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Whoopi Goldberg's Hard Times: From Teenage Pregnancy to a Serious Illness

Ra'eesah Manack
Sep 20, 2019
08:49 A.M.
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Whoopi Goldberg is a household name. She has excelled in everything from stand-up comedy to acting and fashion design, but her life was not always as glamorous as it is now.


The multi-talented actress, Whoopi Goldberg has been leaving a lasting mark on the entertainment industry for decades.  She has bagged multiple Emmy, Tony awards, and Oscars during the course of her career.

Even though she is now super successful, her tragic past occasionally overshadows her present. Before becoming a household name, she endured a number of harrowing experiences.

Portrait of Whoopi Goldberg in 1988 | Getty Images


Hiding Her Name

For many years, Whoopi Goldberg did everything in her power to hide her real name. She revealed in an interview that only her family knew her birth name as she was "protecting" her family by acting under a pseudonym.

"As it is now, I can go home and live as this other person and even though I might look like Whoopi Goldberg on the street, I can whip out my driver's license and say, 'Hey, but I'm not,'" she said in 1984.

Her chosen moniker originates from an embarrassing nickname she had picked up as a child. However, she took the negative and made it her own.


Whoopi Goldberg attends The National Art Club's Medal Of Honor event | Getty Images

Teenage Pregnancy

Goldberg revealed in "The Choices We Made: Twenty-Five Women and Men Speak Out About Abortion" book that at she fell pregnant at the age of 14. She revealed that at the time she panicked and took drastic and dangerous methods to terminate the pregnancy.


She ended up getting "violently ill," instead. The following year, at the age of 15, she got pregnant again. This time she took a safer route and went to Planned Parenthood and had an abortion.

Whoopi Goldberg speaks during "I Got Somethin' To Tell You" screening | Getty Images


Learning Disability

"I couldn't understand what they were doing," she told Ebony.

She struggled at school due to a learning disability and eventually made the decision to drop out of school on her 17th birthday. Years later, she was diagnosed with dyslexia. 

Whoopi Goldberg at the Food Network & Cooking Channel New York City Wine & Food Festival | Getty Images


History Of Drug Use

When she left school, Goldberg ended up on the streets and began experimenting with various drugs.  The actress admitted she was an addict and revealed that the more often she did drugs, the less she felt which pushed her to keep experimenting. 

She went on to say it took her "many, many tries" to beat her addiction. While she now says she is clean, she still uses Marijuana and urges New Jersey lawmakers to legalize the drug.

"I am known as an outspoken proponent for legalization, a position that stems from the fact that I have been a marijuana user since my youth, when I discovered it was the only medicine that could relieve my crippling menstrual cramps without crippling the rest of my life," she wrote in an op-ed for


Whoopi Goldberg at Brock Collection during New York Fashion Week | Getty Images

Scared of Flying

Whoopi has famously avoided flying as much as possible. Her fear stems from the traumatic moment she witnessed a mid-air collision between two airplanes.


She revealed she cannot seem to forget the moment. Finally, she was forced to face her fears even though her first flight had been extremely uncomfortable.

"They dangled a [check] in front of me," she said with a laugh. "But I got really nervous and started sweating a few days before." 

Whoopi Goldberg at the Lincoln Center Fashion Gala | Getty Images


Deteriorating Eyesight

One of Whoopi's most prominent features is her circle-rimmed glasses perched on her face. However, those are there for more than appearances.

Goldberg's eyesight is actually deteriorating as the years pass. She revealed during an episode of "The View" that she is not even allowed to drive anymore because of her eyesight. 

Whoopi Goldberg attends the world premiere of 'Nobody's Fool' | Getty Images


Life-Threatening Illness

After getting the common cold in the fall of 2018, Goldberg expected to recover soon. However, she got progressively worse and was admitted to hospital months later.

She was diagnosed with sepsis and pneumonia in both lungs. She revealed that doctors told her she had a 30 percent chance of not making it.

"The doctor told me, 'Listen, you're not going anywhere tomorrow and you're not going anywhere next week because you are really sick," she said.

Whoopi Goldberg attends "The Dark Tower" special screening at the Museum of Modern Art | Shutterstock

Luckily, the actress made a full recovery after having her lungs drained twice. She was discharged from hospital and revealed that even though she isn't doing "half of the stuff" she used to, she is feeling much stronger.

"The crazy thing is people don't take this seriously. They don't take pneumonia seriously, and you have to," Whoopi said.