Goldberg was born in New York City. As a child, she struggled in school due
to dyslexia (though she would not be diagnosed as dyslexic until adulthood).
After succeeding as a stand-up comedian in the San Francisco Bay Area,
Goldberg created a one-woman show in 1983 called The Spook Show. This show
caught the attention of Mike Nichols who produced a one-woman show for
Goldberg on Broadway, called simply Whoopi Goldberg, which ran from October
24, 1984 to March 10, 1985, for a total of 156 performances. Goldberg's
performance caught the eye of Steven Spielberg, who was inspired to cast
Goldberg in her film debut, an adaptation of the award-winning novel The Color
Purple by Alice Walker. This performance garnered her an Oscar nomination
for best actress in 1986. She followed up this performance with a sell-out,
highly acclaimed one-woman show on Broadway. The majority of the films she
made in the 1980s featured her in tough-woman comedic roles (Burglar, Fatal
Beauty, Jumpin' Jack Flash), though she regularly balanced them out by
performing in family-oriented films (Clara's Heart).
Whoopi Goldberg came to the attention of much of the U.S. public when her one-woman Broadway show was broadcast as an HBO special in 1985. She played a number of characters in a series of monologues, which were humorous but also examined bigotry, s--ism and a variety of other isseus of the day.
In danger of fading from public acclaim, she revitalized her career in the role of a fake "spiritualist" who manages to actually make contact with the dead in the tear-jerker Ghost, for which she won an Oscar award for best supporting actress. She cemented her status as a legendary comedic actress in 1992 as a lounge singer who is hidden in a convent (and consequently revitalizes their choir) in Sister Act. She had a recurring role on Star Trek: The Next Generation as Guinan, which she also reprised in two of the Star Trek feature films. A life-long Star Trek fan, as a girl she saw Nichelle Nichols portraying Lieutenant Uhura, and exclaimed, "Momma! Everybody! Come quick — there's a black lady on television, and she ain't no maid!"
Goldberg has appeared in 149 films as of October 2002. She has received two Oscar nominations and won one. She has received five Daytime Emmy nominations, winning one. She has received five Emmy nominations. She has received three Golden Globe nominations, winning two. She has won three People's Choice Awards. In 1999 she received the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation Vanguard Award for her continued work in supporting the gay and lesbian community. She has been nominated for five American Comedy Awards with two wins. In 2001 she won the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor. She also hosted the Oscars in 1994, 1996, 1999 and 2002.
Goldberg was paired with Jean Stapleton in the CBS sitcom Bagdad Café (with a plot differing from the 1987 movie in several respects), which lasted two seasons (1990 - 1991). She hosted a syndicated talk show (The Whoopi Goldberg Show) in 1992 - 1993. She also starred in the sitcom, Whoopi, which began broadcasting in fall 2003 on NBC. Whoopi starred as Mavis Rae, the owner of a small New York Hotel (called the Le Mont Hotel). An ex-singer in a girl group, Mavis was as much of a diva running the hotel as she was in the group’s glory days. The sitcom was cancelled due to low ratings in May 2004.
Rather than the traditional autobiography, Goldberg wrote Book in October 1997, a collection of stories from her past and opinions. She is a strong supporter of abortion rights. In August 2004, Goldberg announced that she would be reviving her one-woman show on Broadway at the Lyceum Theatre.
Whoopi Goldberg also hosts the Arts and Entertainment section of Trivial Pursuit Unhinged, the PC game from Atari.
Whoopi Goldberg appeared in TV ads as a spokeswoman for Slim Fast diet shakes, but the company dropped her in July 2004 after she made crude comments about President George W. Bush's last name during a Democratic fund-raiser at New York's Radio City Music Hall.
Her most recent appearance on film is in the very explicit The Aristocrats, which features over 100 comics doing their interpretations of an old, rather filthy joke.
For the 2006 PBS program African American Lives, she had her DNA analyzed, and discovered that she is likely descended from the Pepel and Bayote people of Guinea-Bissau.
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