Millions of us danced—back in the 80s—to “Girls Just Want To Have Fun” by the irrepressible Cyndi Lauper. And she deserves to be celebrated as a Self-Empowered Woman for a variety of reasons, but in particular because earlier this year she capped her long career by becoming the first woman to win the Tony Award for Best Score on her own (13: More Than Meets The Eye).
Cynthia Ann Stephanie Lauper was born on June 22nd 1953, and raised in Ozone Park, Queens in New York City. Her parents divorced when she was five years old, and although her mother remarried, she divorced again (1: No Paternal Safety Net).
As a little girl, Cyndi grew up listening to music at home that included Ella Fitzgerald, Judy Garland, Billie Holiday and The Beatles. By the time she was twelve, she had begun to write her own songs and play an acoustic guitar that had been a gift from her older sister (2: An Early Sense of Direction).
When young she attended Catholic school (3: Belief In The Unbelievable), but was later accepted at a special public high school for students with talent in the visual arts. She dropped out, but later earned her GED. And when she was 17 years old she left home, moved to Canada, and soon settled in Vermont where she took art classes at Johnson State College (14: Selective Disassociation).
By the early 1970s, she was back in New York and singing with a variety of bands, but she did not enjoy covering other people’s songs. By 1977, Lauper had damaged the vocal cords and had to take a year off—three different doctors told her that she would never sing again, but with the help of a vocal coach she regained her voice (8: Turning No Into Yes). Lauper had several great things going for her: she had a four-octave singing range, perfect pitch, as well as a unique vocal style and stage presence. In 1981, she met David Wolff who became her manager (and later her boyfriend), and he arranged for her to sign with a subsidiary of Epic Records (4: Supportive Someone).
By 1984-1985, her career was red hot. She won the 1984 Best Female Video at the MTV Music Awards, was on the covers of Rolling Stone, Time, Newsweek and People magazines, and was named Ms. Magazine’s 1985 woman of the year. In 1988 , she made her debut in the comedy “Vibes” (11: Risk Addiction), and since then she appeared in a long, list of documentaries, films and television programs—including NBC’s “The Celebrity Apprentice.”
Obviously, music would qualify as Lauper’s lifelong magnificent obsession, but her other passion has been supporting LGBT Rights. Her sister, Ellen, who gave her that first guitar, is gay, and Lauper has worked tirelessly through her True Colors Fund to raise money and awareness (7: Magnificent Obsession). Lauper was romantically involved with David Wolff for six years, and was deeply depressed when they broke up. Then she started dating a man who she admitted “was mean as hell to” her. When that relationship also ended she “felt ugly, dull and a mess. I was convinced I was through as an artist” (15: Forget About Prince Charming). In 1991 she married David Thornton, an actor who studied at Yale and Lee Strasberg’s Actors Studio. His father taught English at Harvard and at her wedding Lauper told her father in law, “Dad, don’t cry. You’re not losing a son, you’re gaining somebody who don’t speak English too good.” The couple has a teenage son, Declan, and even though she has been named as one of the 100 most important women in Rock ‘n Roll, Lauper routinely woke up at four am to drive her son to his early-morning hockey games (16: Intensive Motherhood).
It would take several long blogs to mention all of Lauper’s achievements over the past 30 years—as an actress, composer, fundraiser, live performer and recording artist! And if you can’t get tickets to see her hit musical Kinky Boots on Broadway, make sure to catch the terrific movie that inspired the play.
Looking forward to your comments…