In the mid-eighties a lanky, dark complexioned black woman with dreadlocks burst on the scene with a new and innovative method of making sense of the world. Her work was character-driven and delightfully centered at the intersection of hilarity and profound pathos. She looked like no one else doing stand-up and this grammy-winning performance catapulted her into the world of comic legends. Today she’s on our television screens each morning dishing out her signature brand of down to earth talk on current events and topics with a panel of perhaps the most opinionated women in daytime on The View. However, it’s her trailblazing career on the big screen that has secured her spot as cinema icon. With critically-acclaimed performances in movies like The Color Purple, Sarafina!, and Ghost and block-busters like the Sister Act franchise, Caryn Elaine Johnson is a certifiable movie legend. We know this iconoclast as Whoopi Goldberg.
The entertainment business has always placed an unrealistic focus on image and appearance. To have all-American appeal is sacred and of utmost importance. Though all-American has never considered people who look like Whoopi, she managed to become just that. Her charm and undeniable capacity for story telling led to an illustrious career that includes a laundry list of memorable characters. Her star power managed to secure her roles that transcended race and even gender and allowed audiences to find the unadulterated humanity in the people she played, all while exhibiting a style that was all her own. She won a number of awards along the way, destroying social barriers for African-American actors.
Her illustrious career doesn’t end there. She is making quite a mark on the Broadway world as well, having won a Tony award for producing Thoroughly Modern Millie in 2002. This win actually secured her spot as one of eleven people in the world who have won an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony.
But what truly makes Whoopi Goldberg so special? More than anything, it is that she is true to herself. She knows who she is and has never been afraid to be herself. In a world that glorifies the superficial, she managed to transcend convention and change the way the world looks at movies forever. With locked hair, dark lips, and no eyebrows, she has leveled the playing field for generations of unconventional actors who follow her. That, indeed, is the magic of Whoopi.