The untold truth of Whoopi Goldberg

Whoopi Goldberg has won an Oscar, a Tony, a Grammy, and an Emmy award—and she's done it on her own, very outspoken, terms. From her tough history as a teen mom, to her penchant for advocating unpopular opinions, there's much more to this woman than the beloved singing nun she played in Sister Act (1992). As Goldberg continues to make her voice heard on controversial social issues, let's take a look at her life's lesser-known plot twists.

Monsters under the bed

Goldberg used to be a stoner. She's made no bones about her past love for marijuana, and she admitted to being high while delivering her Oscar acceptance speech in 1991. According to TMZ, Goldberg revealed that she smoked a "wonderful" joint just before going out on stage to receive the best support actress award for Ghost.

During a 2011 segment on The View, she sympathized with the drug-addled actor Charlie Sheen, saying, "I was a functioning drug addict, I showed up for work because I knew a lot of people would be out of work and I wouldn't get a check that I needed to buy my drugs." While she could be referring to a serious pot-smoking habit, Whoopi's follow-up remarks imply her addiction involved something a bit stronger. "I ended up sitting on a bed for three or four days scared there was something under the bed," she continued. "I wet the bed, I pooped the bed…I was so scared. I hit bottom. I did that a long time ago."

In 2016, Goldberg told The New York Times that her current marijuana use is strictly medicinal. "If I want to get high, I can go do that at any time. It's about treating my glaucoma."

High-profile romances

Goldberg has been romantically linked to several actors and film professionals in Hollywood—everyone from Robert & Frank (2012) star Frank Langella to James Bond actor Timothy Dalton to Raging Bull cameraman Eddie Gold. Outside of her three past marriages, her most public and publicized courtship was with actor Ted Danson between 1992 and 1994. The two stars were arguably dating at the height of their careers. In 1993, Goldberg broke out as Sister Mary Clarence in the hit film Sister Act, and one year later, the final episode of Danson's long-running TV series Cheers aired in May 1993.

According to the Chicago Tribune, Danson and Goldberg met on the set of the Arsenio Hall show. The host reportedly made a comment to Danson that male comedians can be good-looking and funny, but that the same did not apply to women. "It was right before I came on," recalled Goldberg. "I can tell you my face broke." Danson spoke up. "I decided to nail this guy," he said, telling the host, "You're wrong; here comes a very sexy and very funny lady."

It's not your average how-we-met story, but Danson's defense touched the comedienne. "I can tell you I floated out to that couch," she said. "This was actually the first time that anyone had intimated publicly that I was very feminine, very pretty and womanlike." After that, the duo dated seriously for two years, though smack in the middle of the relationship, Danson did something he'd have a hard time living down.

Danson does blackface; Goldberg defends him

In October 1993, Danson was the toastmaster at the Friar's Club roast of girlfriend Goldberg. At this point in his career, Danson didn't have a reputation in Hollywood as being a particularly edgy comedian, but he used the roast format to try out some shock humor, which was received very poorly. According to The New York Times, "what was apparently intended to be a funny, raunchy, outrageous tribute has generated an emotional and sometimes painful public discussion about racial stereotypes, sexuality, political correctness, interracial relationships and the appropriateness of humor that crosses racial and ethnic boundaries." As film critic Roger Ebert, who was at the benefit, observed, Danson appeared in blackface, used the "N" word "more than a dozen times" and even ate a watermelon on stage.

While guests, including Montel Williams and Mayor David N. Dinkins (both African American). found Danson's jokes to be over the line and downright offensive, Goldberg stood by her man. She told The New York Times, "If they knew me, they would know that Whoopi has never been about political correctness. I built my whole career destigmatizing words like 'ni****.'" This defense of Danson is an early example of Goldberg's belief in forgiveness and her outspoken advocacy for second changes.

She justified Vick's dogfighting ring

Goldberg made headlines in 2007 after she defended the actions of NFL quarterback Michael Vick, who earlier that year was brought up on charges of animal abuse linked to an underground dogfighting ring he and his associates had been running. Bad Newz Kennels—the dog-fighting outfit formed by Vick—was investigated for reportedly hanging and drowning dogs who under-performed in the ring. According to Reuters, Goldberg rationalized Vick's actions on The View, saying, "He's from the South, from the Deep South…This is part of his cultural upbringing."

Wayne Pacelle, president of the Humane Society of the United States, denounced Goldberg's defense of the football star, telling Reuters, "To suggest that there is some ethnic group or racial group or regional group that finds this acceptable is just not accurate." Among others, The View co-host Joy Behar took umbrage with Goldberg on the show, and the subsequent public fallout become one of a slew of critiques about Goldberg's permissive attitude on controversial topics.

Walking back her defense of Bill Cosby

In December 2014, comedian Bill Cosby took to Twitter to thank Goldberg for her support in the wake of his sexual assault allegations. When the news about Cosby broke, Goldberg addressed the issue on The View, saying she "has a lot of questions" for Barbara Bowman, one of Cosby's first accusers. "Don't you do a kit when you say someone has raped you?" Goldberg asked. "Isn't that the next step once you make an allegation?"

But in a special segment of The View in July 2015, Goldberg walked back her position on the Cosby case, saying, "It looks bad, Bill. Either speak up or shut up, because people know now there is a lot more out there than they thought." Though her shifting opinion may have helped the talk show's ratings and perhaps even saved Goldberg's spot as a co-host on the show, the comments raised eyebrows in Hollywood about the reliability of her word. Producer Judd Apatow tweeted in July 2015, "I think @WhoopiGoldberg is trying to be a loyal friend. It is sad that Bill Cosby is so sick that he puts his friends in that position." 

In April 2018, an 80-year-old Cosby was found guilty of three counts of sexual assault against Andrea Constand during a retrial, and later sentenced to three to ten years in prison. The former Temple University women's basketball director claimed Cosby drugged and sexually assaulted her in his home in 2004. To date, Goldberg has not publicly joined the growing list of celebs who've weighed in on the verdict.

Drama on The View

Whether for ratings or in real life, Goldberg's greatest adversary on The View was Rosie O'Donnell. The two have been feuding on air for years, but when Goldberg jumped to Cosby's defense, things became heated off-camera too. According to the New York Daily News, Rosie Perez (another former co-host on the show) was brought to tears over a backstage brawl between Goldberg and O'Donnell about how the show should discuss the Cosby allegations as well as how to address mounting racial tension following the 2014 shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. O'Donnell reportedly felt the show had a responsibility to report on both incidents, while Goldberg allegedly wanted to steer clear of the topics altogether. "Rosie (O'Donnell) was yelling at everyone. First, she had a fight with Whoopi and then she had a fight with the producers," an insider told the Daily News.

That backstage fight was not the first altercation between the co-hosts. In December 2014, when Laverne Cox of Orange is the New Black (2013-) was a guest on the show, Goldberg and O'Donnell got into it about race, with Goldberg asserting that "ignorance," and not racism, is what brings about racial profiling.

Becoming a great-grandmother

Goldberg met her first husband at age 17. She was reportedly living a bohemian lifestyle on the streets when she met Alvin Martin, a counselor at a drug rehabilitation center she attended. She got pregnant with daughter Alexandria Martin. "Marrying seemed like a good idea at the time," she told the Daily Mail in a 2009 interview. The union was short-lived, and when it fell apart, the young mom moved to California to scratch out a living as an aspiring actress. After what she called eight years of "living on the edge, existing on welfare," Goldberg began landing serious roles, including an Oscar-nominated lead as Celie Johnson in The Color Purple (1985) and her Oscar-winning turn in Ghost (1991).

At age 14, Goldberg's daughter called to tell her mom that she was pregnant and keeping the baby. Goldberg spoke out about discovering she was going to be a grandmother at age 34: "I had to take my beliefs out for a little test drive, you know, because pro-choice means pro-choice. It means women (and 14-year-old girls) have the choice to do whatever they want and here it was my daughter's choice to keep this child." Alex had the baby, whose name is Amarah Skye, and then, at age 58, Goldberg became a great-grandmother when Amarah gave birth to a baby girl named Charlie Rose.

Goldberg and Trump take NYFW

Ever the advocate for the underdog, Goldberg defended President Donald Trumps daughter, Tiffany Trump, after the young lady was reportedly bullied by members of the fashion industry's inner circle during New York Fashion Week in February 2017. When The Wall Street Journal columnist Christina Binkley tweeted a photo of the first daughter with the caption, "Nobody wants to sit next to Tiffany Trump at Philipp Plein, so they moved and the seats are empty," Goldberg promptly responded via The View. "You know what, Tiffany, I'm supposed to go to a couple more shows. I don't know what's going to happen, but I'm coming to sit with you because nobody's talking politics. You're looking at fashion," Goldberg said. "She doesn't want to talk about her dad. She's looking at the fashion."

Tiffany accepted Goldberg's invitation via Twitter, saying, "Thank you @WhoopiGoldberg I'd love to sit with you too!" Eventually, the seats next to Tiffany at the Plein show were filled, but Goldberg's olive branch is yet another example of this woman reaching out to those she feels have been slighted.

Patrick Swayze campaigned for Goldberg

Goldberg won an Academy Award in 1991 for her portrayal of Oda Mae Brown in Ghost, starring alongside Demi Moore and the late Patrick Swayze. As it turns out, Swayze was reportedly so taken by Goldberg's past performances that he refused to sign onto the movie until Goldberg was confirmed as a cast member.

As Goldberg explained on the UK Loose Women talk show in February 2017, "[Swayze] got hired to do Ghost and asked them, 'Why hasn't Whoopi Goldberg [got a part?] Have you talked to her?' And they were like, 'No, no. We didn't go to her.' Swayze reportedly said, "No, no I'm not committing to this until I talk to her and see if she wants to do this movie." Goldberg received a call from her agent, seemingly out of the blue, asking if she was interested in meeting with someone about the film. That mysterious someone was Swayze, who reportedly asked Goldberg, "Why don't you want to do this movie?" She replied, "What makes you think I don't want to do the movie. I'd love to do the movie. They said they didn't want me." According to Goldberg, "[Swayze] said if you're not going to hire her, I will not be in this film.'" The rest is golden-statue-history.

She's an EGOT

At the time of this writing, there are only 12 people who can claim the prestigious honor of being an EGOT—someone who's won an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar, and a Tony award. That dazzling dozen includes composers Richard Rodgers or Robert Lopez and thespians Audrey Hepburn and Mel Brooks. Goldberg joined the ranks in 2002 when she received an Emmy for hosting Beyond Tara: The Extraordinary Life of Hattie McDaniel and also a Tony for co-producing Thoroughly Modern Millie, which won best musical that year.

Despite achieving this legendary status, Goldberg has found herself reminding even prestigious publications, such as The New York Times—which did not include her in an article about racial progress at the Oscars—that she has accomplished a thing or two in her music, movie, television, and theater career. She spoke out about the oversight on The View: "When you win an Academy Award, that's part of what you've done, your legacy…I will always be Academy Award-winner Whoopi Goldberg. This is not hidden information…It's hard to not take it personally." Fear not, Whoopi, we remember.

She did hair and make-up in a funeral home

After moving to California, Whoopi Goldberg went through several dead-end jobs while she pursued acting. The future EGOT winner even worked in a funeral home, doing hair and make-up on dead people for their big "send off," as she described it during her OWN Master Class. To find out if she had what it took for the "rough gig," her boss put her through a frightening initiation.

"The guy who I worked for was very funny," Goldberg recalled. "He said, 'I want you to come downstairs and talk to me.'" The aspiring actress made her way downstairs and entered the room where the bodies were stored. Her boss, however, was nowhere to seen. "In the old days they used to have these big thick wooden doors. You'd go in, and it's kinda chilly in the room, and they have these drawers."

After a moment, Goldberg noticed a creaking sound. To her horror, she turned and saw one of the drawers meant for storing dead bodies opening from the inside. The funeral home director popped out and said, "Hello there," scaring his new helper half to death. "I run — boom — into the door," Goldberg explained. "Knocked myself out. And when I came back, I had a bit of a lump, and it was my boss. He said, 'Now, the worst thing that you can imagine has happened. … You still wanna work?' … It was the greatest."

She almost died after a bout of pneumonia

Whoopi Goldberg may not have seen eye-to-eye with everyone she's ever worked with on The View, but Joy Behar was in her corner when the Sister Act star fell seriously ill in 2019. Goldberg was on the show on February 6, but that would be the last time viewers saw her for weeks. When she didn't turn up to co-host Love Rocks NYC, some fans voiced concerns for her well-being, while others theorized she was secretly preparing to host the Oscars, prompting Behar to reveal what was really going on.

"She's actually recovering from pneumonia," Goldberg's friend and colleague said on The View (via E! News). "She's not really even well enough to host this show right now much less the Oscars. I saw her last night and she's very funny still and we had big laughs. She's getting there. She's on the mend." Goldberg missed over a month of shows before she finally sent in a video message, revealing that this sudden bout of illness had very nearly claimed her life.

It turned out that Goldberg had been hit with pneumonia in both lungs, and that led to sepsis. Sepsis occurs when the body tries to fight infection and accidentally attacks its own organs, shutting them down altogether in some cases. "I came very, very close to leaving the Earth," Goldberg said (via Page Six). "Good news, I didn't." 

Fashion critics have been 'mean and horrible' to her

Why did Goldberg stick up for Tiffany Trump when certain members of the fashion industry shunned her at NYFW? Probably because she knows what it's like to get the cold shoulder from fashion elitists. In an article she penned for In Style, the actress explained how the backlash to her infamous Oscars outfit (regularly ranked among the worst ever) really hurt her feelings.

"I've never worn anything crazy, by my own estimate, but I will tell you the craziest thing people think I've worn," Goldberg wrote. "I love I Love Lucy, and you know how she's always around the house and has on these pants with a jacket that goes to the floor, and sometimes you can see through it? I wore one in lime green to the Oscars in 1993." In her eyes, she was paying tribute to Hollywood legend Lucille Ball, but that was lost on the critics.

"People said really bad things about it," she continued. "They were so mean and horrible. … And once I realized they had the power to hurt my feelings, I said, 'This will never happen again.'" The hate made Goldberg want to dial down the wow factor when it came to her wardrobe, but as she got older, she discovered that other people's opinions really didn't matter. "I don't let people make me feel bad about what I'm dressed in anymore."

She started her own fashion line

After years of struggling to find items of clothing that fit her body type, Goldberg decided to take matters into her own hands. She began experimenting with fashion in 2016 when her line of kooky Christmas sweaters went on sale at Lord & Taylor and Hudson's Bay at $139 a pop (per The New York Times). In 2019, the multi-hyphenate announced that she was launching her own clothing brand, which she dreamed up after a frustrating vacation in Europe.

Speaking to Garage, Goldberg explained how she found it almost impossible to find clothes that fit her frame during her month-long trip to Greece. "It made me feed bad, like my body doesn't fit," she said. The answer was to create her own clothing: DUBGEE garments "give the body space," designed to maintain the element of "mystery." Goldberg even started repping the brand prior to its Spring 2019 debut, wearing a DUBGEE top on a February 2019 episode of The View (per ABC).

When the Ghost star spoke to The New York Times to promote her Christmas sweater collection in 2016, she revealed that she was open to collaborations in the future. But who does she want to team up with? "Anyone who wants to have some fun and do something different," she said. "I love watching Jeremy Scott because he collaborates with lots of different people. Rihanna is collaborating with this one and that one."