After a winning streak on Star Search
, this tomboyish stand-up brought her brazen attitude and Long Island accent to a bunch of TV series and films, usually portraying a big-hearted, acid-tongued second banana. Highlights of her early work included a one-year stint on Gimme a Break!
, A League of Their Own
, Sleepless in Seattle, The Flintstones
and her Broadway debut in a revival of Grease.
In the mid 1990s, she made a decision that would change her career: tired of working long hours on movies and anxious to spend more time with her son, O'Donnell launched her own eponymous daytime talk show in 1996. An instant hit, the series cast the formerly brash comedian in a new role, that of Rosie "The Queen of Nice" — a show-tune-singing, Tom Cruise-loving, down-to-earth everywoman, who effortlessly connected with folk across America. During her tenure, she won a bunch of Daytime Emmys, hosted a number of award shows (the Tonys, the Grammys) and launched a magazine. But 2002 marked another change in trajectory for the star who, after years of speculation about her sexual orientation, officially came out as a lesbian. Soon after, she resigned from both her magazine and TV show to spend more time with her partner, Kelli Carpenter, and their ever-growing family. In 2004, in the midst of the ongoing debate over legalizing gay marriage, she and Carpenter wed in San Francisco. The couple also founded a gay-family-friendly travel company, which was chronicled in the documentary All Aboard! Rosie's Family Cruise
. In 2006, O'Donnell returned to daytime TV after a four-year hiatus as the most-outspoken member of the chatfest The View
. Although she only stayed with the show for a year, she helped boost ratings with her blunt banter, public feud with Donald Trump and frequent clashes with her conservative cohost Elisabeth Hasselbeck. In May 2007, a particularly heated political debate with Hasselbeck prompted O'Donnell to exit the talk show almost a month earlier than previously announced. That same year she wrote Celebrity Detox: (The Fame Game)
, a memoir that explored her need to step out of the spotlight for a bit. She later stopped blogging, explaining that "it wasn't providing joy," though she did update her Web site to spotlight items of interest to her. By late 2008, she took another stab at TV when she tried to launch a variety show called Rosie Live
, but it proved unsuccessful. In 2009, she announced a setback in her personal life when she shared the news that she and Carpenter were splitting up. She also turned her attention back to hosting a talk show that same year, only this time in a new forum: Rosie Radio
debuted on Sirius XM in November 2009, proving a good chatterbox can remain quiet for only so long.Rosie O'Donnell Fast Facts:
- Named homecoming queen, prom queen, class president and class clown in high school.
- In 1978, at age 16, made her debut as stand-up comic in a neighborhood restaurant; six years later, won Star Search five times. Earned enough in cash prizes to move to Los Angeles.
- Made her Broadway debut in the 1994 revival of Grease.
- Publicly acknowledged being a lesbian in a 2002 interview with Diane Sawyer because she was appalled by a Florida law that prevented gays from adopting children.
- Cofounded Rosie's Broadway Kids, a nonprofit education organization, in 2003.
- In 2006, released an HBO documentary about her travel company's first-ever cruise for gay parents and their families. The film was seen by Barbara Walters, who then asked her to join The View.
- Has written several books, including 2007's Celebrity Detox: (The Fame Game), which focuses on her stepping out of the spotlight of fame.
- In 2007, was ranked No. 18 on Time magazine's Time 100 list of the Top 100 people who were transforming the world.
- Unsuccessfully tried to launch a TV variety show called Rosie Live in 2008.
- Stopped blogging because "it wasn't providing joy," but maintained her Web site to spotlight items of interest.
- Launched Rosie Radio, a radio show on Sirius XM, in 2009.
- Rosie O'Donnell Relationships:
- Kelli Carpenter - Ex-significant Other
- Chelsea Belle O'Donnell - Daughter
- Maureen O'Donnell - Sister
- Blake Christopher O'Donnell - Son
- Daniel O'Donnell - Brother
- Roseann O'Donnell - Mother
- Edward O'Donnell - Father
- Parker Jaren O'Donnell - Son
- Vivienne Rose O'Donnell - Daughter
- Edward O'Donnell - Brother
- Timothy O'Donnell - Brother
- Tracy Kachtick-Anders - Ex-significant Other
- Dakota - Daughter
- Michelle Rounds - Wife
- Rosie O'Donnell Awards:
- 1996 Emmy: Outstanding Guest Actress for a Comedy Series - Nominee
- 1999 Emmy: Outstanding Variety, Music or Comedy Special - Winner
- 1995 Emmy: Outstanding Individual Performance in a Variety or Music Program - Nominee
- 1999 Emmy: Outstanding Children's Program - Nominee
- 2006 Emmy: Outstanding Nonfiction Special - Nominee
- Attended Dickinson College, Carlisle, PA; attended Boston University, Boston, MA