Singer, songwriter, actress, and activist. Born Cynthia Ann Stephanie Lauper on June 22, 1953, in Brooklyn, New York. With her unique style and distinctive voice, Cyndi Lauper has emerged as one of pop music’s most unusual and enduring performers. She became one of the top pop stars of the 1980s and has continued to pursue her creative passions ever since.
Growing up, Lauper felt like an outcast. Her parents divorced when she was five. Lauper and her two siblings were raised by her mother, who worked as a waitress to support the family. She did not do well in school, and was reportedly kicked out of several parochial schools in her youth. Despite her hard times, she discovered a love of singing at an early age and was writing her own songs by the age of 12.
After eventually getting a high school equivalency degree, Lauper worked a number of odd jobs before her music career took off. She waitressed, served as an office assistant, and even sang in a Japanese restaurant for a time. During this time, Lauper also played in a number of bands. She had her first taste of success with the band Blue Angel, which landed a record deal. The group made one record together before splitting up.
Going solo, Lauper burst onto the charts with her debut album, She’s So Unusual. With her eclectic clothes, flamboyantly styled hair, and contagious pop melodies, Lauper took the music world by surprise. The 1983 recording sold almost 5 million copies and featured her first hit, “Girls Just Want to Have Fun.” The song became a female party anthem, and the video for it went into heavy rotation on MTV. Lauper became wildly popular almost overnight, scoring a string of hits that included the ballads “Time After After” and “All Through the Night.” She was further rewarded for her work when she won the 1984 Grammy Award for Best New Artist.
Her 1986 follow-up album, True Colors, sold nearly 1 million copies. Sales for her subsequent recordings, however, began to drop off. Exploring new creative avenues, Lauper made her film debut in 1988 starring opposite Jeff Goldblum in Vibes. The movie performed poorly in both the commercial and critical realms. She had much better luck on the small screen with a recurring role on the sitcom Mad About You, which starred Helen Hunt and Paul Reiser. In 1995, Lauper won an Emmy for her work on the series. She later appeared on such shows as That’s So Raven and Bones.
Lauper never abandoned music, however. While not a commercial success, Hat Full of Stars (1993) was an artistic achievement for her. The album was widely praised by critics for the songs, which took on difficult topics such as domestic abuse and homophobia. In subsequent albums, Lauper continued to write about social and political issues, and to explore different styles of music. Her most recent album, Memphis Blues (2010), featured her take on several classic blues songs.
Outside of music, Lauper has been a tireless activist for the gay rights movement. “Civil rights have to be afforded to every American, no matter what their color, gender or sexual preference. You can’t say this is a democracy if that isn’t the case,” she told WWD. She helped establish the True Colors Fund, which works to promote awareness and fight for equality. On the fund’s website, Lauper writes “Everyone—whether straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender—should be allowed to show their true colors, and be accepted and loved for who they are. Every American should be guaranteed equal treatment at school, at work, in their relationships, in service of their country . . . and in every part of their lives.” In addition to touring to raise money for the fund, Lauper competed on the reality show The Celebrity Apprentice to help out her charity.
Lauper has been married to actor David Thornton since 1991. The couple has a son, Declyn, together.