In a 1996 interview, Cher recalled her mother telling her to marry a rich man, and she shot back, "Mom, I am a rich man." Dubbed the "Goddess of Pop," Cher has remained at the core of the entertainment industry since the 1960s. Her larger-than-life persona has reached mythic proportions; she only needs one name to be recognizable, after all! Cher has constantly reinvented herself over the years, and even now she continues to be an icon of stage, screen, and red carpets alike. However, her rise to fame was anything but glamorous.
Cher was abandoned as a baby
Cher didn't always go by one name alone. Her father, a truck driver who struggled with addiction, abandoned his young daughter and her mother in 1947, the year she turned one. Despite this setback, Cher's mother was determined to give herself and her daughter a life after love.
And what a life it turned out to be! From an early age, Cher watched her mother, Georgia Holt, strive to make her dreams a reality and was determined to follow in her footsteps.
Her real name is Cherilyn Sarkisian
During the '50s, when Cher was growing up, Georgia Holt was a bit-actress and part-time model. This connection led to Cher's first ever on-screen appearance in 1967 on the TV show The Man From U.N.C.L.E. From the moment the director yelled "action!" Cher knew she was where she was meant to be.
When Georgia remarried, Cher's name became Cherilyn Sarkisian LaPiere — a bit of a mouthful, no? Her mother's marriage lasted for nine years, and by the time it was over, Georgia and Cher had very little money left.
Spending time in an orphanage
In fact, Cher's childhood was far from privileged. She once recalled being so poor that she had to use rubber bands to tie her shoes together. The mother and daughter, along with Cher's young half-sister Georgeanne, struggled to make ends meet. And at a few particularly low points, Georgia had no choice but to leave Cher at orphanages for periods of time when she couldn't afford to feed her.
And one of those times saw Georgia with no choice but to leave her daughter in the care of nuns at a Catholic orphanage. They would tell Cher’s desperate mother that she was unfit to raise her, even refusing to let her return home for six months. Cher herself never forgot the story of their cruelty.
"You don't know what it was like"
And although her time with the nuns was brief, she never forgot the experience. When she later confronted her mother about the orphanage in the documentary Dear Mom, Love Cher, Georgia was frank in her response. "I didn’t have any money or a job, and the church was so strong. I’d go see you every day, and you’d be crying. You don’t know what it was like."
Cher understood. "It was harder for women then," she explained. As Cher branched out into the world of entertainment, she'd learn this difficult lesson all too well.