Marie Osmond's Tragic Real-Life Story

Marie Osmond has been smiling, singing, and dancing her way through the nation's collective heart for more than half a century, and it's no secret that she makes it look effortless. The down-to-earth yet extraordinarily talented girl-next-door that everyone would love to have as a BFF, Osmond has the unique ability to make everyone in an audience feel like she's singing directly to them.

It hasn't been as easy and effortless as she's made it seem, though, and she's been candid in addressing her many struggles in the hope of touching someone else's life and encouraging them to get the help they might need.

In 2023, she sat down with KUTV CBS to talk about how her struggles — including, she said, the fact that she had always found it difficult to read scripts because of her dyslexia — inspired her to write a book that showed people just how much was going on behind the smile. And indeed, "Behind the Smile" ended up being the name of the first of her three books, filled with insights into the Osmond family, honesty about mental health struggles, and a candid look at the life of America's sweetheart. When asked about the most important piece of advice she'd give, she replied: "Don't be afraid to reach out and say, 'I'm struggling.' It's ok not to say, 'I'm not ok.'" And that's a lesson she has firsthand experience in learning.

She worked through her childhood

For many, childhood is a time when schoolwork and spelling tests are the biggest concerns. That wasn't the case for Marie Osmond, who entered the high-pressure, high-profile entertainment world at an age well before most kids enter kindergarten.

After the 2012 death of entertainment legend Andy Williams, Osmond lauded him not only for the guidance he gave her when it came to developing her singing ability but also told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that her fond memories of him went all the way back to her very first performance: She was just 3 years old when he took the stage with her to sing and dance. It was just the beginning.

In her memoir, "Might as Well Laugh About it Now," Osmond reflected on how her parents made sure she and her brothers had all the best teachers and choreographers that the money they earned could buy. Each of the siblings was responsible for learning an instrument and then teaching the others, and she was told exactly what she was going to play: the marimba. (She didn't want to play it, but that didn't matter.) In her other book, "Behind the Smile," she wrote about her despair on facing her childhood during a long drive: "Ages three, five, seven, nine, thirteen: feelings of being scared, overwhelmed, demoralized, and abused. ... Ages fourteen, sixteen, nineteen, twenty: being scrutinized, criticized, and sexualized. ... knives [that] can't be shrugged off, and each one had left a deeper wound."

She's been candid about eating disorders that started in her teen years

Marie Osmond is perhaps most famous for the 1970s-era variety show "Donny & Marie," hosted alongside her brother. Audiences loved it, but according to what Osmond told PageSix, filming it was less than ideal. She shared that she had been on-set when "I was taken out to the back by some head of the studio ... and he basically said, 'You're an embarrassment to your family. You're fat. ... 250 people were going to lose their jobs because you can't keep food out of your fat face."

In "Might as Well Laugh About it Now," Osmond wrote about the impact that had on her teenage psyche. She'd lie about eating breakfast and dinner, and for four days a week, she would drink only a mix of water, lemon juice, cayenne pepper, and maple syrup. "I still didn't feel I was thin enough," she wrote. "Even when I became too weak from hunger to do the dance numbers in the show."

Osmond says once the show ended, she still struggled with body image into adulthood. While the death of Karen Carpenter in 1983 helped open up a conversation about eating disorders, she said that she eventually realized that holding herself to extreme standards was having a negative impact on her fans. Women would write to her asking how they could look like her post-partum. She wrote that "[It] changed my mind forever about body image."

If you need help with an eating disorder, or know someone who is, help is available. Visit the National Eating Disorders Association website or contact NEDA's Live Helpline at 1-800-931-2237. You can also receive 24/7 Crisis Support via text (send NEDA to 741-741).

She's been honest about her insecurities

"Donny & Marie" was a massive hit that was packed with all the biggest stars of the day, and while it seems like meeting a who's who list of celebrities every week would be pretty awesome, Marie Osmond has talked about the toll that it took on her. Just 16 years old when the show started, she wrote in her memoir, "Might as Well Laugh About it Now,"  that it had been soul-crushing to stand next to actresses, singers, and models who she saw as having it all — especially the 17-year-old Cher.

They met when Osmond and her brother guest-starred on "The Sonny and Cher Show," and it had a devastating impact on her self-confidence. "I felt like the ugly duckling," she wrote. "Cher always made a splash, no matter what she did. I thought I was going to drown in my awkwardness."

The list of women who appeared on her show included actresses and supermodels like Jaclyn Smith, Cheryl Ladd, and Farrah Fawcett, who had just famously posed for that iconic, red bathing suit poster. Osmond might have been a household name, but she wrote, "Standing onstage next to Raquel Welch and comparing my appearance to hers was enough to send me into a 'hating myself' tailspin. It was pretty hard to leave my dressing room feeling like anything other than a poser playing dress up."

She experienced a time when child stars were subjected to unthinkable conditions

Not only was Marie Osmond working by the time she was 3 years old, but she was also working at a time when child actors were subjected to conditions that would be considered cruel even for adults. In her memoir "Behind the Smile," she wrote, "In some situations I was treated more as a product than a person."

She went on to tell the story of shooting a commercial in Japan when she was 11 years old. The week-long, mid-ocean shoot turned potentially deadly when the boat capsized and she found herself swimming with sharks. After being rescued, she was sent back out to keep filming. By the end, she was severely dehydrated and sunburned so badly that she was covered in blisters. Things were no better in the recording studio, where she recalled being bullied into performing at the snap of a finger. And her input? "Over time, I grew to believe and accept that my input was the least important of all those involved in almost every project."

To add insult to injury, financial planners hired by her parents to oversee the money she and her siblings made left them in such a bad state that they were nearing bankruptcy even as their hit TV show was just wrapping up. "Donny & Marie" was canceled just as she was moving out of her teenage years after she spent her childhood working 80-hour work weeks.

She's written about being sexually assaulted

In Marie Osmond's memoir, "Behind the Smile," she recorded an observation that can take some people years to come to: "Mistreatment can come in many forms," she wrote. Some are acute and severe at the moment, other types are more insidious. For her, she wrote that the "most damaging, [was] being abused sexually."

Osmond wrote that it was only after having children of her own that she revealed even to those closest to her — her brothers — that she had been sexually assaulted as a child. Each time, she said that it had happened in a place and with a person that her parents had thought she was safe with, and each time, she was told not to tell anyone what had happened, or they would lose everything.

In addition to clarifying that her abuser was not anyone in her family or anyone that she had prolonged contact with, she was candid about the long-term impact it had on her. She wrote that it wasn't the specifics that were important, but "the debilitating effects sexual abuse has on the human spirit and the ability to function on a day-to-day basis." Years later, she was still dealing with the assault that had happened to her as a child, and decades later, she still struggled to "understand that being wronged doesn't mean you've done something wrong."

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

She was driving during a severe car accident

In 2019, Marie Osmond was one of the hosts of "The Talk," and during an episode, she opened up about an incredibly traumatic car accident that she had been involved in when she was just 16 years old.

She passed out while driving, and in the ensuing crash, she hit the steering wheel so hard that she not only bent it but nearly lost her eye. Her mother hit the windshield, suffering — among other things — collapsed lungs. Osmond and her mother were taken to the hospital, separated, and Marie was told that it was likely her mother would not survive through the night. "I was in my room, and I was, literally, I mean ... you feel like you've taken your mom's life."

She went on to say that she had a vision of her grandfather, and when she asked if he was there to take her mother away, he reassured her that he was not. "It was a game-changer for me on so many levels," she shared. Seeing her grandfather convinced her that the stories she'd heard about peace and happiness after death were real. Her vision had been correct: Her mother did survive.

She stayed in a deeply unhappy marriage

In 2005, Marie Osmond's husband, Brian Blosil, was at home with their children when their house caught fire. Deseret News reported that the house was saved by someone cleverly closing the door to the garage, where the fire initiated, before evacuating. Regardless, Osmond wrote in her memoir, "Might as Well Laugh About it Now," that the incident — and the inevitable chaos that followed — made her rethink her marriage. Rebuilding a home together, "served to magnify for me all of the countless ways we were no longer in sync with each other and hadn't been for years," she wrote. "The smoke had now cleared, literally and figuratively, and I knew I had to look closely at my marriage."

Osmond revealed that it took a lot of introspection to decide that splitting with her husband was better for her family than continuing to raise her children in an environment where they would watch their parents be deeply unhappy. Overhearing her son and daughters (pictured, with her) talking about the importance of a great marriage — not just an acceptable one — pushed her closer to finalizing the move.

Osmond and Blosil made the split official in 2007, with a statement (via Reuters) that made it clear that even after more than 20 years together, they were remaining on amicable terms and continuing to be active in the lives of their children.

Her son died by suicide

In 2010, Marie Osmond's 18-year-old son, Michael Blosil, died by suicide. Over the years, Osmond has been candid about the events surrounding his death and circumstances that made an impossibly difficult situation even harder.

On an episode of "The Talk," Osmond shared the fact that he "was bullied heavily right up until the time that he committed suicide because of his sobriety. I've got the texts. They're horrendous." While she said that she never confronted the bullies, she believed that there needed to be some consequences for bullying. On another episode of the show, she spoke, too, about how she had been bullied and shamed for choosing to return to work a week after his funeral. She said that she chose to show her other children that life needed to go on even in the face of insurmountable sorrow, and she was attacked for it.

She's also been candid about how grief can change a person forever, and contrary to the popular saying, time doesn't actually heal all wounds. Nine years after his death, she appeared on "CBS Sunday Morning" and said (via People), "You know, I don't think you're ever through it. I think God gives you respites, and then all of a sudden it'll hit you like the day it did. The ripple effect is so huge, what you leave behind."

If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline​ by dialing 988 or by calling 1-800-273-TALK (8255)​.

She suffered severe post-partum depression

Marie Osmond's 2001 book "Behind the Smile" was an intimate look at something that hadn't been widely talked about at the time: post-partum depression. She wrote of her feelings of failure and struggles with self-worth, and she also wrote of the women who had reached out to her since she first started talking candidly about her experiences.

She wrote of her children checking her mood before speaking to her and meeting a new neighbor who welcomed her with some baked goods, only to hear herself say that she just wanted to be left alone. She wrote, too, of handing her newborn baby to her nanny with a stack of blank checks and telling her that she just needed to leave for a while — which is exactly what she did. She drove up the Pacific Coast Highway, later writing about her despair: "There is no light, no joy, anywhere in me. I'm completely alone."

She even wrote about understanding why someone would take their own life, suddenly flooded with overwhelming emotions ... but only the bad ones. In a 2023 interview with NBC 15 News, Osmond looked back on the book, saying that she was one of the first celebrities to give a voice to the countless women who were suffering, and her message was the same: "The most important thing is not to be ashamed, not to be afraid. It's [okay] to reach out and say, 'I have this problem ... help me.'"

If you or someone you know needs help with mental health, please contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741, call the National Alliance on Mental Illness helpline at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264), or visit the National Institute of Mental Health website.

Her support of her daughter and gay marriage was answered with cruelty

In 2013, Marie Osmond sat down with Diane Sawyer. One of the topics? Osmond's daughter, Jessica, had come out as gay.

Osmond said that it broke her heart. Not because it changed her love for her daughter, but because she knew how cruel the world could be. It's not surprising, then, that Osmond has been outspoken on the issues surrounding marriage equality, saying, "My daughter deserves everything she desires in life. She's a good girl. She's a wonderful child. I don't think God made one color flower, I think he made many."

On an episode of "The Talk," she spoke candidly of the cruelty she'd witnessed and felt firsthand, particularly after going to her daughter's wedding. Her message was a simple and straightforward one that bears repeating: "You should never shame anyone, especially for loving your child." Some of that shame has apparently come from her own family: Alan Osmond has written scathing articles condemning being gay as a choice, and in 2013, was the host of an event called "Celebration of Marriage — Every Child Deserves a Mom and a Dad," held at Utah's state capitol (via Back 2 Stonewall).

Donny and Marie ended their Vegas run with devastating injuries

In 2019, Marie Osmond and her brother, Donny, dropped a bombshell announcement: After 11 years performing at Las Vegas' Flamingo, they were calling it quits. According to what they told ET, it had nothing to do with disagreements — which were a normal part of being siblings — but simply that they both had other projects that they wanted to do. That's legit — especially considering that when they first signed on to do the show, they were only going to be there for six weeks.

Retirement from the show hasn't gone as planned, though, and when they wrapped, it was with Marie in some serious pain. She slipped, fell, and broke her knee in the run-up to closing the show. Dancing might have been off the table, but she still took the stage.

Meanwhile, it was the end of the show that brought a catastrophic injury for Donny. When he spoke to The Mirror in 2021, he said that it was during their very last song that he realized he could no longer feel his arms or legs. The show wrapped, and doctors discovered that an old injury meant spinal surgery was on the table. He was ultimately paralyzed from a subsequent infection, and it was only after months of rehab that he was able to walk again.

She has dealt with a lot of death in the family

In addition to losing her son, Marie Osmond has said goodbye to multiple family members in multiple tragic circumstances. In 2004, the Osmond family matriarch, Olive, passed away from complications of a stroke she had suffered two years prior. Three years later, the siblings said goodbye to their father, George after he died from natural causes at the age of 90.

Then, in 2014, The National Inquirer picked up the story (via Radar Online) that the 7-year-old granddaughter of her brother, Jay Osmond, had been killed when she was crushed by the door of a moving truck. Tragedy struck that branch of the family again in 2022, when the little girl's father, Chris Mortensen, was shot and killed in a road rage incident. The man accused of shooting and killing him was immediately arrested.

And, in 2018, LDS Living reported that Marie's 33-year-old nephew had died, likely from an undiagnosed medical condition. Marie spoke at the funeral, saying (in part), "I know that feeling of utter despair, praying to wake up from a horrible nightmare and not being able to breathe. I remember that seemingly impossible task to continue on."