You might call her the unsinkable Marie Osmond — almost 60 years of entertaining and she’s still getting standing ovations. Behind the awards, love from her fans, and global success lies her courage to take on new challenges in her life and career.
Her new album is titled Unexpected, which couldn’t be more appropriate since Osmond is daring to tackle, for example, “Nessun Dorma,” an aria full of high notes that Luciano Pavarotti made famous and that was a hit on the soundtrack of Raging Bull. Marie told me she’s wanted to give opera a try since she pushed her voice to new limits on Broadway in The Sound of Music. “A nun in the chorus told me I had the voice for it,” she remembers.
Don’t expect to hear her brother Donny, though, who rose to fame with her on the Donny and Marie TV series. Marie says that, while they’re still close, they’ve gone in different directions with their music.
Osmond made her debut on stage when she was three, and “Paper Roses” was her first step toward stardom. Along with the good times were some tough ones, but she never gave up or gave in. What’s still unexpected is the collision of her upbeat view of life with her offbeat sense of humor.
Jeanne Wolf: Who helped you keep your fame and success in perspective while you were growing up?
Marie Osmond: I had brilliant parents. My dad wasn’t there to tell us we were great all the time. He would tell us where we needed to improve. And my mother? I remember I was doing Donny and Marie and also going to school. I came home and said, “Mom, I’m so tired. I’m going right to bed.” And she said, “You haven’t done your chores.” I went, “Hey, I’m Marie Osmond. I’m on TV.” And she’s like, “Oh, really? Well, now you’re also cleaning all the toilets. You have to learn that TV is a job and this is reality.”
As a child, I hated change and I was afraid of failure. My mom said, “The only thing consistent in life is change.” That was the greatest thing I learned, not to be afraid of change. It’s more important to teach your child how to fail than how to succeed. If you learn how to fail it becomes seeing where you did something wrong and picking yourself back up and moving on.
I went through a lot of ups and downs personally and professionally, and I’ve shared some of them because I think it may help other people cope, whether you’re in the middle of postpartum depression or your son passes away or you lose all your money and you’re a single mom. But I don’t believe in airing dirty laundry, so I still have a lot of secrets.
JW: Your new album is called Unexpected. Could that be the title for your life story, too?
MO: Well, certainly my life now, happily remarried to my first husband, Steve, who I divorced 25 years ago. He gets me completely. He gets me better than I do, and my children adore him. We just kept running into each other periodically. Starting over again really wasn’t even thought out. It was just one of those little divine miracles. You ask him what makes a healthy marriage, and he’ll say, “Take 25 years off.” He’s very funny. I think humor saves us. You’ve got to laugh about it. Certain things are just truly painful, but I think negativity gets you nowhere.
I’ve had two failed marriages, but I’ve raised eight children. Through all the ups and downs with them, the one thing that I am so happy about is that they’re so different. And if one of them were struggling, I know that any one of the others would be there for them. They love each other that deeply. I believe that the greatest growth in my life came from having children. I had to grow up. My family is my reality. They’re the ones that will be around me when I leave this life. They’re the ones that fill my heart full of joy and love.
JW: Now that they’ve all left home, you’re an empty nester with some time to slow down, but you seem to be running faster than ever.
MO: I honestly feel like I’m speeding up more than I’ve ever sped up. I have surrounded myself with people who are full of joy and light, and I think it shows in your life and your work. I have made sure that my private life is as full and exciting as my career life. I’ve kept pushing myself to learn new things, whether it was writing books or designing dolls, acting or recording new styles of music, like tackling opera. You find passion in who you are, not the celebrity people see.
And you keep learning. I don’t care how long you’ve been in the business. That’s the philosophy I got from some of the great entertainers, like Ann-Margaret, who I absolutely adore; from Bob Hope, who was a great mentor to me; and Lucille Ball, who was one of the hardest-working women I ever met.
I’m in my sixth decade now, and that’s definitely unexpected. Not many women last that long in this business. So my new album is really dedicated to the people who kept me here and made it possible to do all the things that I’ve done. That’s my fans. I love them ferociously.
Featured image: marieosmond.com
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