Inspirational Stories V : Whoopi Goldberg, Survivor Personified

By Ellesse

I know a lot of you may have seen Whoopi Goldberg‘s movies, but do you know what she went through before becoming a famous actress, show host, author etc etc?

Let this story reveal the journey of a survivor. A real survivor that stands true to the test of life.

No Limitations Please

As a young girl, Whoopi Goldberg knew no limitations. All thanks to her mother.

Born as Caryn Elaine Johnson on November 13, 1949, Whoopi Goldberg lived in a Manhattan housing project with her mother and younger brother Clyde. Her father left when she was very young and her mother became a nurse in order to support the family. Even though the family was poor, her mother would constantly remind them of the fact that they’re not limited by their financial conditions or colour and would try to give the best to the children.

She would bring the kids to watch New York cultural performances by famous artistes such as James Earl Jones, Leonard Bernstein and send them to acting lessons at the Hudson Guild, a community program for inner city kids. It was that early introduction to the arts and drama that initiated Whoopi’s passion for the stage.

Whoopi also loved old movies. Back then, she would rush home after school everyday and forgo sleep to watch movies by famous old Hollywood movie stars. To her, movies was an avenue to stay in touch with the outside world, reassuring her of the fact that she could venture out and be whatever she wanted to be. It also kept her in a black and white illusion that a world without any race truly existed. She continued to live in that illusion until very much later when she realized that all the black actors were casted in less important roles.

Overcoming Life’s Struggles

In school, Whoopi felt like an outcast. She was constantly being made fun of by her classmates because of her strong features, and her shyness and love for musicals over Motown made it difficult to assimilate into the community. Coupled by the fact that she was suspected of being mentally retarded due to her undiagnosed dyslexic condition, she finally decided to quit school after a few weeks into her first year of high school.

Whoopi led a bohemian lifestyle after which, abandoning home and sleeping on the streets. She abused drugs and engaged in promiscuous activities, getting pregnant and an self inflicted abortion (using a coat hanger) for the first time at the age of 13. 4 more abortions ensued until one day, after seeing so many of her friends and famous personalities dying from consuming too much drugs, she finally decided enough was enough and enrolled herself on a rehabilitation program in a Manhattan clinic.

After she was declared drug free, Whoopi married one of her drug counselors Alvin Martin, at the age of 18 and got pregnant again very soon after. Her marriage was constantly on turmoil as they would get into fights and arguments over her acting ambitions, dressing and their financial troubles. It was only when a friend offered Whoopi and her baby a ride to California that ended the 2 year old marriage.

In San Diego, to support her and her child, Whoopi brought her daughter along to jobs such as a bricklayer as well as a mortuary makeup artist while on a scholarship to a beauty school. But the jobs were temporary and paid little, and for the next few years, she was on and off welfare.

Her True Love

During this time, Whoopi never gave up auditioning. Her persistence finally paid off when she discovered a group of like minded actors at the San Diego Repertory Theatre, where she was given an opportunity to hone her dramatic skills and learn how to be a comedian.

She partnered with another guy doing late night stand up comedy acts at clubs, improvising the act inspired by Mike Nichols and Elaine May, a popular comedian pair during the 60s. Her first successful solo performance came in when she was forced to go up stage alone after her partner backed out at the last minute during an invitation to San Francisco.

A theatre company in Berkeley loved Whoopi’s performance so much so that they urged her to modify it into a one-woman show, helping her to re brand it into the Whoopi Goldberg Show or the Spook Show. In her performances, Whoopi revealed to the audience, the young girl who wished she was white and blond so that she could be a movie star, the 13 year old delinquent who used a coat hanger to conduct an abortion on herself, a school dropout interested in the arts and drama, but lived a bohemian lifestyle and a dyslexic woman who got married partly out of fear that she would be left on the shelf.

As Whoopi traveled around on performances, media publicity on her widely acclaimed shows increased. In 1984, a performance in New York led to a resounding review in the New York Times and brought in an attractive offer from the Mike Nichols director of the Graduate. He wanted to work with Whoopi to showcase her show anywhere she desired and indeed, soon after, Whoopi found herself on Broadway.

That also catapulted her to fame on the big screen. Whoopi’s leading role in “The Colour Purple” (a Steven Spielberg’s production) and supporting role in “Ghost” won her an Oscar nomination and Academy Award respectively and her academy award win also made her the 2nd African American actress ever to do so. Since 1985, she has also appeared in 80 film and television productions and has been a show host, author (of children’s books), a sitcom actress, stand up comedian etc.

As Whoopi reflected her past, she was glad that she made the choice to be different. Even though she experienced more difficulties than if she were to take the common route, it turned out to be a much more enriching journey than what she would have gone through, adding a unique flavour to her performances, letting her stand out amongst the crowd.

What Did I Learn From This Story?

That one can be down and out at the moment but he can still turn it around to achieve the dreams of his lifetime, as long as he consciously decide to do so and pursue it with tenacity and perseverance.

(1) Down & Out Now? You Can Change Your Destiny

Whoopi Goldberg’s story is a reminder to anyone that they’ve the power to change their destiny. If you’re facing hardships, struggles or challenges now, do not feel despondent. Continue to believe in yourself, your dreams and you’ll be able to achieve wonders in your life. That you too can create your own inspirational stories!

Now, if you think what I’ve said above is very cliche, to tell you the truth, I agree. But why do people keep saying this over and over again, knowing that it has been overly mentioned? Because it truly works! Whoopi’s teachers think she’s mentally retarded but she turned out to be one of the most gifted comedians in the Hollywood. She led a wanton life initially but she proved it beyond doubt that if one’s willing to change, he can still be the brightest star he ever set himself to be. If Whoopi can do it, so can you!

At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what your current results are. What counts is where you see yourself to be in the future and your relentless efforts in working towards it.

(2) Don’t Follow The Crowd For the Sake of It

I must admit I was guilty of this when I first started out in my professional career. At that time, all I wanted to do is to put what I’ve learned in college into practice and be an auditor or accountant like anyone else in my faculty. So, I joined a local audit firm. It didn’t take long before I started to discover an interest in IT business consultancy and as I’m more inclined in pursuing my own financial freedom, thoughts of striking out on my own, surfaced.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not trying to advocate against being an accountant. It’s a great profession for anyone who consciously believes he can add value in this domain. Nor am I trying to imply one should emulate Whoopi Goldberg’s bohemian lifestyle.

What I’m trying to raise is, you should follow your true calling and don’t stick to doing something because everyone’s doing so, but rather because you decide to do it. Like Whoopi Goldberg! It’s easy to fall into the trap of conforming for the sake of societal acceptance. However, if you’re not pursuing what your heart truly desires, even if you’re earning a lot of money or getting a lot of fame in that field, you’ll not be truly happy. Because at the end of the pursuit, you’ll find that it’s not your goal that you’ve accomplished. It’s someone else’s.


25 Responses to “Inspirational Stories V : Whoopi Goldberg, Survivor Personified”

  1. William Stevans at 5:45 am

    What this brief story of Whoopi has informed me is that her strong mother did not pass down her strength. Too many people give fanfare for the victims. I say shame….. The victim is always the WEAK one. Only strong women with souls are deserving of such praise. Not faithless whores that cannot cope with life. You want to sell your soul at the alter of drugs and have abortion after abortion then THAT IS ALL YOUR ARE- soul- LESS. If anyone has ever met a woman who had an abortion, the pain is on their face. The regret and pain is written on the features. Six abortions is called an addiction to death. Whoopi Goldberg is just one more pathetic old fool that dim people idolize. The “elites” like caryn and her ilk are just plain f***ed!

  2. Ellesse at 3:43 am

    @William Thanks for your comment. I understand where your concern is but I guess no one’s ever perfect isn’t it? Being able to emerge from the shadow of your past and emerge a victor is the reason why I’ve featured her story here. I regret if there’s anything I’ve written here that has invoked your disagreement. But that’s also a depiction of life, isn’t it? Everyone of us is different and naturally, we’re all entitled to our opinions.

  3. anne motley at 2:18 am

    whoopi is an unrepentant mass murderer of her own children. she also supports partial birth abortions to this day. i would never look up to this woman.

  4. Ellesse at 1:21 am

    @Anne I’m really sorry if the content in this article offended you. It was never my intention to be hurt anyone in the process! Nonetheless, thanks for voicing out your stand. It’s really refreshing to hear from different perspectives.

  5. Delilah at 4:38 pm

    I completely agree with Anne. How is Whoopi Goldberg an inspiration when she has had 6- 7 abortions in her life time? I also will NEVER look up this woman.

  6. Rosie Foster at 5:09 pm

    “Let he who is without sin….” It seems that anyone who doesn’t like Whoopi will respond to the hardships in her life. No one is perfect, no one. Maybe you have had a wonderful life and cannot relate to hard times, or maybe you have no skeletons… No, what she did in her past, was not good at all but maybe she had to hit bottom to see her top. How many people do we look up to have a clean past? I still like her, she’s cool. I hope that none of you live in glass houses.

  7. Ellesse at 2:43 am

    @Everyone thanks for all your comments!

  8. Wilma at 3:43 pm

    In a way I agree with you all. I’m a Christian and am very opposed to abortion as I consider it murder of a human being. But as a Christian, I also believe in redemption. Christ never condemned those who sinned out of weakness, although He told them to change. But, he had far harsher words for those who were the “church elite”. So, I see that a person can change – there’s always hope for redemption. I disagree strongly with Whoopi’s stand on abortion now. Your story showed that people can change and just because we are in a bad place it doesn’t mean we have to stay there. It also shows we have choices and don’t be afraid to step out of our comfort zones. Just because I don’t agree with Whoopi’s choices doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate the point of your story.

  9. Allan Pinto at 1:23 pm

    To err is human. Anyway, even God waits till we die to judge us. Who are we to judge now?

  10. Margaret at 11:00 pm

    What Whoopi Goldberg did was not good, for her or her unborn children. What I can’t undersadnd is her lack of awareness.She has said her own daughter got pregnant and she would have supported her in having an abortion. Fortunately, she had the child. Now how do you think her grandchild feels hearing her Grandmother say publicly she would have supported her annilihation. We all make mistakes, but at least try and learn from them or at the very minimum, keep your mouth shut when it adversly affect other people.. Jesus said Go your way and sin no more but I guess He kindly overlooked our perverse stupidity at times.

  11. True at 12:05 am

    True, but she did not impress her position or force her child into her way of thinking, whether it was having an abortion or carrying the child to term. She allowed her to MAKE HER OWN DECISION AT SUCH A YOUNG AGE and most parents, let alone famous, do not do this. It speaks volumes on the type of person she is and I’m pleased she is so non-judgmental either way.

  12. Trimelda at 7:08 am

    I find it interesting that so many people look at the fact that Whoopi Goldberg kept having abortion after abortion and when people call her on it they are called judgmental. Ok. Maybe so. Maybe we’re mean and “judgmental” when we scold Whoopi did in the past.

    But she has every responsibility to DO something different now. In her position on the View, she says nothing to help women and girls today to not murder their children now. 13 million Black children have died because of abortion. If that isn’t genocide, what is? Yet there she is on there day after day supporting the murder of human beings, especially BLACK and POOR human beings.

    I know people who are poor and White who have adopted Black children and taken in pregnant Black women. Where is her campaign to take some of her millions to adopt or support the adoption of poor kids? What’s her excuse not to adopt babies in need as a wealthy Black woman?

    JESUS said, “Judge ye with righteous judgment. A good tree does not yield bad fruit. A bad tree does not yield good fruit. ” So whatever fruit Whoopi gave as fruit in the past is past. But what kind of fruit is she giving now for babies? Apparently nothing.
    How sad…

  13. Geez at 12:51 am

    Trimelda, do you even care to think about all the GOOD she’s done? No… one thing you do not agree with wipes away all good? What have the politicians you have voted ever done for people or abortion? NOTHING! Hypocritical idiots is what they are and you make sure they are sworn in every time just because of ONE issue when there are thousands to judge from. FOOL!

  14. Geez at 12:53 am

    BTW, who said you are judgmental? The previous poster was remarking about WHOOPI being “non-judgmental either way”, not you.. shows you have a comprehension problem too and still mouth off when you don’t know what you are talking about- perfect representation of the REPUBLICAN CLASS!

  15. Geez at 12:57 am

    You live on the streets and have a baby that way? Tell me how you like it. Her first abortion was living on the streets! Like anything else, you do it once and it’s always easier the subsequent times no matter what it is. She learned to solve reproductive issues that way. You going to fault someone who learned that at 13 and was on the streets? Damn idiots walk in someone else’s shoes for a change and you will realize the world isn’t always so easy and full of roses every turn you take.

  16. Omeid Danayar at 2:05 am

    I’ve been forced to do a school project about Whoopi Goldberg and I wanted to know how she copes with Dyslexia for ex: how can she read her scripts as an actress and how she dealt with her learning disability, would you mind elaborating on this topic?

  17. Ellesse at 6:19 am

    @Omeid Ah, you’ve got me there. The research I did previously didn’t elaborate on this but I do recall reading about her learning from someone who helped her identify the garbled characters she sees as alphabets. That probably got her started. Perhaps the others can help… Anyone?

  18. Walkinhershoes at 5:22 pm

    You people that seem to think she is a murderer or not worthy of your praise need to step back and realise you were not and will not ever be in her shoes so stop acting so self-f’ing-righteous live your own lives with the little sin you people claim to have made… please. You will never know what it is like to walk in someone else’s shoes so f off.

  19. Mary at 11:28 pm

    I would think that Whoopi would have learned something from her mistakes and would have tried to “right the wrongs”…..Having said that, I think she would have been a wonderful model to black women who are contemplating abortion….she should be saying…”don’t do what I did because you will forever live with the guilt of murder”…..if she loved her race, she would have given birth to those babies whom would have been loved, if not by her, then by adoptive parents. There are so many couples who would embrace those children.
    After reading Whoopi’s short bio, I have lost respect for her. I pray that the Lord brings her to a place in her life where she will stand up with pro-lifers. May the Lord work on her heart. Amen.

  20. Rene at 8:31 pm

    Reading what everyone has written, it makes sit back and THANK MY GOD that HE (GOD) for gives us for all our sins when we ask, not until we ask.
    I am a woman who is 35 and have NO children. I want children; I have had 2 miscarriages and almost working on a third. When I was 6 I was rapped and because of not being old enough I didn’t get pregnant. When I was 13 I was rapped again and instead of getting pregnant he gave me a lot more, almost messed up my life, but because of the grace of GOD I am still hear and healthy. I would have had an abortion at 13. When I was 23, living on my own working everyday barely taking care of myself, got pregnant and didn’t want the child and you might think that this is selfish, but I didn’t want anyone else to raise my child, BUT ME and I couldn’t. I didn’t have an abortion I just prayed that GOD would take the baby away and he did. I personally don’t believe in abortion, but I am able to understand why anyone would do it.
    Now here is what I don’t understand. A baby is not considered a baby until you are at least in your second trimester, 6-12 weeks it is considered as a fetus so how is that killing a living human being!? Once you get to 3 months it’s against the law to have an abortion. How are you a murder when that child can’t breathe on its own and lungs haven’t been develop, it can’t say or speak, but you as the parent who has to make the right decision can. You would rather a women go through the whole nine months in whatever complications she may have, buying bigger clothes; possibly not work or if she can work hurt and be slow. She CANNOT take care of herself, feed herself, plus feed the baby that is inside her, but she is wrong for having an abortion PLEASE! Should she keep having unprotected sex NO, but who says that she did have unprotected sex. Did any of you who said “Whoopi Goldberg is just one more pathetic old fool, take in consideration that she did what she had to do to survive. NO!
    What if she would have lost her mind keeping all those kids, who may have been by the same man or different men? Did any of you stop to say, well what was her situation, were the men abusive to her or hell is she abusive? She knew she would not be a good mother at that time.
    The first thing we do is bash someone because we don’t agree with their choice of life. Well I’m African-American and Indian and can’t get assistance. I live in this world right now and it is kicking my A$$, but I have to keep going. She finally had a child with her husband who was abusive to her; they fought, but I guess you would bring your child in that mess. It is not about judging it is about giving a person a chance to be whoever they want to be. (Fetus don’t get that choice)
    In China they make the woman abort their child if it is a girl, at least she didn’t discriminate against the sex, she just couldn’t take care of them and didn’t want anyone else to, it was hers and the person who laid down with her responsibility, Don’t look up to her, don’t like her, don’t agree with her life and how she choices to live it, do you think that your comments would make a difference to an established women who had all those aborition, but had a child herself; been married 3 times and still keeps going.
    Whoopi believes in abortion, she believes in the fact that you have the right to make your own decision. I am so PIST right now at the comments that were made, when you have Politicians cheating on their wives and murdering people who are grown and getting away with it. They are taking health care away!!!!!!!!! There is no social security for me when I get to be Whoopi’s age and you want to get upset with her, because in her past she had 6 not 7, but 6 abortions- oh and she still agress with it, I forgot sorry (stupid!!!!)
    To the lady that made the comment about you(” know people who are poor and White who have adopted Black children and taken in pregnant Black women. Where is her campaign to take some of her millions to adopt or support the adoption of poor kids? What’s her excuse not to adopt babies in need as a wealthy Black woman?”) Back then white people didn’t adopt our babies, they threw them away like they did us, we were still considered monkey, not good enough. My mom is 3 years older than Whoopi and lived in New York during that time in the 60 and 70 and the stories back then you wouldn’t be so quick to pass judgment if you had to live in her shoes.

  21. Rene at 8:33 pm

    Thank you Ellesse for writing the story.

  22. Ellesse at 8:13 am

    @Rene You’re welcomed! Thanks for your comment! Good to hear from all different perspectives… :)

  23. Laura at 9:14 pm

    Stupid question. Would you folks rather a 14 year old unwed mother HAD these babies and DIDN’T become an award winning actress? Would you rather 5 more unwanted mouths to feed and to leech off the System? A 14 year old wouldn’t have the sense to raise a baby on her own– thing of how many stories we’ve all read about a teenager killing her infant out of fear or abandoning it?

    At Rene: Good on you, sweetie. I’m glad you fought past your adversities! Correction, though: a fetus becomes a fetus at 6-12 weeks and the heart develops around 6-8 weeks. Technically, the fetus is a human before you even find out you are pregnant (unless you happen to be like me and experience the entire 9 months by finding out BEFORE you miss your cycle…).

    Ellesse: Here, since no one answered it for you. This helped me (I’m dyslexic too).

    Omeid: I’m also dyslexic. It’s one hell of a battle to fight, but its winnable. If you know how to type, you’re on the right track: just paint the letters that you use a certain finger for a different color. It won’t cure it, but it helps.

  24. Mary at 12:59 am

    “Inspirational” is hardly a word I would use to describe Whoopi Goldberg. If anything, I would describe her story as heartbreaking, and cautionary tale. Her life is one disaster after another, full of emptiness that I don’t think anyone can imagine and she has done an efficient job of covering it all up with a thick layer of bitterness, stubbornness, and anything else she could use to build the wall around her pain.
    Its to the shame of those who did not act upon ALL the warnings and cries for help as she grew. With that said…In the end, we are all responsible for our own choices. It’s not about what you did in the past, but what you choose to do with your future. I have seen no attempt to change, or admittance of remorse but a boastful attitude that she displays proudly, like her empty trophies! She defends her choices with every arguement she makes, and encourages others to make similar ones! That is why I do not consider this woman to be an “Inspiration” but merely another sad story.

  25. annmarie at 11:03 am

    what didnt kill her only made her stronger u go girl u are my idole


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