When Whoopi Goldberg (1950–) hosted the Sixty-sixth Annual Academy Awards telecast on March 21, 1994, she became the first black and the first solo woman ever to host the event. More than one billion people watched the Oscars that year. She followed a long line of comedians, including Bob Hope, Billy Crystal, Johnny Carson, and others who had previously hosted the show, and went on to serve as host three additional times. Born Caryn Johnson in New York City, Goldberg lived with her mother in a housing project in the Chelsea section of Manhattan. She started acting at age eight, having been influenced by established actresses including Gracie Allen, Carole Lombard, and Claudette Colbert. She dropped out of school at age seventeen. During the 1960s, Goldberg was a hippie and participated in civil rights marches and student protests at Columbia University. Goldberg moved to the West Coast in 1974 to begin a new life with her daughter and to pursue an acting career. She made her film debut in The Color Purple (1985). For her lead role as Celie, Goldberg won a Golden Globe Award, the NAACP Image Award, and an Academy Award nomination. She won an Academy Award as best supporting actress in the film Ghost in 1991, the second black actress to win the award (Hattie McDaniel was the first in 1939). She is also on the television show The View.
Award-winning actress and comedienne Whoopi Goldberg first made a name for herself with her portrayal of Celie in the 1985 movie The Color Purple.