Cher Shattered Television Decency Standards By Exposing Her Belly Button on ‘The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour’

The belly button seems harmless enough on the human body but there was once a time when television execs couldn’t fathom the thought of having one appear on-screen — especially if it was on a female actor. It explains why I Dream of Jeannie had a revealing costume but no belly button. And why many female actors of the past showed leg and stomach, but no belly button on tv shows. It wasn’t until 1975 that one musical icon bravely broke the barrier, only to face body shaming from execs.

TV has a long history of policing women’s wardrobe and bodies

What do I Dream of Jeannie and Gilligan’s Island have in common? Were they both sitcoms in the 60s and feature real-life rivalries? Yes and yes.

But they have another similarity that you’d never guess, none of the women on either show were allowed to show their belly button. Both shows featured female leads that were policed for their wardrobe and bodies.

Barbara Eden, the star of I Dream of Jeannie, explained on the Today show: “They became very strict about the navel.” She talks about a scene at the beach where women in bikinis surrounded her while she had to wear a one piece. 

Dawn Wells, star of Gilligan’s Island, once told Inside Edition that her “short shorts had to be high enough to cover her belly button, and Tina Louise’s dresses could not be low enough to show her cleavage.”

The taboo surrounding the belly button was ultimately shattered thanks to none other than Cher.

Cher broke TV barriers

Cher on stage performing
Cher | Bob King/Redferns

The Atlantic reports that Cher was the first actress to show her belly button on TV in a “landmark moment.” The event took place in 1975 during an episode of The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour.

Even then, Cher faced body-shaming and blatant sexism. Her producer, George Schlatter, reportedly commented: “As for Cher’s belly button, at her weight it’s not sexy and there’s no violence to it at all.”

Cher’s contribution to freeing the navel was iconic, that People magazine reportedly dubbed her the “Pioneer of the Belly Beautiful.” Cher once said, reports MeTV: “All I know is I got in trouble for showing my belly button, and every time I turned around after I went off the air, all you saw were Cheryl Ladd’s boobs.”

Cher is a true artist

Cher gained fame by singing with her husband, Sonny Bono, in Sonny and Cher. The duo became household names in the 1960s for their No. 1 hit “I Got You Babe.”

Cher branched into a successful solo career with hits like “Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves,” “Half-Breed” and “Dark Lady.” She even pursued acting, appearing in Silkwood, Mask, and earning an Academy Award for her performance in Moonstruck.

Cher is an American singer and actress who got her start as half of Sonny and Cher in the 1960s. She has since amassed international fame with an array of Top 10 hits and screen roles, winning an Oscar for her role in ‘Moonstruck.’ In 2018, she returned to the big screen by appearing in Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again!