Cher has been a mainstay of popular culture for several decades now. Even after her partnership with former husband Sonny Bono ended, she carried on, destroying all obstacles in her path to mega-stardom. Indeed, she’s now an actress in addition to being the so-called “Goddess of Pop.” But her life story is more complicated and more surprising than most people could ever imagine. Perhaps that’s why her promotional team don’t always want her secrets Cher-ed…
20. She suffers from a chronic illness
In the ’80s Cher contracted a virus called Epstein-Barr; this was said to have then given her a chronic fatigue condition that she never really got over. And while her illness has interfered with her career a few times, she’s nonetheless kept fighting. “You never lose it, and it really takes the life out of you,” she told USA Today in 2008.
19. She has dyslexia
Many Cher fans know that she dropped out of high school at 16, but not everyone knows the reason why. It was all down to dyslexia, which made school very difficult indeed for the future star. She was eventually diagnosed with the learning condition when she hit 30.
18. She originally hated “If I Could Turn Back Time”
“If I Could Turn Back Time” is arguably one of Cher’s most beloved hits. When the singer first heard the track, though, she apparently despised it. In fact, her songwriter, Diane Warren, had to literally hold Cher down in order to convince her to perform it. “She’s not always the best judge of her own material,” Warren told The Hollywood Reporter in 2014.
17. Cher and Sonny weren’t legally married at first
Back in 1964 Sonny and Cher may have been telling everybody that they were married; legally, though, they weren’t. But as the pair knew that appearing to be a married couple would help with their image, they exchanged rings with each other in October of that year. There were no witnesses and no paperwork to that ceremony, however, and the two wouldn’t marry for real until 1969.
16. She once defended a controversial figure on Twitter
In 2015, when NAACP leader Rachel Dolezal was uncovered as a white woman pretending to be black, the incident sparked controversy in America. However, Cher came down on Dolezal’s side on Twitter, writing, “I don’t know why she chose her path, but who doesn’t want to have black cool?”
15. She sang backup on a few famous songs
Prior to becoming a celebrity in her own right, Cher worked for record producer Phil Spector. And both she and Sonny were occasionally asked to sing backup vocals during recordings by famous groups, so her voice can be found on quite a few songs that predate her career. “Da Doo Ron Ron” by The Crystals and “Be My Baby” by The Ronettes are just two of them.
14. She got divorced, married and separated in quick succession
In her day, Cher provided plenty of fodder for gossip columnists. In 1975, within three days of finalizing her divorce from Sonny Bono, she married musician Gregg Allman in Las Vegas. Then, just nine days after that, she filed for a divorce from him as well. But Cher and Allman did actually reconcile and have a child together, Elijah, before divorcing for real in 1979.
13. She’s had plastic surgery
Cher’s had plastic surgery – but unlike a lot of pop divas her age, she’s not afraid to talk about it. And in a 2002 ABC News interview, she summed her position up in true Cher style by saying, “If I want to put my tits on my back, it’s nobody’s business but my own.”
12. She grew up very poor
Cher’s mother, Georgia Holt, wasn’t rich; the future singer’s father was barely around during her childhood, either. Therefore, the young Cher grew up with very little to her name – even sometimes relying on rubber bands to keep her footwear together. Since becoming wealthy, though, she has donated some of her money to anti-poverty charities.
11. Her son has said he felt “shunned” by her
Cher’s son with Gregg Allman, Elijah, opened up about his childhood to Entertainment Tonight in 2014. And it was clear that he had very mixed feelings about his upbringing. “When you go to boarding school at seven years old, it’s kind of hard to feel like you’re not being shunned,” he said. “I’m at an age where I’m making peace with it because you just have to.”
10. Elijah started taking drugs at a young age
In his 2014 Entertainment Tonight interview, Elijah also revealed that he had started buying drugs “at, like, 11 years old.” Indeed, for much of his adult life he struggled with addiction, although he finally got clean in 2008. His relationship with his mother is reportedly slowly mending too.
9. Cher supported her other son through his gender transition
Although Cher’s parenting is perhaps as mistake-laden as most people’s efforts, she was nonetheless supportive when her son with Sonny Bono, Chaz, began his gender transition in 2008. “Although I may not understand, I will strive to be understanding. The one thing that will never change is my abiding love for my child,” she told People in 2009.
8. Her first tattoo was on her butt
Cher’s got plenty of tattoos – but thanks to a 2013 appearance on Late Show with David Letterman, her first one just might be the most famous. On the show, she explained that she’d gotten her butt inked when she was 27. “On one cheek it said, ‘Hi sailor,’ and on the other it said, ‘New in town,’” she quipped. That part was probably a joke, but who’s gonna check?
7. The Navy were furious about one of her music videos
The U.S. Navy allowed Cher to film her music video for “If I Could Turn Back Time” on one of their battleships, the USS Missouri. However, the institution wasn’t quite prepared for how raunchy the music video would turn out to be; and, apparently, it was very annoyed about the final product. In fact, the Navy has never allowed a singer to shoot a video on a battleship since.
6. A musical is being made about her life
You know you’ve made it when your life story is considered epic enough for Broadway. In 2017 Cher tweeted, in her own idiosyncratic style, “Just got off phone w/Writer & Director of musical. There will be performance in theater with actors, dancers, singers… It’ll be on Broadway 2018.” And, naturally, her fans rejoiced.
5. She was once nearly arrested in Germany
In 2015 Cher had an encounter with some German cops. After a minor dispute about payment for an apartment, they showed up at her house and subsequently noted that her passport read only “Cher.” The police thought that the document was a fake, however, and so were nearly ready to arrest the star. In the end, though, the cops left with autographs – and Cher walked away with a great story.
4. She’s dated a lot of younger men
Cher was a cougar before being a cougar was even a thing. Indeed, after her two divorces, she dated a string of younger men – some of whom would go on to become huge stars themselves. Her list of boyfriends reportedly includes Tom Cruise, Val Kilmer, Richie Sambora, Eric Stoltz and a young baker who was 18 years her junior.
3. She was left at an orphanage as a baby
Before Cher was even one month old, her father had abandoned both her and her mother. Her mother, pregnant again and considering abortion, then left her at a Catholic orphanage with a group of nuns. The nuns would tell Cher’s desperate mother that she was unfit to raise her, however, and refused for six months to give the baby back. Cher herself never forgot the story of their cruelty.
2. The Catholic Church denounced her song “Sisters of Mercy”
In fact, Cher never quite got over her mother’s treatment at the hands of the nuns; in 2000 she even went so far as to release a song about the situation. That track was called “Sisters of Mercy” and featured lyrics such as “sisters of mercy, daughters of hell.” And the Catholic Church was furious about the release, with a spokesperson telling MTV that the song was “extremely inflammatory.”
1. She once implied that Sonny is in hell
Cher’s relationship with Sonny was complicated, to say the least. When he died in a skiing accident in 1998 she cried at his funeral, for example. But in 2013, during a Q&A session, the star was seemingly more damning about her ex-husband. On that occasion, a fan asked her what she would say to Sonny if she could; Cher answered, however, “How hot is it where you just came from?”