The Agonizing Tales of Cyndi Lauper’s Life Before Stardom

Cyndi Lauper is an American pop-culture icon. Her hits “Girls Just Want To Have Fun,” “True Colors,” and “Time After Time” send us on a trip down memory lane, remembering the best of what the music industry had to offer back in the 1980s. However, every singer has a backstory we don’t typically see.

Cyndi Lauper / Cyndi Lauper with Dick Clark and Little Richard / David Thornton and Cyndi Lauper /Cyndi Lauper
Source: Getty Images

Cyndi Lauper bopped her way to the top through her musical stylings over the years. She has created anthems that we know and love, even all these years later. Little did we know, Cyndi Lauper dealt with struggles in life that the public never learned about… that is, until now.

She’s So Unusual

Cyndi Lauper is unique and brought something fresh to the music world. She was inspired by the punk scene in New York City, dressing in a style that could be defined as funky and dying her hair bright colors. Naturally, her debut album had a title that wasn’t too far from this – it was named She’s So Unusual.

Cyndi Lauper poses on a stoop in a crazy pose and colorful clothing.
Photo by Terry Lott/Sony Music Archive/Getty Images

Lauper has created some of the biggest “bops” in music history. She’s creative enough to land one of the highest honors in the music world; in 1985, she won the Grammy award for Best New Artist! This is an honor for any musician, but it must have been extra special coming to someone so new in the industry.

How Old Is Cyndi Lauper?

Today, the pop star is well into her 60s – she’s 67 years old, to be exact. When she began her ascent to fame and fortune, she was just about 30 years old. She wasn’t necessarily a teenager as her songs might have suggested she was, but that doesn’t mean her youth has disappeared.

Cyndi Lauper attends the 60th Annual GRAMMY Awards.
Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images

Her age isn’t necessary in telling her story today, but it can be helpful in proving how Cyndi Lauper impacted the world of music. In her years of experience in the music industry, she has managed to get her albums onto Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time list. Lauper is also number 58 on VH1’s list of the 100 Greatest Women of Rock & Roll.

Fame and Fortune Have Their Costs

Cyndi Lauper shook the world and the music industry with her unique sense of style, in both her records and her unique sense of style. However, her success came after years of suffering and struggling to get to where she wanted to be in life. She had to overcome so much before she became the Cyndi Lauper we know and love.

Cyndi Lauper is performing on stage.
Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Her performance ability has proven that no amount of heartache and tragedy can trump her amazing musical skills. Unfortunately, she had to deal with a fair amount of hardship because fame and fortune often have their costs. When you hear what she had to overcome, you’ll be shocked!

Traumatic Childhood Experiences

So many artists have channeled their struggles throughout life into their work. Cyndi Lauper is no different. She has been through the wringer, and she has certainly overcome so much in the pursuit of a happy, healthy life. Everything traces back to a childhood experience in which she was yelled at by a nun.

Lauper as a little girl.
Source: Pinterest

In Boze Hadleigh’s Inside the Hollywood Closet, she described an experience she had with a nun that left a bad taste in her mouth. When Lauper was nine years old, she was scratching a friend’s back when a nun ran in and threw her down and practically assaulted her for doing so.

A Nun Beat Her

According to Lauper, “a nun ran in, ripped [me] off her back, threw [me] against the lockers, beat the s**t out of [me], and called me a lesbian.” That is beyond harsh for anyone to do, let alone a nun to a young girl! Things didn’t seem to get much better later in her childhood…

Cyndi is standing on her front lawn in a pink graduation gown.
Source: Reddit

Lauper seemed to have a bunch of problems with people her age as a child, getting pretty terrible treatment from her fellow classmates. She told The Times, “When I was a kid, I dressed differently, so people threw rocks at me.” Doesn’t that just break your heart?

Turbulent Home Life

Lauper’s home life was pretty turbulent as well. Cyndi and her family lived in Ozone Park, Queens, a relatively working-class neighborhood in one of New York City’s five boroughs. According to WE TV, her father left their family when she was ten, opening the door for another toxic man to enter her family’s space.

Cyndi as a little girl, receives a kiss from her mother.
Source: Pinterest

After her father left the family, her mother remarried a man who was a “violent bully,” or at least that’s how they described him to The Mirror. He threatened Cyndi and her sister in ways that no one should ever, especially a fully-grown adult male to young, vulnerable girls.

Her Stepfather Made Disgusting Threats

In her book Cyndi Lauper: A Memoir, the author (the artist herself) opened up about the abuses she experienced at the hands of her new stepfather. She revealed that her stepfather would continually threaten to sexually assault her and her sister. That is not something to be taken lightly, ever.

Cyndi Lauper and her sister on the front steps of their home.
Source: Twitter

Though she didn’t divulge if he did end up committing any horrendous acts against her and her sister, she admitted to something quite creepy that he did. After making his threats, he secretly watched Lauper take a bath. After that, she left home for good at just 17 years old.

She Struggled Financially When She First Left Home

So many people, like me, struggle when they first live on their own. In Cyndi Lauper’s case, things were different because she left home at just 17 years old. She left to escape a dangerous stepfather and continued to struggle to live independently. Things were tough while she found her footing.

A photo of teenage Lauper.
Source: Twitter

She worked a series of odd jobs, all of which were low paying. Even then, she still struggled to find the money to feed herself every day. She recalled an instance in which her boyfriend hunted and shot a squirrel, which Lauper cooked and ate as a meal.

Something Unplanned

Around the same time, Lauper found herself pregnant. She wanted to keep the baby, but her boyfriend at the time did not. As a result, she found herself terminating the pregnancy. Even if it wasn’t what she wanted to do, she knew it was the right call.

Studio portrait of American pop singer Cyndi Lauper lying on her stomach.
Photo by American Stock/Getty Images

Lauper later opened up to HuffPost about her experiences with such a sensitive subject in her life. “Nobody wants to run in and do that. It’s just that I didn’t want to have a kid that I love to come into the world and not be able to share the kid with a dad.”

Uncomfortable Situations While Hitchhiking

During this period of her life, Lauper relied on hitchhiking to get around. This often put her into uncomfortable situations with some of society’s grossest individuals, who often tried to take advantage of her. One even forced her to perform a sexual act on him.

Cyndi Lauper looks at her reflection in a car side mirror.
Source: Reddit

“I just wanted to be able to live through it, get to the other side of it.” She also noted another occasion in which she was assaulted by a bandmate and two accomplices. She had been through so much trauma in such a short period of time, all at the hands of some of society’s biggest lowlifes.

Pushing Through Trauma

“A lot of times, I couldn’t take it anymore, so I just lay in bed all the time,” she wrote in her memoir. “When I really couldn’t deal with anything, I used to get the shakes, just complete anxiety attacks.” Imagine going through a series of traumas like that and expecting life to go on as usual? I could never.

Lauper stands with her arms stretched out.
Photo by Barry King/WireImage/Getty Images

Say what you want to about her style and performances, but she has truly overcome so much in order to become a successful artist. She pushed through the pain and trauma to become one of today’s biggest stars, and I am so happy to see how successful she became despite her troubling past.

She Kept Losing Her Voice

Nearly a decade before she was propelled to international fame and fortune, Cyndi Lauper found herself in a situation where her career path might need to change. Could you imagine a music world without timeless classics like “Time After Time” and “Change of Heart?”

Cyndi Lauper performs on stage.
Photo by L. Cohen/WireImage/Getty Images

According to Stuff, Lauper was in the middle of performing the song “I’ve Got the Music in Me” by Kiki Dee one evening in 1974, and her voice just stopped working. Her voice came back a little while later, allowing her to continue performing. It didn’t take long for her to realize that this was more than just a dry throat.

It Was More Than a Sore Throat

Her voice came back, and she was able to keep performing, including some time with a Janis Joplin tribute band. Maybe her vocal cords had enough – or rather, they clearly had enough, because, in 1977, her voice disappeared again. Doctors realized that this was more than just a sore throat.

Photo of Cyndi Lauper.
Photo by Sherry Rayn Barnett/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Doctors discovered that she was suffering from a collapsed vocal cord. That must have been next-level painful! Afterward, she was temporarily replaced in her cover band. She used the time off to recover with a vocal coach, Katie Agresta, who helped her find the voice she was always missing.

She Worked With a Vocal Coach to Repair Her Voice

Working with her vocal coach did wonders for Lauper and her musical abilities. Agresta helped Lauper heal her vocal cords and helped her learn new techniques to avoid the same accident from happening once again. It sounds like Katie Agresta was Cyndi Lauper’s guardian angel!

Cyndi poses as she sits on a small couch.
Photo by Rob Verhorst/Redferns/Getty Images

Agresta was also instrumental in helping Lauper find the musical style that was the best fit. She helped Lauper find her perfect genre fit; no, it wasn’t hard rock as she might have thought. She was born to be a pop star! In her memoir, Lauper wrote, “[I realized] what I was aching for — to sing my own songs, in my own voice, in my own style, that I made up myself.”

Part of a Team

Choosing to be part of a team is a big commitment. Her first album, She’s So Unusual, was not her first stab at releasing music commercially. She was part of a band called Blue Angel.

Posed shot of the band Blue Angel featuring Cyndi Lauper.
Photo by Richard E. Aaron/Redferns/Getty Images

Blue Angel released their self-titled album in 1980. The band combined new wave with a ’60s style of music, but their sound was reported to be “too much.” The manager of the Allman Brothers Band managed to get his hands on their early demo tape and boy did he have his opinions on it.

“There Was Something About the Singer’s Voice…”

“The playing was bad. There was something interesting about the singer’s voice, but that was all,” Steve Massarsky told Rolling Stone after receiving Blue Angel’s Demo. He was so taken by her voice that he bought Lauper out of her contract from her manager and set up a showcase for the band with record company representatives to be present.

Johnny Morelli, John Turi, Cyndi Lauper, Lee Brovitz, and Arthur Neilson of Blue Angel.
Photo by Rob Verhorst/Redferns/Getty Images

When the record company executives came for the show, they had a similar outlook to Massarsky – Lauper was clearly leading the pack, and it was time to let her shine on her own. Even after praising her performance, Lauper still refused to go solo. She turned down some notable opportunities…

Massarsky Sued Cyndi Lauper

Lauper refused to go solo for quite some time; she even turned down the opportunity to record her own song. She was asked to record a song for the Meat Loaf movie, Roadie, in conjunction with a disco legend, Giorgio Moroder. Since she refused, the label decided to give Blue Angel a shot.

Cyndi Lauper and Blue Angel Performing.
Photo by Susan Phillips/Corbis/VCG/Getty Images

They failed, pretty miserably. The album was a flop, and the band reportedly fired Massarsky as their manager. He turned around and sued Lauper for $80,000. Unfortunately for her, she could not afford to pay him nor to fight the case, so she ended up filing for bankruptcy.

Continued Health Problems

Cyndi Lauper suffered yet another vocal cord issue. This time, it was a cyst on her vocal cord. She was free of the band after they flopped, and she was heading in a positive direction. She would overcome all these things and soon launch into a career that would soar… though not so quickly.

Cindi Lauper is sitting in a hotel room.
Photo by Koh Hasebe/Shinko Music/Getty Images

The cyst caused her to lose her voice again, forcing her to deal with the very real possibility that she might not be able to pursue a career as a singer. Fortunately, she recovered from surgery and was soon back into singing, though she questioned everything she knew and loved to do.

Straight to the Top

Did you know that Cyndi Lauper’s first album – that’s right, her solo debut – sent four singles to Billboard’s Hot 100’s Top 5? How cool is that to become so successful so quickly? Some of Lauper’s greatest hits were on that first album, and she was over the moon.

Cyndi Lauper gets down on her knees as she sings her heart out on stage.
Photo by Jim Steinfeldt/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Some of these hits included “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” and “Time After Time.” No surprise that she was sent into stardom after those timeless hits. As the 1980s progressed, Lauper continued to shake the music industry with her big hits like “True Colors” and “I Drove All Night.”

The Last Top 40 Hit

“I Drove All Night” only reached the number six spot on the charts. Her 1989 hit was the last of Lauper’s songs to make the top 40 list, even today. She went through a period of success, but unfortunately, we know that doesn’t always last forever. After this, her career, unfortunately, headed downhill.

Cyndi Lauper performs live on stage in Los Angeles in 1984.
Photo by Richard E. Aaron/Redferns/Getty Images

Both of her early albums, She’s So Unusual and True Colors, were certified as multi-platinum. You’d think that accomplishment would make her feel like a million bucks, but unfortunately, her next album, A Night to Remember, was described by The New York Times as “lackluster.”

She Found Herself Sinking Emotionally

Not long after her third album was seen as only “so-so,” she dealt with a rough break-up with a boyfriend and with her manager. She had parted ways with her manager David Wolff and was concerned about every part of her life. She was feeling low and out of options.

Cyndi Lauper and David Wolff during American Bandstand's 35th Anniversary Celebration.
Photo by Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection/Getty Images

Lauper found herself living in a hotel in New York, struggling to get by and even struggling to make it to the next day. She was emotionally drained and abusing substances like it was her job. She found herself questioning if it was all worth it and if she should even continue living.

“I Thought the Sadness Would Never Go Away”

That’s right – Cyndi Lauper found herself at the end of the road, considering suicide. To start, that’s heartbreaking, and I’m happy she continued to live. She was emotionally drained and felt that she was out of options. “I had come so far but felt like I had failed,” she wrote in her memoir.

Cyndi Lauper sits on the floor of her hotel room.
Photo by Koh Hasebe/Shinko Music/Getty Images

“I would go to the studio and then sit in my darkroom and drink vodka. I had to spend most of my time alone. I was grieving. I thought the sadness would never go away.” She struggled through the hardest point in her life and ultimately prevailed. Her own song helped get her through.

She Considered Suicide

Her song, the famous hit “Girls Just Want To Have Fun,” got her to pull herself up by her bootstraps and continue living. “The only thing that always prevented me from suicide is that I never wanted a headline to read, ‘Girl who wanted to have fun just didn’t.'”

Cindi Lauper sits alone at an outdoor café.
Photo by Koh Hasebe/Shinko Music/Getty Images

Unfortunately, what Cyndi felt is all too common, though it is important to remember that suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. Things will get better. If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or text HOME to the Crisis Text Line at 741741.

She Suffered From Psoriasis

Psoriasis is a disease that typically results in “red, itchy, scaly patches on the scalp, elbows, knees, and midsection,” according to the Mayo Clinic. This disease is far more than just some itchy skin – which is clearly uncomfortable in its own way. It goes much, much further than that.

Cindy Lauper performs during the True Colors Tour.
Photo by Gie Knaeps/Getty Images

Cyndi Lauper first started getting pains on her scalp when she was on tour. She had no doubt that it might be connected to how often she was dying her hair, and she didn’t quite see it as a big threat just yet. Little did she know, it would end up spreading throughout her body, becoming a huge problem for her.

The Rash Spread Throughout Her Body

After a doctor diagnosed her with psoriasis, everything on her scalp began to peel and transition into a flakey scalp, then a rash. Things got even more painful for the singer when this rash spread to the rest of her body. She was in pain, and she was terrified.

Cyndi Lauper, circa 1985.
Photo by Dave Hogan/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

In 2015, she opened up about the experience when she told the National Psoriasis Foundation that she had full-body psoriasis. Her experience was so painful; she would be bedridden for days. “I had to work. So, I stopped that; this was the heartbreak.”

The Problem With the Tour

Lauper was set to head on tour with another well-known musician, Cher. Everything on her body became inflamed: her arms, legs, stomach, everything that would have been exposed in her outfits while on stage. Everything needed to be covered with makeup. Everything needed to be covered.

Cyndi Lauper and Cher during 1987 MTV Video Music Awards.
Photo by Barry King/WireImage/Getty Images

She needed to soothe her ailments the best that she could. She tried to use coffee enemas which were helpful in soothing her skin but less than helpful for her voice. When she finally found a treatment that worked for her, it curbed her body’s immunity.

Overcoming the Pain and Pushing Through It All

“I’m not talking about it because I feel sorry for myself,” Lauper divulged about her experiences battling psoriasis. “I’m talking about it because no one talks about it … and a lot of times you feel alone. I know I felt alone.” That sounds like a strong woman to me!

Cyndi Lauper performs on stage.
Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

She has been outspoken about her battles with the skin condition and has overcome being constantly told by doctors that she would not be able to sing again based on what her vocal cords had been through. She overcame all the pain and learned how to move forward with her ailments while still performing.

Is Cyndi Lauper Married?

Cyndi Lauper is indeed married! She has been married for nearly 30 years, after tying the knot with actor David Thornton in 1991. Thornton has appeared in some notable films and television shows, like Law & Order, The Notebook, and The Other Woman, among other roles.

David Thornton and Cyndi Lauper attend the premiere of ''Here & There''.
Photo by Donna Ward/Getty Images

These two are married, and they have a child together. Declyn Wallace Thornton Lauper was born to his famous parents on November 19th, 1997, in New York City. Their young son isn’t such a little kid anymore; he is now in his twenties and goes by the stage name Dex Lauper. He is credited as a rapper, producer, and songwriter.

She Has Suffered Loss in Adulthood

Did you know that Cyndi Lauper lost an uncle in the tragic storm, Hurricane Sandy? The singer was born and raised in Queens, New York, and much like true New Yorkers, some of her family members remained there until their dying days. Her uncle, George Stathis, fell victim to the terrifying storm.

A photo of George Stathis.
Source: Reddit

Lauper’s uncle George remained in his neighborhood in Rockaway Park for decades. It was his home; it was where he was most comfortable. He was met with an untimely fate when he chose to remain at home when a storm ravaged the east coast, particularly hitting the coastal areas of New York.

Her Uncle George Died in Hurricane Sandy

Lauper opened up about her uncle’s death while performing at a benefit concert for victims of the storm. “He was old. He didn’t want to leave his house,” she said. The musician was in Chicago at the time of the storm and reached out to relatives to find out why they didn’t try to remove him from his home for safety.

Cyndi Lauper sits on a large speaker during a performance.
Photo by Derek Storm/FilmMagic/Gtty Images

Her relatives explained that they did not remove the 90-year-old Stathis from his home because they “didn’t think it was going to get that bad.” Stathis was one of more than 100 people who died as a result of the hurricane, more than half of whom were of retirement age or older, including Cyndi’s uncle George.

The Making of Kinky Boots

In the 2010s decade, Cyndi Lauper channeled her talents into something she had not done before. She used her skills as a talented musician to launch her career as a composer and songwriter for a Broadway show! Theater icon Harvey Fierstein wrote the story, while Lauper gave it a voice.

Harvey Fierstein, Jerry Mitchell, and Cyndi Lauper celebrate the L.A. premiere Of
Photo by Chelsea Lauren/Getty Images

She composed the music and lyrics for the Broadway musical Kinky Boots! This show was about a drag queen who triumphantly saves a shoe factory at risk of falling into shambles. Their solution? The factory would make over-the-top high-heeled boots! The musical was based on a film from 2005 by the same name.

Cyndi, the Composer

Her musical stylings decorated the Broadway stage with her unique sound. No, she wasn’t the one responsible for singing everything, but they did sing her songs, which she must have practiced to a certain extent on her own. The musical took a test run in 2012 in Chicago before moving to New York.

Cyndi holds up her Tony Award in the Winners' Room.
Photo by Jemal Countess/Getty Images

The musical really took off! The show opened on Broadway in 2013 and ran for six years, which is pretty lengthy in the world of theater. Lauper even took home a coveted Tony award for best original score. That’s one way of knowing you’ve really made it big in the theater world!

The Broadway Lawsuit

While most of the world was happy to see Cyndi Lauper’s triumphant return to the world of entertainment, there were some people who were less than thrilled with her successes and saw it as an opportunity to pounce on the 1980’s queen of pop.

Harvey Fierstein and musician Cyndi Lauper speak during the Celebration of Broadway's New Hit
Photo by Jemal Countess/WireImage/Getty Images

According to Courthouse News Service, two one-hit wonders from the ’80s decided to test their luck with a lawsuit against Lauper. Benny Mardones and his songwriting partner, Robert Tepper, filed a federal lawsuit against Lauper, alleging that she stole parts of Mardones’ only hit in her Kinky Boots songs.

Tepper and Mardones Alleged She Stole Parts of Their Song

Having not found nearly as much success as Lauper, you can see how Benny Mardones would be upset by her. He and Tepper alleged that she stole parts of his song “Into the Night” for the Kinky Boots hit song, “Raise You Up.” Their allegations got a little weird and sticky later on.

Cyndi Lauper speaks during
Photo by Desiree Navarro/WireImage/Getty Images

Tepper and Mardones claimed that “both the notes and the words surrounding the ‘raise you up’ refrain” were excerpts from the “pick you up” section of “Into the Night,” and that the two songs have the “exact same progression of tones and rhythm.” The three settled the case two years later.

Little Richard Performed at Her Wedding

When Cyndi Lauper married her husband, David Thornton, the two wanted to kick their wedding festivities off in the best way possible. They had a special friend of theirs perform at the wedding, one who was all the rage in the American music industry in the early 1990s.

Cyndi Lauper with Dick Clark and Little Richard.
Photo by Bettmann/Getty Images

Little Richard performed at their wedding! Not only did he perform at their wedding, but he was the officiant of the ceremony. He tripped on his way to the podium, and the crowd laughed. He responded to their laughter with, “Shuuurt-up.” After the wedding, he told her new husband, “Boy, you’d better be good to her…”

Other Weddings Officiated by Little Richard

The first wedding officiated by the musical legend was Steven Van Zandt’s to his wife, Maureen. Later, Little Richard officiated Cyndi Lauper and David Thornton’s wedding (as we now know), and even Tom Petty’s wedding to Dana York in June 2001.

Little Richard is officiating Tom Petty’s wedding.
Source: Twitter

Although the late musician isn’t here to explain why he wanted to be a wedding officiant, his infectious energy helped sow the seeds of a series of happy and healthy marriages. As someone who clearly wanted to see everyone happy, Little Richard gave a number of famous couples a memorable ceremony of vows!

True Colors Residence

Cyndi Lauper used her successes for good when she founded the True Colors Residence (TCR) as part of the West End Residences project. TCR became the first permanent supportive residence for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBTQ+) youth, who often experience homelessness after coming out.

Lauper rides in a car during the San Francisco Pride Parade.
Photo by David Paul Morris/Getty Images

This came about as a result of Lauper and her manager looking to find a solution to help LGBT homeless youth in New York City. Her manager, Lisa Barbaris, is a longtime volunteer for the West End Residences. The two, along with the director of the West End Residences, Colleen Jackson, realized that there was a simple solution: permanent housing.

True Colors Residences and Their Local Impact

Priscilla Rumnit, one of the building’s tenants, shared her reaction to the center’s creation. “I’m lost for words; I’m so happy right now; I’m just so excited for this place. Here, I know that I’m safe.” Lauper has been a gay rights activist for years and was happy to use her influence to create something to help those in need.

Lauper holds up a sign in support of homeless youth.
Source: True Colors United

“I believe a strong society is an inclusive society. If we want to win big, then we’d better include everybody because we need everybody,” Lauper said at the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new organization. True Colors Residences has been offering a safe haven to homeless LGBT youth since 2011.

Where Is She Now?

Cyndi Lauper is sailing into the sunset of her life with her husband and son. Though both are working, the family remains as close as they can be. In 2018, she sold her Stamford, Connecticut home for $800,000, which is way less than you’d expect for an artist of her seniority. However, money doesn’t buy happiness!

Cyndi Lauper and Billy Porter perform live from Times Square during 2021 New Year’s Eve celebrations.
Photo by Gary Hershorn-Pool/Getty Images

Recently, it seems that she has been lying low and out of the public eye. She made an incredibly strange performance on New Year’s Eve after she took the stage with Billy Porter for a duet of her hit, “True Colors.” She gave an EDM performance with a DJ that was truly on-brand for the mess of 2020!