Things You Might Not Know About Cher

Most people know Cher for her music, sultry voice, and acting roles. She and her former husband, Sonny Bono, made up the variety show duo Sonny and Cher in the '60s and were known for the song "I Got You Babe" and "The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour," according to Biography. Cher also won an Academy Award for "Moonstruck" and has had several successful solo songs, including "Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves" and "Believe."

Let's face it: she's an icon. Alongside Madonna, Bono, and Adele, she's one of a few singers known by a single name. Plus, she's had some incredible fashion moments through the years. However, life hasn't always been easy for the star. There are some stories about Cher that you may not know, including her numerous relationships and the health problems she's overcome. Check out some interesting facts about Cher.

Her mother nearly terminated the pregnancy, and Cher spent time in an orphanage

Cher's given name is Cherilyn Sarkisian, and she was born in 1946, in El Centro, California, according to AllMusic. Her parents are Georgia Holt and John Sarkisian, and Holt has said that she considered having an abortion before she gave birth to her daughter. 

When Cher was a young child, her mother divorced her father and had a hard time financially. She was left with few options, so she sent Cher to a Catholic orphanage for a short period of time, reports Hollywood.com. There, nuns took care of Cher until her mother was able to support her again. In the documentary "Dear Mom, Love Cher," the singer explains that her mother didn't have a job or enough money to properly care for her daughter. Cher is not embarrassed about her past and has said, "So I come from a poor white trash background. It doesn't make any difference."

Her mother has been married seven times

Cher's mother, Georgia Holt, is 94 years young and still going strong. Talent runs in the family, as Holt was an actress, model, and singer in her younger days, according to AmoMama. Born in Kensett, Arkansas, Holt appeared in several film and TV roles in the 1950s. She met Cher's father, John Sarkisian, when she was a teenager. She told People that he was charming and that they got married quickly in Reno because Sarkisian was very persuasive. However, the relationship was doomed from the start.

Holt left her husband the day after their wedding. "I knew I didn't want to be married. But he told me to try it for three months, and if I didn't like it, then I could walk out." Three months later, she was pregnant with Cher, and the couple split after 12 months. Through the years, Holt has been married seven times to six different men.

Then she did something incredible — in 2013, at the age of 86, Holt made her musical chart debut, according to Billboard. She hit No. 43 on the Top Country Albums charts with her album "Honky Tonk Woman," which includes covers of "Love Me Tender" and "Cryin' Time." Georgia Holt has proven that age is just a number and demonstrated that it's possible to accomplish great things in your twilight years.

Cher knew she wanted to be a star at age 4

Cher started her solo career in the '70s, won an Oscar in the '80s, and continued her mainstream success through the '90s and beyond. She has sold more than 100 million albums, according to CBS, and she knew she wanted to be a star from a very young age. Cher was just 4 years old when she went to Grauman's Chinese Theatre in Los Angeles. She has described the moment as "breathtaking" and recalls being impressed by all the statues. "It was just like going to heaven," she told CBS.

Cher saw "Dumbo" and "Cinderella" at the theater and was hooked. She instinctively knew that she was meant to be in show business. Her first acting role was the 1982 movie "Come Back to the 5 & Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean," according to IMDB. She followed this up with 1983's "Silkwood," starring Meryl Streep and Kurt Russell, and then "Mask" two years later. In 1987, she won an Academy Award for "Moonstruck." Her more recent movies include "Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again," which was released in 2018.

She stopped making movies after contracting Epstein-Barr virus

Cher was a force to be reckoned with in Hollywood, but she was forced to stop acting when she contracted Epstein-Barr virus in the '90s, reports Hollywood.com. Symptoms of the virus include fatigue, inflammation, swollen lymph nodes, fever, and a rash, according to the CDC. Cher has revealed that she was very sick for two years and was unable to work because of the experience. "It was terrible. I ended the second year with pneumonia," she explained to the New York Times via Hollywood.com

The singer says that she was offered several roles during this period but had to turn them down, which made her very upset. When she finally recovered, she says she essentially had to start from the beginning to find work again, so she focused her energy on music instead. 

She also recalls how early in her career she had a hard time getting people to take her seriously. Even her famous acquaintances wouldn't help her out. She approached director Mike Nicols for a part in "Fortune," and he turned her down because he didn't feel she was right for the role. Her response? She told him, "I'm very talented, and one day you're going to be sorry." Cher must have had a premonition because she wound up receiving an Academy Award for "Moonstruck," proving that she has some serious acting chops.

She's good friends with Meryl Streep

Director Mike Nichols passed on Cher for the movie "Fortune," but he went on to cast her in his 1983 film "Silkwood," alongside Meryl Streep. The women became bosom buddies almost instantly, according to Vanity Fair. Cher was enthralled by Streep, whom she admired greatly. On the first day they met on set, Streep gave the singer a huge hug. "She's all communication and warmth and friendship, with a great sense of humor," Cher explained.

When Cher won her Oscar in 1987, she was up against her pal Streep, who was nominated for her role in "Ironweed." Streep was thrilled for her former co-star and enthusiastically cheered on her friend during the awards show. In her acceptance speech, Cher said, "I feel so unbelievable that I did my first movie with her, and now I was nominated with her, and I feel really thankful."

The friends have worked together numerous times through the years. They appeared together for an environmental benefit called "Mothers and Others" and reunited in the "Mamma Mia" movies. During the "Mama Mia: Here We Go Again!" premiere, Cher told Entertainment Tonight that they were still friends after all these years and that Streep was wonderful on their first film together, saying "She was unbelievable, because I had no idea what I was doing."

Cher has dyslexia and dropped out of high school

Cher has been coping with learning disabilities most of her life. She has dyslexia and dyscalculia, according to Understood For All Inc. In school, she had a difficult time reading and figuring out numbers. She explains in her autobiography, "The First Time," that she read slowly, so she struggled to complete her homework, and that math was also a big challenge. She did most of her learning by listening, and the administration wrote in her report cards that she was not living up to her potential.

Cher had such a hard time in school that she failed several classes and ended up dropping out of high school in her junior year. But it wasn't until she had children of her own that she realized she had a learning disability. Her son Chaz also had a tough time reading, and, when he was 10, Cher sought help and learned he had dyslexia. Doctors asked about her own struggles in school, and Cher realized she had the same problems as her child. She has revealed that she often transposed numbers and even had problems dialing long-distance phone numbers.

The star has described the realization as like a light bulb going off. "It was like a big, Ohhh... Now I understood everything, why I had so much trouble with school. It all fit together," she explained.

She is self-deprecating

Cher has been entertaining fans for over half a century, so you might expect that she'd have a bit of an ego. After all, she's a talented singer and actress who has a bunch of awards under her belt, including an Academy Award, a Grammy, two Golden Globes, an Emmy, and several Billboard Music Awards, according to IMDB. Yet, on more than one occasion, the star has shown that she's a little self-conscious about her talent, or at least isn't impressed by it. She may have millions of fans, but Cher doesn't feel the same about herself as they feel about her.

In a 2013 interview, CBS newscaster Anthony Mason said, "My sense is that you've always kind of underestimated your own voice." Cher responded, "I'm not a huge Cher fan." Three years later, she revealed similar sentiments, telling Today, "I've never really been in love with Cher. She's all right, but it's like I'm not a huge fan." Cher also admitted that it was tough getting older, saying that she saw an "old lady" when she looked into the mirror. "If I put 70 candles on my cake, I would blow my brains out, you know?" she said.

She struggled with Chaz Bono's transition but is supportive now

Cher has supported the LGBTQ community for a long time, but she had mixed feelings when her transgender son transitioned in 2010. During an interview with CNN, via Today, Cher explained that she initially had a problem when Chaz told her he was gay, but that her feelings passed quickly. Later, when Chaz revealed he was transgender, Cher also struggled.

"It wasn't easy," she told reporter Christiane Amanpour. "Like I remember calling, and the old message — the old Chaz message was on the phone — and that was very difficult. But then you have one child, but you don't really lose them — they just are in a different shape."

Cher then said how happy Chaz was and commented that she was perplexed by other people's criticism of her son's life. "They're fearful, and they just don't understand how to react to it," she explained. "Some of it's religious, I'm just not sure why it's such a big thing." When individuals approach her about the topic, she is very supportive and tells them that they'll get through it, just like she did.

Her relationship with son Elijah Blue is complicated

Cher has another son, Elijah Blue, with singer Gregg Allman. In 2014, Elijah opened up to Entertainment Tonight about his childhood and how he thought that his parents rejected him. He was sent to boarding school as a young child and said he felt "shunned." When he visited his parents in New York on the weekends, he used to get into a lot of trouble. Elijah admitted that he started buying and using drugs when he was just 11 years old and eventually became a heroin addict. As an adult, he made peace with his upbringing, but has said that his parents' way of dealing with his problems wasn't the best solution.

Elijah has said that he and his brother Chaz were close for a while, but that they grew apart when their lives went separate ways. Elijah and Cher developed a strained relationship after Elijah and his wife moved in with the star. Elijah explained that they had issues but have worked through a lot of them together. Still, at the time of the interview, some remained unresolved. Regardless, he cares deeply for his mother, calling her talented and gorgeous. "I mean, she's Cher. What's not to love?" he said.

She has dated a slew of famous men

Cher has dated many famous men through the years. She dated record producer David Geffen in the early '70s while she was going through a divorce with entertainer Sonny Bono, according to Yahoo. Cher revealed in the 2001 biography "The Operator" that she and Geffen were "really crazy about each other."

In 1975, Cher married rocker Gregg Allman. She filed for divorce nine days later because of his drug and alcohol abuse. They reconciled, had a son, and split up in 1977. Not long after, she hooked up with Gene Simmons from KISS. Their relationship wasn't very serious, and she eventually moved on to guitarist Les Dudek and New York Rangers star Ron Duguay before dating actor Val Kilmer, who is nearly 14 years her junior. According to Cher, Kilmer is "a great kisser," which she said indicated that he was great in bed.

In the mid-'80s, Cher dated Tom Cruise. In 2008, she told Oprah that she was crazy about him, but that they had a hard time making their relationship work around their schedules. They split after a few months, but in 2013, Cher recalled that Cruise was one of her top five lovers. She has also dated Bon Jovi guitarist Richie Sambora and had flings with actor Warren Beatty and musician Eric Clapton.

At 52, she was the oldest woman to have a No. 1 hit

It can be tough to maintain popularity through the decades, and with so many young stars to compete with in the music scene, it's hard to remain relevant. That's why comeback stories such as Cher's are so interesting. In the late '90s, pop music was at its zenith and Cher smartly got in on the action. She was known for '70s disco, and in the '80s and '90s produced rock-inspired music, so it was a bit of a departure when she released "Believe" in 1998, according to Official Charts.

What set the song apart was its use of auto-tuned vocals, which emphasized Cher's already awesome voice. It wound up holding the No. 1 spot on the charts for seven weeks. In the first week, 167,750 copies were sold, and it became the top-selling single by a female artists of all time in the United Kingdom. But there's more: at age 52, Cher became the oldest woman to top the Billboard charts, according to I Like Your Old Stuff. It reached No. 1 in over 23 countries and sold over 11 million copies worldwide.  

Just like her mother, Cher proved that you can be successful later in life.

Cher helped rescue the world's loneliest elephant

After reading about his sad plight on social media in 2016, Cher used her influence to help rescue an 8,700-pound elephant named Kavaan from a zoo in Pakistan. She didn't expect her actions to do much good, and it took five years of hard work, but eventually her efforts helped save an animal known as the world's loneliest elephant, according to Smithsonian Magazine.

Kaavan was given to the daughter of Pakistan's president in the mid-'80s. Years later, he was transferred to Islamabad Zoo, where he wasn't given a proper diet or adequate enrichment. His companion died in 2012, he became overweight, and he started exhibiting unhealthy behaviors, such as rocking. After killing two keepers, he was restrained indefinitely. In 2015, an American vet created a campaign to free Kaavan, which Cher learned about via Twitter, but the zoo didn't want to give up their top attraction. The star released a song, "Walls," to raise awareness and helped launch the non-profit Free the Wild Foundation with the help of Pakistani lawyer Owais Awan.

Their combined efforts helped lead to the Pakistani high court ordering that Kaavan be freed and the zoo be shut down. A team of people worked with Kaavan on his aggression issues and he was relocated to a sanctuary in Cambodia where he is currently very happy, according to Cher. "I knew it the moment we let him out of the crate," she explained. "Elephants are so amazing, they're like human beings, only better."