I still haven’t recovered from hearing a story Cher told the audience on a New Jersey stop of her Here We Go Again tour (while wearing a Carrot Top wig and a sexy gladiator costume because of course): On her 40th birthday, Witches of Eastwick director George Miller called her to say he and Jack Nicholson didn’t want her in the movie because she was “too old” and “not sexy.” Though devastated, Cher’s response was true to form: “Okay, motherf*cker,” she said. “You didn’t find me under a rock, okay?” Cliii-ick!
What I recognized most in her voice, though, is how humble she sounds. Proud and confident, yes, but with the lack of pretension that you can only have when you’ve persevered through countless obstacles. So today, on Cher’s 73rd birthday, it’s high time she be honored for being a pioneer of female strength. That story she told is one about demanding your worth and asserting your worth—like by clawing yourself out of debt via a Late Show with David Letterman appearance because you are worth the $28,000 the show agreed to pay you to do it. Cher, man.
I grew up in a time when Cher was an untouchable, bedazzled, belly-button flaunting, Bob Mackie-wearing icon. She felt omnipotent and ever-present—a unicorn thriving in an industry where the marriage of ageism and sexism can kick you out at any minute. But there’s actually an everywoman quality Cher emanates that we can all soak in. I’ve been listening Cher’s Dancing Queen album on my daily commute, and those ABBA covers remind me to approach each workday with Big Cher Energy—specifically the following four tenets of it.
Big Cher Energy rule 1: Take personal and professional risks
Cher left one of the most iconic pop-culture partnerships of all time, and it was not easy. Between “I Got You Babe” and the Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour, that couple’s star-quality chemistry was indisputable. The union may well have kicked off her career, but Cher was neither content to be one half of an ampersand or to be controlled and taken advantage of financially. In her late twenties, Cher filed for divorce from Sonny Bono. “He was crushed because he wasn’t going to be Sonny of Sonny and Cher anymore,” she told journalist Benjamin Svetkey in 1999. “That’s what hurt him. That’s what really hurt him, and that was sad because he loved it more than I did, really, but he wouldn’t give me my freedom.”
Cher taught us that formative relationships aren’t necessarily ones that should bind us eternally.
There it is: Cher teaching us that formative relationships aren’t necessarily ones that should bind us eternally. All of us should note that bravery when we’re feeling skittish about any unfulfilling situation. I wish I thought about this when ruminating about quitting my last job. I was afraid that leaving a toxic work environment might look bad on my résumé and stagnate my career…but, like, Cher left Sonny. And blossomed from it. “The thing that scared me most in my life was leaving Sonny, and after I left him nothing ever really frightened me that much again,” she said in a 1985 interview. “I did the thing that scared me the most, and after you do the thing that scares you the most, there’s nothing else.”
Big Cher Energy rule 2: Ignore the haters
Doubting your ability to make a career change and thrive? Let’s talk about how Cher tried transitioned to film. When Cher, her sister and brother-in-law watched the trailer for Silkwood in a movie theater, the audience straight-up laughed when Cher’s name ran across the screen. “It was very difficult, because I had forgotten, you know, I had forgotten that I wasn’t a movie star,” she said of that time period. Cue the sad-face emoji.
It’s weird to think that even Cher is vulnerable to the same imposter syndrome as the rest of us mere mortals—but fact remains she’s a red-blooded human, making her triumphs all the more inspiring: Sometimes co-workers or managers or even loved ones can make us feel like a fraud or a laughingstock. Other times, it’s all in our head. For instance, I very quickly went from eating cupcakes for breakfast to working in wellness and trying to nourish myself healthfully; in dark moments, I feel so out of place that I just want to throw down my MacBook, flap my wings, and fly away. That’s a bad mentality to have.
Per Big Cher Energy, let your insecurities fuel you, because now you have something to prove to the most important person in your life: yourself.
Instead, per Big Cher Energy, it’s key to let your insecurities fuel you, because now you have something to prove to the most important person in your life: yourself. Cher, for one, certainly got the last laugh when she won the freaking 1987 Academy Award for Best Actress for her dynamic turn in Moonstruck. All while wearing a black beaded naked dress, because she is perfect.
Big Cher Energy rule 3: Be scrappy and don’t let your low points define you
That David Letterman appearance wasn’t the only creative way Cher’s made bank. Let me point you to that throwaway Cher Horowitz line in Clueless: “Dionne and I were both named after great singers of the past who now do infomercials.” Those Lori Davis hair-care infomercials, by the way, nearly sunk Cher’s whole career! Like, her hair was flawless, but the whole advertising thing was a bad look for her otherwise…and she knew it. “I kind of lost my way,” she said in1993. “I’ve sold my soul…I just don’t want to be a businesswoman who does informercials anymore. It doesn’t feel good.”
In the age of the internet, the things we do to make ends meet can haunt us; I, for instance, can’t run away from the fact that I’ve written no fewer than 43 pieces of content about the Duggar family. Cher has done the same sell-your-soul-for-money moves, and she made sure that the choices never defined her. While the early ’90s were a total bummer for Cher, it was also the decade when she reinvented herself by releasing the most important song of our time, “Believe,” an auto-tuned, high-energy earworm that she released in her fifties. Oh, and don’t even try to get “Believe” unstuck from your head for the next three hours.
Big Cher Energy rule 4: Celebrate your wins
I don’t love Cher because she thrives, but rather because she fails. I love her because it hurts her when people tell her no and she takes the rejections, the heartbreaks, and the misguided risks in stride, rising phoenixesque on her own damn terms, time and time again.
Her Cherness is so thick and powerful that at the Camp-themed 2019 Met Gala she was the surprise guest inside. Decoded, this means the entire Met Gala was a celebration of another four-letter C-word: Cher. And as someone whose biggest fear is being generic and second biggest fear is not being taken seriously, there is nothing more inspiring, because Cher is a fighter and a survivor and a realist who is well aware of the value of a journey over a destination. “Things just didn’t come easily to me,” Cher told People in 2017. “I made lots of mistakes. When I think about my life, it was a really good life. It was hard. It was crazy. And it was laced with amazing and treacherous and sad [things], like everybody’s life.”
So while nobody can be Cher (except Cher), everyone can capture her essence by channeling Big Cher Energy. Be your most fabulous, uncompromising, and courageous, self, who’s perfectly aware of when to say, “f*ck you.”
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