Goldberg made her film debut in The Color Purple (1985) playing Celie, a mistreated black woman in the south. She received a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Actress and won her first Golden Globe Award for her role in the film. In 1990, she starred as Oda Mae Brown, a psychic helping a slain man find his killer in the blockbuster film Ghost. This performance won her a second Golden Globe and an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. Notable later films include Sister Act (1992), The Lion King (1994), How Stella Got Her Groove Back (1998), The Rugrats Movie (1998), Girl, Interrupted (1999) and Rat Race (2001). She is also acclaimed for her role as the bartender in Star Trek: The Next Generation.
Goldberg has been nominated for 13 Emmy Awards for her work in television. She was the co-producer and center square of the latest edition game show Hollywood Squares from 1998-2002. She has achieved success on Broadway and in the music industry, and is one of only a handful of people who have won Academy, Emmy, Grammy, and Tony Awards. In addition, she has won a British Academy Film Award, four People's Choice Awards and has been honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Currently, Goldberg is moderator and co-host of The View.
Goldberg was born Caryn Elaine Johnson in New York City and raised in Manhattan's Chelsea neighborhood, the daughter of Emma (née Harris), a nurse and teacher, and Robert James Johnson, a clergyman. Goldberg's mother was a "stern, strong, and wise woman" who raised her as a single mother after Goldberg's father had left the family. Her stage name was taken from whoopee cushion, which she initially used as her stage name; she stated that "If you get a little gassy, you've got to let it go. So people used to say to me, 'You're like a whoopee cushion.' And that's where the name came from." She chose the surname "Goldberg" after Jewish ancestors of hers who bore the surname, having said that "Goldberg's a part of my family somewhere." In 1991, she referred to herself as a "Jewish-Catholic girl from New York." She has stated that her mother is Jewish and referred to herself as a "Jewish-American Princess". However, Goldberg has also said: "My family is Jewish, Buddhist, Baptist and Catholic. I don't believe in man-made religions." Results of a DNA test, revealed in the 2006 PBS documentary African American Lives, traced most of her ancestry to the Papel and Bayote people of modern-day Guinea-Bissau. Her racial admixture test revealed her genetic makeup to be 92 percent sub-Saharan African and 8 percent European.
In an anecdote told by Nichelle Nichols in the documentary film Trekkies, a young Goldberg was watching Star Trek, and upon seeing Nichols' character Uhura, exclaimed, "Momma! There's a black lady on TV and she ain't no maid!" This spawned life-long fandom of Star Trek for Goldberg, who would eventually achieve a recurring guest-starring role in 1987's Star Trek: The Next Generation.
Goldberg's on-screen talent first emerged in 1981-82 in Citizen: I'm Not Losing My Mind, I'm Giving It Away, an avant-garde ensemble feature by San Francisco filmmaker William Farley. Goldberg created The Spook Show, a one-woman show devised of different character monologues, in 1983. Director Mike Nichols was instantly impressed and offered to bring the show to Broadway. The self-titled show ran from October 24, 1984 to March 10, 1985 for a total of 156 sold-out performances. While on Broadway, Goldberg's performance caught the eye of director Steven Spielberg. He was about to direct the film The Color Purple, based on Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Alice Walker. Having read the novel, she was ecstatic at being offered a lead role in her first motion picture. Goldberg received compliments on her acting from Spielberg, Walker, and music consultant Quincy Jones. The Color Purple was released in late 1985, and was a critical and commercial success. It was later nominated for 11 Academy Awards including a nomination for Goldberg as Best Actress. The movie did not win any of its Academy Award nominations, but Goldberg won the Golden Globe Award.
Goldberg starred in Penny Marshall's directorial debut, 1986 Jumpin' Jack Flash, and began a relationship with David Claessen, a director of photography on the set, and the couple married later that year. The movie was a success, and during the next two years, three additional motion pictures featured Goldberg, Burglar, Fatal Beauty, and The Telephone. Though not as successful as her prior motion pictures, Goldberg still garnered awards from the N.A.A.C.P. Image Awards. Claessen and Goldberg divorced after the box office failure of The Telephone, which Goldberg was under contract to star in. She tried to sue the producers, but with no luck. The 1988 movie, Clara's Heart, was critically acclaimed, and featured a young Neil Patrick Harris. As the 1980s concluded, she participated in the numerous HBO specials of Comic Relief with fellow comedians Robin Williams and Billy Crystal.
In January 1990, Goldberg starred with Jean Stapleton in the TV situation comedy Bagdad Cafe. The show ran for two seasons on CBS. Simultaneously, Goldberg starred in The Long Walk Home, portraying a woman in the Civil Rights Movement. She played a psychic in the 1990 film Ghost, and became the first black female to win the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress in nearly 50 years. Premiere Magazine named her character, Oda Mae Brown, the 95th best movie character of all time.
Goldberg starred in Soapdish and had a recurring role on Star Trek: The Next Generation as Guinan which she would reprise in two Star Trek movies. On May 29, 1992, Sister Act was released. The motion pictured grossed well over US$100 million and Goldberg was nominated for a Golden Globe. Next, she starred in Sarafina!. During the next year, she hosted a late-night talk show, The Whoopi Goldberg Show and starred in two more motion pictures Made in America and Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit. From 1994 to 1995, Whoopi appeared in Corrina, Corrina, The Lion King (voice), The Pagemaster (voice), Boys on the Side, and Moonlight and Valentino. Goldberg became the first African-American female to host the Academy Awards in 1994. She hosted the Awards again in 1996, 1999, and 2002. Goldberg released four motion pictures in 1996: Bogus (with Gerard Depardieu and Haley Joel Osment), Eddie, The Associate (with Dianne Wiest) and Ghosts of Mississippi (with Alec Baldwin and James Woods). During the filming of Eddie, Goldberg began dating co-star Frank Langella, a relationship which lasted until early 2000. Goldberg wrote Book in October 1997, a collection featuring insights and opinions. In November and December 2005, Goldberg revived her one-woman show on Broadway at the Lyceum Theatre in honor of its 20th anniversary.
From 1998 to 2001, Goldberg took supporting roles in the How Stella Got Her Groove Back with Angela Basset, Girl, Interrupted with Winona Ryder and Angelina Jolie, Kingdom Come, and Rat Race with an all-star ensemble cast. She also played the voice of Liz on the first four seasons of popular PBS program The Magic Schoolbus. She starred in the successful ABC-TV versions of Cinderella, A Knight in Camelot, and the TNT Original Movie, Call Me Claus. In 1998, she gained a new audience when she became the "Center Square" on Hollywood Squares, hosted by Tom Bergeron. She also served as Executive Producer, for which she was nominated for 4 Emmys. She left the show in 2002, and the "Center Square" was filled in with celebrities for the last two on-air seasons without Goldberg. In 2003, Goldberg returned to television, starring in the NBC comedy, Whoopi, which was canceled after one season. On her 48th birthday, Goldberg was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. During the next two years, she became a spokeswoman for Slim Fast and produced two television sitcoms: Lifetime's original drama Strong Medicine that ran for six seasons and Whoopi's Littleburg, a Nickelodeon show for younger children. Goldberg made guest appearances on the Hit CW Network comedy, Everybody Hates Chris, as an elderly character named Louise Clarkson. She produced the Noggin sitcom Just For Kicks, in early 2006. She was a guest at Elton John's 60th birthday bash and concert at Madison Square Garden on March 25, 2007.
Goldberg has said in interviews that she wants to focus on The View and her broadcasting career rather than acting.
On September 4, 2007, Goldberg became the new moderator and co-host of The View, replacing Rosie O'Donnell. O'Donnell stated on her official blog that she wanted Goldberg to be moderator. Goldberg's debut as moderator drew 3.4 million viewers, 1 million fewer than O'Donnell's debut ratings. After two weeks, however, The View was averaging 3.5 million total viewers under Goldberg, a 7% increase from 3.3 million under O'Donnell the previous season.
Goldberg's first appearance on the show was controversial when she made statements about Michael Vick's dogfighting as being "part of his cultural upbringing" and "not all that unusual" in parts of the South.] Another comment that stirred controversy was the statement that the Chinese "have a very different relationship to cats" and that "you and I would be very pissed if somebody ate kitty."
Some defended Goldberg, including her co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck, saying that her comments were taken out of context by the press, because she repeated several times that she did not condone what Vick did.
On more than one occasion, Goldberg has expressed strong disagreement and irritation with different remarks made by Elisabeth Hasselbeck. On October 3, 2007, Hasselbeck and Goldberg were involved in a discussion about Hillary Clinton's proposed US$5,000 baby entitlement. The discussion became a little heated due to Hasselbeck's commenting on how it would lead to fewer abortions because of women wanting to keep the money. Goldberg told Hasselbeck to "back off a little bit" and asked her if she "had ever been in that position to make that decision." Goldberg added, "Most people do not want to have abortions. Most women do not have them with some sort of party going on. It is the hardest decision that a woman ever- wait- ever has to make. So, when you talk about it, a little bit of reverence to the women out there who have had to make this horrible decision. And one of the reasons that we have had to make this decision is because so many women were found bleeding, dead, with hangers in their bodies because they were doing it themselves. The idea of this was to make it safe and clean. That was the reason the law came into effect. That was why it was done."
Goldberg performed the role of Califia, the radiant Queen of California, for a theater presentation called Golden Dreams at Disney's California Adventure, the second gate at the Disneyland Resort, in 2000. The show, which explains the history of the Golden State (California), opened on February 8, 2001, with the rest of the park. Golden Dreams closed in September 2008 to make way for the upcoming Little Mermaid ride planned for DCA.
Goldberg hosted the 2001 documentary short, The Making Of A Charlie Brown Christmas. In July 2006, Goldberg became the main host of the Universal Studios Hollywood Backlot Tour, in which she appears multiple times in video clips shown to the guests on monitors placed on the trams.
Goldberg made a guest appearance on the hit television show 30 Rock, in which she played herself. She is shown as endorsing her own workout video.
From August 2006 to March 2008, Goldberg hosted Wake Up With Whoopi, a nationally syndicated morning radio talk and entertainment program.
In October 2007, Goldberg announced on the air that she would be retiring from acting because she is no longer sent scripts, saying, "You know, there's no room for the very talented Whoopi. There's no room right now in the marketplace of cinema. Being a Black intellectual with a Jewish surname finally caught up to me."
On July 14, 2008, Goldberg announced on The View that from July 29 to September 7, she will perform in the Broadway musical Xanadu.
On November 13, 2008, Goldberg's birthday, she announced live on The View that she will be producing, along with Stage Entertainment, the premiere of Sister Act: The Musical at the London Palladium. The show begins on Wednesday, May 6, 2009 with the official press night on June 2, 2009. Casting is to be confirmed.
She also gave a short message at the beginning of the Junior Eurovision Song Contest 2008 wishing all the participants good luck, and stressing the importance of UNICEF, the official charity of the Junior Eurovision Song Contest.
Since its launch in 2008, Goldberg has been a contributor for wowOwow.com, a new website for women to talk culture, politics and gossip.
Goldberg has also been an advocate for human rights worldwide, moderating a panel at the Alliance of Youth Movements Summit on how social networks can be used to fight violent extremism in 2008 and also moderating a panel at the UN in 2009. on human rights, children and armed conflict, terrorism, human rights and reconciliation.
On December 13, 2008, Goldberg guest starred on The Naked Brothers Band, a Nickelodeon rock-mockumentary television show. Before the episode premiered, on February 18, 2008 the band performed on The View and the band members were interviewed by Goldberg and Sherri Shepherd.
Goldberg has been married three times: in 1973 to drug counselor Alvin Martin (they divorced in 1979), in 1986 to cinematographer David Claessen (they divorced in 1988) and in 1994 to the actor Lyle Trachtenberg (they divorced in 1995). She has also been romantically linked with actors Frank Langella and Ted Danson. She and Martin had one daughter, Alexandrea, an actress (born 1973, aka Alex Martin and Alex Dean). Goldberg has two granddaughters: Amarah Skye and Jerzey.
Goldberg was involved in controversy in July 2004 when, at a fundraiser for John Kerry at Radio City Music Hall in New York, Goldberg made a sexual joke about President George W. Bush, by waving a bottle of wine, pointing toward her vagina and saying: "We should keep Bush where he belongs, and not in the White House." Slim-Fast, the biggest company in US health shake market, took exception to these comments made by Goldberg and dropped her from their current ad campaign.
As a result of several bad experiences, Goldberg had not flown on an airplane since the mid-late 1990s, instead traveling via a personal bus. She admitted to Jay Leno that it takes 42 hours of non-stop travel to get from New York City to Los Angeles this way. In April 2009, Goldberg flew to London for the first time as a result of taking a ten hour course with Virgin Atlantic Airways. On Friday Night with Jonathan Ross, she said she may now fly more in the future.
Goldberg has received two Academy Award nominations, for The Color Purple and Ghost, winning for Ghost. She is the recipient of the 1985 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding One-Person Show for her solo performance on Broadway. She has received eight Daytime Emmy nominations, winning one. She has received five (non-daytime) Emmy nominations. She has received three Golden Globe nominations, winning two. She won a Grammy Award in 1985 and a Tony Award as a producer of the Broadway musical Thoroughly Modern Millie. 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 prestigious Mark Twain Prize for American Humor at the Kennedy Center.
Goldberg is one of few to win an Oscar, a Grammy, a Tony, and an Emmy. She has starred in over 150 films, and during a period in the 1990s, Whoopi was the highest-paid actress of all time. Her humanitarian efforts include working for Comic Relief, recently reuniting with Billy Crystal and Robin Williams for the 20th Anniversary of Comic Relief In February 2002, Goldberg sent her Oscar statuette from Ghost to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to be cleaned and replated. During this time, the statuette was taken from its shipping container, and later retrieved by the shipping company, UPS.