Family & Companions
Along with only a select few musical artists of the Me Decade, Cyndi Lauper's songs helped define the era that gave birth to MTV, Reaganomics, and the Brat Pack. The singer emerged as one of the most recognizable icons of the 1980s, thanks to her eponymous hit, "Girls Just Want to Have Fun" (1983), a timeless anthem that inspired young women everywhere to reach for their neon-colored hairspray, pile on their costume jewelry, and dance their troubles away. Lauper's success stemmed not only from her signature art punk-inspired look, but also from her considerable vocal prowess and confident, youthful energy. She also used her unique voice - the same voice that breathed life into such inspirational tunes such as "True Colors" (1986) and "Time After Time" (1984) - to speak out on human rights issues and equality for the gay community. In 2010, Lauper competed on the reality series "Celebrity Apprentice" (NBC, 2004- ) where she went head-to-head with other stars for a chance to do business with real estate mogul Donald Trump. It was another bold move from an artist who kept the world captivated with her positive spirit, unique style, and timeless pop music standards beloved by generations of fans.
Cynthia Ann Stephanie Lauper was born on June 22, 1953 in Queens, NY to Fred and Catrine Lauper. After her parents divorced when she was five years old, Lauper moved to Ozone Park, NY with her mother, older sister Elen, and younger brother Fred. Around this time, the future star listened to records by artists as diverse as Judy Garland, Billie Holiday and the Beatles prior to learning how to play the acoustic guitar at the age of 12. Around this time, Lauper also began experimenting with her look; from dyeing her hair different colors to wearing outrageous, punk-inspired fashions. After attending a public high school geared towards art students, 17-year-old Lauper dropped out of school and moved to Canada. While taking art classes at Johnson State College in Vermont, the wild child started feeling homesick and moved back to Ozone Park a short time later.
Lauper's love for music bloomed in the mid-1970s. During this time, she joined several New York cover bands as a vocalist, but by 1977, she had damaged her vocal chords and was informed by doctors that she would never sing again. Lauper refused to accept the prognosis, so with the urging of friends, found a vocal coach who helped fine-tune her voice. Her manager also introduced her to saxophonist John Turi, with whom Lauper formed the new wave band, Blue Angel. Fusing a retro-rockabilly sound with lyrics penned by Lauper and Turi, the band released its self-titled album in 1980. The record also included a cover of the pop standard "I'm Gonna Be Strong," which was received moderately well overseas. The U.S. music charts, however, were not as kind to Blue Angel. The group disbanded in 1982 after performing their final show and firing their manager Steve Massarsky, who promptly retaliated with a lawsuit against the band, forcing everyone - including Lauper - to go bankrupt.
Penniless and with no band to support her, Lauper worked at various retail stores in New York City by day and sang at local clubs by night. Her standout vocals and strong personality resonated with several music industry executives who could not wait to sign the colorful singer as a solo artist. With the help of new manager David Wolff, she eventually signed with Portrait Records and began working on her debut solo album, She's So Unusual. Released in October 1983, the album was an instant worldwide hit. Fueled by the platinum-selling single, "Girls Just Want to Have Fun" and Lauper's Technicolor-punk image, the album jumped to the top of the charts while at the same time, the singer's look was being imitated by millions of teen girls. "Girls Just Want to Have Fun" was reportedly originally written for a male performer, but Lauper decided to change some of the lyrics and turn it into a positive anthem for women of all ages. The track also spawned a 1985 feature film of the same name, which starred Sarah Jessica Parker and Helen Hunt. Subsequent singles released from "She's So Unusual" were also certified hits, including the ballad "Time After Time" (1984), which topped the Hot 100 and Adult Contemporary charts, and the cheeky pop track "She Bop" (1984), her third consecutive Gold record. The latter hit gained some notoriety upon its release when critics accused the singer of "She Bop" being a slightly veiled reference to masturbation.
Apart from the music and rainbow image, the birth of MTV - a channel dedicated to airing music videos 24 hours a day - also helped Lauper's career skyrocket. Her music video for "Girls Just Want to Have Fun," which featured professional wrestler Captain Lou Albano and her real-life mother Catrine as her parents, won the network's very first Best Female Video award in 1984. The clips for her other hits "Time After Time" and "She Bop" also featured cameos by family members, friends, and her dog Sparkle. Lauper also had a kinship with the World Wrestling Federation, making several appearances during its televised matches and managing the female wrestler, Wendi Richter. Lauper's "Girls Just Want to Have Fun" even played every time Richter entered the arena. Her involvement with the WWF broadened the singer's appeal to male fans. The mega-success of She's So Unusual took Lauper all the way to winning a Grammy Award for Best New Artist in 1985. She brought along WWF superstar Hulk Hogan as her "bodyguard" to the event. That same year, she participated in the all-star benefit single "We Are the World," which brought together the biggest artists in music, including Michael Jackson, Lionel Richie and Bob Dylan. "We Are the World" raised $44.5 million for African famine relief within a year of its release, and also became the first multi-platinum single, according to the Recording Industry Association of America.
The film industry also took notice of Lauper's talent and larger-than-life personality. Acclaimed filmmaker Steven Spielberg asked the singer to be the musical director for "The Goonies" (1985), an adventure film he wrote and Richard Donner directed about a rag-tag group of kids who embark on a pirate's treasure hunt. Lauper performed the film's theme song "The Goonies 'R' Good Enough" and released an epic two-part music video that featured the big budget film's sets, props and young cast, as well as Lauper's wrestling pals Albano, Andre the Giant and Roddy Piper. "The Goonies 'R' Good Enough" earned the singer a Grammy nomination for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance while the film's soundtrack reached No. 73 on the Billboard 200 album chart. At that time in her career, her star power and influence on young women also mirrored that of fellow pop star and fashion icon Madonna, whom tabloids often pitted her against. Both singers never officially acknowledged a rivalry and each maintained successful careers for years to come.
Lauper released her sophomore album True Colors in September 1986. While it did not have the same cultural impact as She's So Unusual and only reached No. 4 on the Billboard 200, True Colors showed the singer's growth as an artist. Lauper was more involved with songwriting and production of her second album, which yielded more hits for the neon-haired pop star including the inspirational title track, the rock-tinged "Change of Heart," and a cover of Marvin Gaye's 1971 single, "What's Going On." Kodak also licensed the song "True Colors" for use in its advertisements. Lauper made her feature film debut in 1988, acting alongside Jeff Goldblum and Peter Falk in the comedy "Vibes." The singer played a psychic on a mission to find a city of gold in South America. "Vibes" was both a critical and commercial flop, while the song Lauper contributed for the film, "Hole in My Heart (All the Way to China)," was eventually cut from the soundtrack. She made a few more attempts at acting in 1993's "Life with Mikey," playing the ditzy secretary to Michael J. Fox's character, and an uncredited role as a party guest in the Dorothy Parker biopic, "Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle" (1994).
Even though she was unable to match the commercial success of her debut album, the hardworking singer continually performed all over the world and released albums throughout the 1990s and into the new millennium; from the socially conscious Hat Full of Stars (1993) to the greatest hits compilation Twelve Deadly Cyns and Then Some (1994). The latter included a reworking of her signature hit "Girls Just Want to Have Fun" into a Jamaican dancehall-inspired number titled "Hey Now (Girls Just Want to Have Fun)." In 1995, she won an Emmy Award for Guest Actress in a Comedy Series for her recurring role on "Mad About You" (NBC, 1992-99), a sitcom about a newly married New York couple played by Paul Reiser and "Girls Just Want to Have Fun" star Hunt. Lauper also began focusing her efforts to bring equality to all citizens as a staunch advocate for human rights, especially for the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community. The singer launched the True Colors Tour in 2007 to raise awareness for LGBT issues and invited fellow artists and celebrities such as The B-52s, Regina Spektor and Rosie O'Donnell to go on the road with her. Lauper also teamed up with Lady Gaga for the 2010 Mac Viva Glam Campaign, which raised funds towards AIDS research and awareness.
In 2008, Lauper released her 10th studio album, Bring Ya to the Brink which was a hit in countries such as Japan and Australia, and received a Grammy Award nomination later that year for Best Electronic/Dance Album. In early 2010, she returned to the small screen on Donald Trump's reality competition series, "Celebrity Apprentice," which followed two teams made up of well-known names such as rock matriarch Sharon Osbourne, disgraced politician Rod Blagojevich, and rocker Brett Michaels as they compete on behalf of their favorite charity for the opportunity to become an apprentice to the billionaire business magnate.
Cast (Feature Film)
Music (Feature Film)
Misc. Crew (Feature Film)
Cast (TV Mini-Series)
Music (TV Mini-Series)
Released debut album She's So Unusual, which included hit singles "Girls Just Want to Have Fun" and "Time After Time"
Wrote and performed title song for Steven Spielberg's "Goonies"; also served as film's musical director
Participated in USA for Africa's famine relief charity single "We Are the World"
Released second album True Colors
Sang theme song for CBS series "Pee-wee's Playhouse" (credited as Ellen Shaw)
Made film debut in quirky comedy "Vibes"
Released third album A Night to Remember
Co-directed first music video "I Drove All Night" from A Night to Remember
Guest starred on hit NBC sitcom "Mad About You" as John Pankow's ex-wife
Played Michael J. Fox's ditzy secretary in "Life with Mikey"
Contributed cover version of The Trammps' classic "Disco Inferno" for "A Night at the Roxbury" soundtrack
Guest starred on an episode of "The Simpsons" (Fox) singing the National Anthem
Co-starred as Christopher Walken's disgruntled girlfriend in "The Opportunists"
Took part TV special "Women Rock! Girls and Guitars," in which she performed Paul McCartney hit "Maybe I'm Amazed"
Appeared on Showtime's hit drama "Queer As Folk"
Made Broadway debut in "The Threepenny Opera"
Headlined "True Colors Tour 2008"
Played herself on third season finale of "30 Rock" (NBC)
Released dance-oriented album Bring Ya To The Brink
Competed on third season of "Celebrity Apprentice" (NBC)
Recorded blues album Memphis Blues
Starred on We TV reality series "Cyndi Lauper: Still So Unusual"
Made Broadway debut as co-writer (with Harvey Fierstein) of "Kinky Boots," based on 2005 film of the same name