EXCLUSIVE Cher, 77, reveals how her 37-year-old boyfriend Alexander Edwards’s diamond-studded teeth led to their romance, the huge diamond ring that sealed their relationship… and her secrets to staying young
Since finding fame as a teenager she has rarely been out of the public eye. The multi-award-winning singer, actress and all-time icon opens up to Joanne Hegarty about her extraordinary life, loves and legacy
When I arrive to meet Cher at her suite in the opulent Peninsula Paris hotel it is humming with her vast entourage: PR teams, record-company executives, make-up artists – even assistants to put on her wigs.
The night before at an industry event to hear her new Christmas album, she introduced her boyfriend of a year, Alexander Edwards, a music executive four decades her junior, to the small crowd. She explained he had produced one track on the album and how thrilled she was with all the songs.
Cher says: ‘Alexander gave me this [points to a triangle-shaped diamond ring on her middle finger]. We are not gonna be married, but he gave me this ring to show how he feels about me.’
Cher onstage at the Soul Together benefit concert for the Martin Luther King Foundation, Madison Square Garden, New York, 1968
The next day when I meet her, Cher is sitting under bright studio lights wearing a flamboyant red wig and a black sparkly trouser suit, and an unexpected exchange tells me straight away that this will be no bland, cold Hollywood interview. ‘I love your trousers! They’re very cool! Who are they by?’ she asks, examining my wide-legged pinstripes. ‘Oh, thank you, these are just from Cos,’ I reply.
‘Cos? What’s Cos?’
Cher wearing a Bob Mackie creation, 1978
Promising I’ll send Cher a link for the trousers, I sit down opposite her.
The first thing to report is that, at 77, Cher doesn’t have a wrinkle on her face. She’s had that ‘good work’ done that very few, very wealthy people manage to pull off. But that’s just one of the secrets of her amazing 60-year career as I discover when I put my questions to her…
Malibu – it’s a wonderful place. I live overlooking the Pacific Ocean and everywhere you look there are views of the sea. It’s a beautiful property. I was very lucky to find it 21 years ago and I built and decorated the entire place from scratch.
What is a normal day like for you?
When I’m at home, I get up early, around 6 or 7am. If Alexander [Cher’s 37-year-old boyfriend] is over, we have a coffee together outside on the veranda. We talk and he entertains me because he’s so funny. Afterwards, I go downstairs and work out because that’s what I have always done. If it’s not a busy work day I go and see friends or invite them over, just regular stuff.
Sonny & Cher, 1967
Who are your closest friends?
There’s Laurie Lynn Stark, co-owner of Chrome Hearts [a luxury Hollywood lifestyle brand], and Loree Rodkin, a jewellery designer, who I’ve known for a million years. My sister Georganne and I have a new friend from Russia, Masha Adonyeva [a businesswoman, philanthropist and art collector]. And of course, I am godmother – and fairy godmother – to so many.
Do you ever do normal things like clothes shopping?
Sometimes, but I’m not the crazy shopping woman I used to be. I got used to dressing down more when I lived in New York. You can wear anything there, nobody cares. Now when I’m just hanging out, I’m a bum in sweatpants.
How do you stay young?
I like life, I am having a good time, I’m very lucky. I don’t really drink and I don’t smoke. My friends are always saying, ‘Cher, you’re a stick-in-the-mud – have a glass of champagne.’ I had two glasses a couple of nights ago because they were teasing me. It was fine, but I don’t particularly like the taste of it. I smoked when I was young but gave it up after I got pregnant with my son and never picked it up again.
Cher in 1965, the year of ‘I Got You Babe’
How did you and Alexander meet?
It was during Paris Fashion Week last year. My Turkish friend Nebie saw his teeth [which are diamond-studded] and said, ‘Cher, go ask him about them.’
I said, ‘No, you ask, Nebie!’
‘No, you ask him, Cher!’
I finally did and said, ‘Beautiful grill you’ve got.’
‘These are my real teeth,’ he replied.
‘Whoah – you’re committed to have them drilled!’ I said.
He got my number from a mutual friend after I left. Then I went to Germany for two weeks and he was texting me the whole time. I like the way he makes me feel. He has so many qualities – he’s intelligent, kind, funny and very talented.
Cher with her boyfriend, music executive Alexander Edwards, earlier this year
What have been your favourite moments in your music career?
Performing our first big song, ‘I Got You Babe’, with Sonny, doing the Sonny & Cher TV show [1971-74] and then I had my own show, Cher, [1975-76]. I really enjoyed doing that.
After Sonny and I broke up in 1975, I wasn’t looking forward to going on the road by myself because I had always been a duo. To be Cher without Sonny seemed impossible. Post Sonny, I got dropped by my manager because I made an album and it wasn’t very good. But later on Rob Dickins of Warner UK picked me up and I made my album Believe, in 1998.
That was a huge turning point in my life. When I was putting my own show and songs together, only then did I begin to feel myself. People used to make fun of how extravagant my performances were, but now everyone is doing it.
What is your career advice for aspiring performers?
Don’t give up. I had so many people telling me every year that I was finished. You just have to keep going. I always think of myself as a bumper car: I’ll hit a wall, but then I’ll back up and go in a different direction. You always have to be prepared to step out of your comfort zone, always, always. I have failed so many times in my life, but I keep going.
Cher with her mother Georgia Holt in 2010; with her children Chaz Bono (right) and Elijah Blue Allman (left), 1980
How did your movie career begin?
While I was doing a play in New York in the early 1980s, Mike Nichols, the film director, came to see a matinee. Later, backstage, he asked if I’d like to make a movie with him and Meryl Streep. It was lucky timing because I had no other work lined up. Silkwood [1983, for which she was Oscar-nominated] happened, and then my movie career slowly took off from there. I made a lifelong friend in Meryl. My other favourite co-stars were Nicolas Cage [Moonstruck, 1987] and Jack Nicholson [The Witches of Eastwick, 1987]. Jack’s wonderful – we’ve been friends for so long and he is always hilarious.
You’ve been both, so – blonde or brunette?
When I was a teenager I couldn’t find any brunette role models. All the Hollywood actresses were blonde. My mother was blonde, my sister was blonde. When I did Mask, the movie , I cut my hair and they made me dye it, which was so dumb. Dying black hair red is not a good thing.
Afterwards, I cut my hair short and dyed it blonde because it was so damaged, and I discovered men were much nicer to you when you were blonde. If you were a brunette and asked for something, they’d say, ‘It’s over there.’ If you were blonde they would say, ‘Oh, let me walk you to where it is.’ Crazy!
What have you learnt from marriage?
Sonny Bono and I were married a long time, but we had quite a strange marriage because it was so integrated with our work. That was rough. It was great while we were working – because I was so much younger than him, I’d always do as I was told. I met him when he was 28 and I was just 16. I mean, that would not be allowed now.
In the beginning, Sonny and I were just roommates. He heard me singing one afternoon when I was making the beds and thought it was the radio. My whole family used to sing songs when we got together. I thought it was what every family did.
He told his boss Phil Spector about me and he asked me to fill in as a background singer. Sonny and I started out performing in awful tacky nightclubs because we couldn’t get any other gigs and we were broke, broke, broke. Took a solid year for us to claw our way up to playing the more prestigious hotel chains like the Fairmont.
From that, we got the Sonny & Cher show. If I hadn’t met Sonny there would never have been a Cher. I was just this young chick with all this insane energy that wasn’t channelled in any direction.
Cher with our writer Joanne Hegarty
Would you marry again?
I don’t think so. Not because I wouldn’t love someone enough – I just don’t think I need to be married. Alexander gave me this [points to a triangle-shaped diamond ring on her middle finger]. We are not gonna be married, but he gave me this ring to show how he feels about me.
Is being rich and famous all it’s cracked up to be?
It’s great, but it’s not everything. It can’t make you happy, but it can make you happier. It makes things exciting. But, you know, I have been very poor and it’s much better not to have to worry about money. I had to worry about money a lot in my career. I left Sonny with nothing and had to start all over again.
Do you ever get tired of being a celebrity?
I’ve been outside when I wasn’t famous, so I do know what it’s like out there. I go where I want to go, but I don’t want to go to that many places now. I don’t go to Hollywood parties any more. I’m not doing the red carpet. Now I just like hanging out with my friends. I work when I do because I still love doing it and I really want people to hear this new album. I was a little worried because I hadn’t sung in ages. The last time was just before Covid.
Your mum [singer-songwriter and actress Georgia Holt] died last year at 96. You must miss her?
Yes, but she was getting really sick and I’m happy she isn’t suffering any more. She had lots of heart problems. We were close, but our relationship went through phases when we weren’t. Never boring. But sometimes it was rough. We both were strong women. She lived down the street from me. I remember one time walking up to her house and seeing her on top of the roof.
I shouted, ‘What are you doing up there?’
She replied, ‘Some shingles [tiles] fell down, so I got a hammer and nails and I’m putting them back up.’
My mum was balls-to-the-wall, really tough, and the most beautiful woman I ever saw. She was great, but she was nuts and she could have a terrible temper. She had a tough upbringing. She didn’t have a mom. Her father was an alcoholic and she lived in Skid Row in LA, a real bottom-of-the-barrel place.
Growing up, I didn’t have a strong sense of self or confidence. I was dyslexic and did badly in school, but she always told me I was special: ‘You have to trust me on this,’ she would say.
Was it difficult growing up without a father figure?
I met my father [truck driver John Sarkisian] when I was 11. It was always myself, my mum and my sister – we were the nucleus. I’m sure it would’ve been better to have had a father figure, but if you don’t have something you don’t know what you’re missing.
Sonny was a great father to my children Chaz [Cher and Sonny’s child, who underwent female-to-male gender transition between 2008 and 2010] and Elijah [Cher’s son with ex-husband, musician Gregg Allman]. And Sonny and I managed to remain friends.
What has motherhood taught you?
That I’m not the only person in the world. I was the centre of my universe, but when Chaz was born in 1969, it was so exciting. I always had someone to play with. We brought her along to the dives we used to perform in when she was just six weeks old. She was my new best friend. I always wanted to be a mother, but nothing prepares you for it. And you never stop worrying about [children], not ever. I mean, my mum was still calling us ‘the kids’ before she died. You always try to be a mother to them, even if they want you to stay out of it. But sometimes you just can’t. They’re still your kids.
Cher’s album Christmas is out now on Warner
CHRISTMAS WITH CHER
Do you cook on the big day?
I don’t cook myself. Usually, whoever is around ends up coming to my house for Christmas and Christmas dinner and we do all the normal things: turkey and mashed potatoes and whatever vegetables. The food is on an island in the kitchen and everyone serves themselves and we are loud and rowdy. Just a regular Christmas. We swap presents – I am a great gift giver. I really think about the person when I’m shopping.
How did you celebrate as a child?
We were poor but my mum was amazing at Christmas. She could really pull it out of the bag. We always had a tree. I was the one who put the tinsel on because I was the only one who could do it – my sister would just plonk it on. Usually, it was just the three of us, sometimes my aunt would join. My mum made the dinner and we opened presents and sang songs.
LIFE OF AN ICON
Cherilyn Sarkisian is born in El Centro, California. Her mother, Georgia Holt, is a former model and retired actress; her father, John Sarkisian, an Armenian-American truck driver. Within ten months her parents are divorced. Cher won’t see her father again until she is 11.
A 16-year-old Cher meets Sonny Bono in a club on Sunset Strip.
The duo begin releasing music as Sonny & Cher. Their debut single ‘I Got You Babe’ goes to number one in both the US and the UK. They go on to chart five songs in the top 50 at the same time, an achievement equalled only by Elvis Presley and the Beatles.
Cher gives birth to her first child, Chaz Bono. Her second, Elijah Blue Allman, is born seven years later.
The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour premieres. The Emmy-award-winning show is watched by more than 30 million viewers across its three-year run. It wraps in 1974 with the couple’s divorce. That same year, Cher becomes the first female singer in the US to have four number ones when ‘Dark Lady’ hits the top.
Cher receives an Oscar nomination for her role in Silkwood alongside Meryl Streep.
Wins the Best Actress Oscar for Moonstruck and now commands $1 million per film.
The dance-pop album Believe is released. The title track tops the charts in 23 countries, becoming the biggest-selling single ever by a female artist in the UK.
She stars in Burlesque opposite fellow pop-diva Christina Aguilera. ‘You Haven’t Seen the Last of Me’ sees her become the only artist with number-one singles in six consecutive decades.
Appears in Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again.
Cher releases her first festive album, Christmas, with guests including Stevie Wonder, Tyga and Cyndi Lauper.
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