How Old Is Whoopi Goldberg and When Was Her First Major Movie Role?

She’s recouping from an illness that would be a health scare at any age. But, as we get older, health issues are compounded and double pneumonia landed 63-year-old Whoopi Goldberg in the hospital in February. She was very sick with pneumonia complicated by sepsis, she said.

Gratefully, she is on the mend and has appeared on her talk-show gig, The View, although not back fully to her routine. Whoopi is a household name that doesn’t require usage of a last name, like Oprah. Let’s take a look back as to why her name is so familiar to all of us.

Whoopi’s early years

Born Nov. 13, 1955, Caryn Elaine Johnson, a.k.a. Whoopi, grew up in Manhattan. She was raised with her older brother, Robert James Johnson Jr., by their mother in a single-parent household. In the ’70s she trained with an acting coach and eventually moved across the country to Berkeley, California where she took on various jobs while launching her comedy career. She taught comedy and acting classes and joined a local theatre troupe.

In the early ’80s, Whoopi created her own one-woman show called The Spook Show, where she created and portrayed different characters. She took it to Broadway where it was retitled simply, Whoopi Goldberg. It was taped and run on HBO in 1985.

Where’d the name Whoopi Goldberg come from?

Whoopi has credited the whoopee cushion for her name. As a stage performer, she has said, there is little time to spend in the bathroom. “So if you get a little gassy, you’ve got to let it go.” People had equated her to a whoopee cushion, so she took it on as a name.

Goldberg was not on her birth certificate, but she has equated it as part of her heritage. She doesn’t seem to have any Jewish ancestry in her DNA, but if she related to it, that’s up to her.

Making it in Hollywood

While she was already making a name for herself in the comedy world, Whoopi’s first major movie role came when Steven Spielberg cast her in the starring role as Celie Harris Johnson in The Color Purple. The 1985 film portrayed the early 20th-century life of African American women faced decades after the Civil War which included poverty, racism, and sexism, incest, domestic violence, and pedophilia.

Whoopi earned a Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Drama and was nominated in the Best Actress Academy Award category.

Goldberg’s career continued to evolve

Toward the end of the ’80s, Whoopi was seen in Comic Relief on HBO with fellow comedians Robin Williams and Billy Crystal.

Her film career grew, too, most notably earning a Best Supporting Oscar for her role as a psychic in the 1990s film Ghost working alongside the late Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore. She also earned her second Golden Globe for the role. Moviegoers loved her in 1992’s Sister Act, so much so that a year later came Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit.

Through her love of Star Trek having grown up admiring Nichelle Nichols’ role as Uhura, Trekkie fans know Whoopi received a recurring guest role on Star Trek: The Next Generation as Guinan from the late 1980s through to the early 1990s.

‘The View’ and Whoopi’s other ventures

Whoopi has been a co-host on the ABC morning talk show The View since Sept. 2007. She replaced Rosie O’Donnell and has remained an integral part of the show ever since. Filmed in her hometown of New York, The View averaged 2.913 million viewers during the week of Oct. 8, 2018, according to Nielsen ratings. She is known for making controversial comments on the show.

Whoopi has been involved in the Give a Damn campaign with Cyndi Lauper aligning straight people with the LGBT community to help bring awareness to discrimination.

Outside of film and television, Whoopi went into a medicinal cannabis business with entrepreneur Maya Elisabeth, the founder of Om Edibles. Her reasoning was that marijuana was the only thing that helped her through menstrual cramps. Whoopi & Maya Medical Cannabis is sold through retailers in Colorado and California.