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Iconic singer, actor, and social rights activist, Cher (b. 1946), spent time in an orphanage and kinship care during her childhood.

Cher was born as Cherilyn Sarkisian in El Centro, California. Her mother, Georgia Holt, was twenty years old. Her father, John Sarkisian, was a truck driver who struggled with drug, alcohol, and gambling problems.

Cher’s mother, Georgia, regretted her marriage from the beginning. While pregnant with Cher, she returned to her mother’s home on the condition that she would have an abortion. Not being able to go through with the abortion, Cher returned to her husband.

Cher’s parents divorced when Cher was ten months old. She did not see her father again until she was eleven.

As an infant, Cher’s parents temporarily boarded her in a Catholic orphanage. At the time, they were living in Scranton, Pennsylvania and struggling financially. For many years, her mother did not like to speak about it.

Cher later learned that her mother had to fight to have her baby returned because the nuns wanted her to be adopted. With the help of a city council member, the mother and child were reunited.

I said, ‘Mom, why didn’t you just march in and take me?’ She said, ‘I didn’t have the power. I didn’t have any money or a job, and the church was so strong. I’d go see you every day and you’d be crying’ (The Sun).

Cher experienced instability throughout her childhood. Her mother worked as a model and part-time actress. At times, they experienced poverty, but also great fortune.

I remember going to school with rubber bands around my shoes to keep my soles on… But it wasn’t always like that. We ate a can of stew or a can of beans one week, but then sometimes we lived in Beverly Hills (The Sun).

Cher’s mother married eight times. When she married her third husband, actor John Southall, they had a daughter named Georganne, who was Cher’s half-sister. Georgia divorced Southhall in the 1950s due to his alcohol abuse.

At one point, Cher and Georganne lived with their grandparents, Roy and Lynda, while their mother looked for work.

I always feel like a bumper car, because if I hit a wall then I just back up and go in another direction. I think that my mother kind of gave me the beginning of that (The Lady).

Cher left home at age sixteen to move to Los Angeles. Soon after, in 1962, Cher met singer Salvatore “Sonny” Bono, who was working for the legendary record producer, Phil Spector. When Cher’s friend moved out, she accepted Sonny’s offer to work as his housekeeper.

Sonny and Cher became close friends and then lovers. They got married in 1964.

Sonny and Cher first began performing together under the stage name, Caesar and Cleo. Their biggest hit, “I Got You Babe” was released in 1965 and sold over three million copies. They also hosted a highly popular TV series, The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour, which aired between 1971 and 1974.

Sonny and Cher’s marital problems began around 1972, but the couple withheld this information from the public for years. When they divorced in 1974, Cher accused Sonny of withholding money from her. Their divorce was finalised in 1975.

We worked side by side for 11 years and I ended up with nothing. I worked really hard for that money, and it never occurred to me that he would take it (The Guardian).

Shortly after her divorce, Cher married Gregg Allman, co-founder of the rock band, The Allman Brothers. Cher filed for divorce days later due to his heroin and alcohol problems and the couple separated for good in 1979.

Cher has two children. Bono is the father of her first child, Chaz, who was born in 1969. Chaz is an activist and actor who came out as a transgender man in 2009. Cher shares her second child, Elijah Blue, with Gregg Allman. Elijah Blue was born in 1976. He is a musician and was lead singer for the rock band, Deadsy.

Cher began her acting career when Sonny left show business. She performed on Broadway and in the film version of Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean (1982). She received her first Academy Award nomination in 1983 for her supporting role in Silkwood. Next, Cher starred in Mask (1985) and Suspect (1987). Then in 1988 she won an Academy Award for her role in Moonstruck. Some of her later films include Tea with Mussolini (1999), Burlesque (2010), and Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (2018).

Cher’s most successful albums as a solo artist in the 1980s include Cher (1987) and Heart of Stone (1989). Cher returned to the top of the charts in 1998 with the album Believe. Her dance single of the same name won a Grammy Award in 2000. Cher’s next album, Living Proof was released in 2002. Some of her later albums include Icon (2011), Closer to the Truth (2013), and Dancing Queen (2018).

Cher has toured internationally for over six decades. Her enduring popularity afforded her a residency as a performer in Las Vegas between 1979-1982 and 2008-2011. She had a second residency in Las Vegas and Washington D.C. in 2017. Cher describes some of the advantages of regularly performing in the same theatre:

So much technology changed after I stopped touring. I realized there had been huge advances in lighting, sound, and special effects. By staying in one theater, I could present the biggest and best show that I have ever done in my life (Cher Fan Club).

Cher is one of the world’s most successful music artists. She has sold over 100 million records. Cher was awarded an Icon Award at the Billboard Music Awards in 2017, and was named as a Kennedy Center honoree in 2017.

A Broadway musical, The Cher Show, which tells Cher’s life story, opened in 2018. Her first memoir, The First Time, co-authored by Jeff Coplon, was published by Simon & Schuster in 1998. A TV documentary, Dear Mum, Love Cher, aired in 2013. In 2018, Cher announced that she would be publishing another memoir.

Cher is heralded as a feminist icon who has inspired many generations. She is the only artist to achieve a number-one single on the Billboard charts for six consecutive decades between the 1960s and the 2010s. Cher values her independence, and once said in an interview, “A man is not a necessity, a man is a luxury.”

…I think men are the coolest, but you don’t really need them to live. My mom said to me, ‘You know, sweetheart, you should settle down and marry a rich man.’ I said, ‘Mom, I am a rich man’ (Cher Fan Club).

Cher uses her public platform to advocate for various causes. She is a long-time advocate for LGBT rights and HIV/AIDS prevention. She also campaigns for animal rights, and co-founded a non-profit organisation, Free the Wild, which campaigns against the mistreatment of animals in captivity.

Cher is acutely aware of the power of celebrity activism. She is a vocal opponent of conservative politicians on social media and encourages her followers to vote in local elections. Most recently, Cher has been working to provide resources to disadvantaged communities during the COVID crisis. She co-manages her charity, Cher Cares, with Dr Irwin Renlener, the founding director of Columbia University’s National Center for Disaster Preparedness.

Sometimes, if I mention my celebrity in the most honest and loving way, people don’t take it in the spirit of which it was meant, so I have to be careful how I throw that weight around (The Guardian).


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“Cher Biography.” Cher Fan Club website.

“Cher facts: Singer’s age, husbands, children, real name and more revealed.” Smooth Radio, 7 Nov 2022.

“Cher, her family saga, and a mother’s love.” The Lady.’s-love

Canfield, David. “Cher announces she’s writing her ‘life story,’ book to publish in 2020.”Entertainment Weekly, 12 Dec 2018.

Deggans, Eric. ” Cher, An Elephant, And The Power Of Celebrity.” NPR, 19 May 2021.

Ferreira, Luana. “The Truth About Cher’s Tragic Childhood.” Grunge, 25 Jun 2021.

Hall, Dan. “STRONG ENOUGH Cher biopic: How she overcame orphanage childhood, Sonny’s cheating and suicidal thoughts to become pop Goddess.” The Sun (UK), 21 May 2021.

Hattenstone, Simone. “Cher at 74: ‘There are 20-year old girls who can’t do what I do.'” The Guardian, 14 Dec 2022.

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