah Blue has been rocky, to say the least. She didn’t want to leave him alone with Allman and expose him to his father’s substance abuse, but she was also constantly on the road.
In an interview, Elijah said, “When you go to boarding school at 7 years old, it’s kind of hard to feel like you’re not being shunned.” Elijah started abusing substances very early, at 11 years old, and developed a heroin addiction like his father.
20. Falling Out
The media covered the blowup of Cher and her son’s relationship in 2013 after she didn’t initially show support of Elijah after he eloped with his fiancée Angie, a German musician and opera singer. They have had long periods where they didn’t speak to each other for months on end. Elijah admits that many of their issues have not yet been resolved, but there’s no denying he loves his mom: “I mean, she’s Cher. What’s not to love?”
19. Something’s Missing
After all that Cher has accomplished and the accolades that have been bestowed upon her, it’s funny to think she feels something is missing. But Cher does feel very strongly that she and Sonny have been bypassed for a major recognition that is long overdue: being inducted into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame. In fact, the diva thinks “it just seems kind of rude, because we were a huge part of a certain kind of music, and we lasted for a very long time…” Don’t worry, Cher, there’s still time to make it happen!
Cher and Bono named their child Chastity, after Cher’s character in the movie Silkwood, where she played Meryl Streep’s character’s lesbian roommate. Cher and Streep remain good friends to this day, and Cher had admitted that she’s jealous of how wonderfully Streep has aged.
17. Life Imitates Art
Ironically, like the fictional character for whom they were named, Chastity came out as a lesbian in 1995, and although she already had a huge following in the gay community at that time, Cher was openly not thrilled with Chastity’s news. Cher was angry and felt as if she was the last to know, but later admitted that she had reacted badly.
16. Coming Out to the World
In 2009, Chastity announced to the world that they would be transitioning and undergoing gender reassignment surgery, and that he would go by the name Chaz Bono. Chaz has been an activist in the transgender community and was one of the first celebrities to publicly change genders. Chaz has said, “It has been difficult for my mother, but I respect that. It’s a process of grieving for a child you’ve lost and adjusting to the new one taking their place.”
15. Trying Her Best
While Cher says she makes frequent mistakes with pronouns, calling Chaz “she” instead of “he,” which he is generally very relaxed about, she is very empathetic to Chaz’s struggle and supports him fully, in his personal life as well as in his acting career. Chaz recently appeared on two different American Horror Story seasons: Roanoke and Cult.
14. Twitter Me Crazy
Cher lives in the no-spin zone and is always more than happy to voice her straight-shooting opinions on pop culture, politics, and life in general. Since 2010, her Twitter account has gained an incredible following, as fans old and new wait to see what hilarious topic she will post about each day, relishing the unique way she phrases things. Example: “God I love ART in Any FORM! GOTTA GO TAKE BATH! Later Lovelies!”
13. Political Leanings
Cher is very outspoken about her contempt for President Trump and his administration, even getting into an online feud with the president in 2012 about his allegedly fake hair. On James Corden’s show earlier this year, during a segment called “Spill Your Guts or Fill Your Guts,” Cher was asked to say one nice thing about Trump or eat a disgusting-looking cow tongue. She unapologetically chose the tongue.
12. Not What “Private Ceremony” Usually Means
Bono and Cher married two years after they met, in the bathroom of their apartment in 1965. Not your typical wedding venue! There was no one else present for the ceremony, and the couple exchanged cheap souvenir rings which they had engraved with their names.
11. Cloudy Days with Sonny
Sonny & Cher’s idyllic world seemed perfect as they gained fame in the 60s. Although Sonny and Cher’s marriage appeared solid and happy, later in the 70s, Sonny’s diary revealed otherwise: “The public still thinks we are married, that’s the way it has to be.” He went as far as to say he and Cher were rarely intimate, and the couple never had a good physical relationship.
10. I Want to Break Free
When Cher decided to end Sonny & Cher, Sonny threatened her, “America will hate you and you won’t have a job.” At that point in their career, Sonny had been the one calling the shots, and had painted the duo as a very wholesome couple and act—one that Cher wanted to break out of.
9. Mended Fences
Bono tragically died in a skiing accident in 1998, one week after Sonny & Cher had received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. At his funeral, Cher’s heartfelt eulogy concluded with her saying Sonny would always be the most unforgettable person to her.
8. An Unpleasant Surprise
At the height of her career, after appearing in movie after movie, it seemed as if Cher abruptly stopped working. Did she take a break from her spotlight for some personal time? Turns out, she was diagnosed with the Epstein-Barr virus, the virus that causes mono. It includes symptoms of constant fatigue, sore muscles, fever, lack of appetite and a sore throat.
7. Infomercial Queen
She wasn’t able to work for two years, and ended that second year off by getting pneumonia. In order to pay the bills, Cher started doing infomercials for various health, beauty, and diet products.
6. A Less-Than-Warm Reception
The public generally misunderstood this career direction and took it as a sign that her career was over, or that she had “sold out” as an artist to make money. She became the butt of many jokes in the media, especially late-night talk shows, and her reputation was essentially ruined. By the time she was healthy enough to work again, she had to, in a sense, start her career from the bottom, going back to her roots of performing concerts.
5. Unlucky Number Nine
A mere four days after Cher’s divorce from Bono was final, on June 30, 1975, she jumped into another marriage with rock star Gregg Allman, frontman for the Allman Brothers Band. However intense their feelings were for each other at the time, they couldn’t withstand Allman’s alcoholism and substance abuse. He would allegedly drink a quart of vodka every day while doing heroin, leading Cher to reach her limit with the guitarist after only nine days of matrimony. She told Entertainment Weekly that Allman was “so high, he didn’t even understand me.”
4. Turnabout Is Fair Play
Deciding to give him another chance after he promised to tone his behavior down, Cher withdrew the divorce papers only for Allman to file for divorce from her the next year. Apparently, Allman was too uncomfortable with Sonny and Cher’s relationship, even professionally, as they tried to (unsuccessfully) bring back The Sonny & Cher Show for a second round.
3. Do It for the Kid
Then, Cher discovered she was pregnant. She and Allman did their best to reconcile their relationship for their son, Elijah Blue, who was born in July of 1976. The couple even released an album together under the name Allman and Woman.
2. Living Under the Hammer
The fear of Allman returning to a lifestyle filled with alcohol and substance abuse continued to cause tension in their relationship, and Cher legally separated from Allman in 1977, with the divorce finalized in 1979.
1. Proved Her Wrong
She wrote a song to commemorate Allman called “My Song (Too Far Gone),” and ends the chorus with the lyrics “too far gone and he doesn’t really know, no he’ll never get to know his son.” However, contrary to those lyrics, the two remained friends, and Allman lived to the age of 69, dying in 2017.