How Did Rosie O’Donnell Become Famous?

Rosie O’Donnell made a name for herself as one of the hosts on ABC’s The View. Here’s how Rosie O’Donnell became famous.

The early years

Rosie O'Donnell | Charles Sykes/Bravo/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images
Rosie O’Donnell | Charles Sykes/Bravo/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

Rosie O’Donnell was born on March 21, 1962, in Commack, Long Island. She was the middle of five children. O’Donnell said growing up in a large family was tough at times, reports Biography. “We weren’t poor—my father was an electrical engineer—but there were five children. The kids who went to school with us in Dix Hills [New York] would all get Camaros on their 16th birthdays. And at our house, we had a Plymouth Volare with an AM radio. All five of us kids had to use that car. We went to the flea market to buy clothes, not Macy’s.”

How Rosie O’Donnell became famous

Rosie O'Donnell|Bruce Glikas/Bruce Glikas/FilmMagic
Rosie O’Donnell|Bruce Glikas/Bruce Glikas/FilmMagic

O’Donnell started her entertainment career as a stand-up comedian. After doing a comedy show in her hometown, she received an invitation to be on the talent show Star Search, which was hosted by the late Ed McMahon. O’Donnell got her big break after winning five times in a row while she competed on the show from 1984 to 1985. During an interview with Larry King, O’Donnell spoke about her journey to stardom:

I told jokes. I was 20-years-old, and I was at a comedy club in Long Island. This woman came over to me and she said, I think you’re funny. Can you give me your number? My dad is Ed McMahon. I was like, yeah, right. I gave her my father’s phone number. I was living at home, I’m like, whatever. And about three days later, the talent booker from Star Search called and said, we’re going to fly you out to L.A.

And I went out to L.A. I had never really even headlined at a club. I was MC’ing for 20 bucks a night at the east side comedy club on Long Island, and I won, like, five weeks in a row. And it gave me national exposure. At the time, there were no other TV shows to do for stand-up comics. It was the Tonight show, which had two comics a year or Letterman, which was out of reach for me at that point. So, it was a huge break in my career.

Rosie O’Donnell’s career

Rosie O'Donnell| Bruce Glikas/Bruce Glikas/FilmMagic
Rosie O’Donnell| Bruce Glikas/Bruce Glikas/FilmMagic

 In 1985, O’Donnell was a video jockey for VH1 Music Videos. After appearing in a few comedy shows and television series, she hosted her own daytime talk show, titled The Rosie O’Donnell Show, from 1996 to 2002. O’Donnell was a host on The View from 2005 to 2015.

Before becoming a television show host, Rosie O’Donnell was an actress. She made her acting debut in the television series Gimme a Break! She played the role of Maggie O’Brien from 1986 to 1987. After that, she played the character Lorraine Popowski in the 1992 television series Stand by Your Man. O’Donnell got her big break in film when she appeared in the 1992 movie A League of Their Own. Her next big films were the 1993 movie Sleepless in Seattle and the 1994 movie The Flintstones.

Rosie O’Donnell’s adoption journey

O’Donnell is a strong believer in adoption. During her Larry King interview, she spoke about how fortunate she feels to be able to give children in need a safe place to live:

It’s the best thing that ever happened to me in the world, and it’s the greatest gift. And I think in the whole adoption story, birth mothers are often the ones who are not celebrated. And people have said to me, it’s such a great thing that you adopt. Well, it’s not really a great thing that I adopt. I’m the lucky one who gets to adopt. It’s a great thing that the parents of both of my children knew that they were not capable of giving them the kind of life they deserve.

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