Cher (/ˈʃɛər/; born Cherilyn Sarkisian on May 20, 1946) is an American singer, actress, entertainer and fashion icon. Described as embodying female autonomy in a male-dominated industry, she is known for her distinctive contralto singing voice and for having worked in numerous areas of entertainment, as well as adopting a variety of styles and appearances during her five decades long career, which has led to her being nicknamed the Goddess of Pop.
Cher gained popularity in 1965 as one-half of the folk rock husband–wife duo Sonny & Cher after their first hit, "I Got You Babe". She began her solo career simultaneously, releasing in 1966 her first million-seller song, "Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)". Goldmine magazine's Phill Marder described her as the leader of an effort in the 1960s to "advance feminine rebellion in the rock world the prototype of the female rock star, setting the standard for appearance attitude". After the duo had lost its young audience owing to their monogamous, anti-drug lifestyle during the period of the sexual revolution and the rise of the drug culture, she returned to stardom in the 1970s as a television personality with her shows The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour, watched by over 30 million viewers weekly during its three-year run, and Cher. She became a fashion trendsetter by wearing elaborate outfits on her television shows. While working on television, she established herself as a solo artist with the number-one singles "Gypsys, Tramps & Thieves", "Half-Breed", and "Dark Lady". After her divorce from Sonny Bono in 1975, Cher's much-publicized personal life led to a decline in her career, although she launched a minor comeback in 1979 with the disco-oriented album Take Me Home and earned $300,000 a week for her 1980–1982 residency show in Las Vegas.
In the early 1980s, Cher made her Broadway debut, and then starred in the film Silkwood, which earned her a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress in 1983. In the ensuing years, she starred in films such as Mask, The Witches of Eastwick, and Moonstruck, for which she won the Academy Award for Best Actress in 1988. She made her directorial debut in the 1996 film If These Walls Could Talk. At the same time, she established herself as a rock singer by releasing platinum albums such as Heart of Stone (1989) and top-ten singles such as "I Found Someone" and "If I Could Turn Back Time". She reached a new commercial peak in 1998 with the song "Believe", which features the pioneering use of Auto-Tune, also known as the "Cher effect". Her 2002–2005 Living Proof: The Farewell Tour ended up as the highest-grossing music tour by a female artist then. In 2008, she signed a $180 million deal to headline the Colosseum at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas for three years. After seven years of absence, she returned to film in the 2010 musical Burlesque. Cher's first studio album in 12 years, Closer to the Truth (2013), became her highest-charting solo album in the U.S. to date.
Biographer Mark Bego wrote, "No one in the history of show business has had a career of the magnitude and scope of Cher's." She has won an Academy Award, a Grammy Award, an Emmy Award, a special CFDA Fashion Award, three Golden Globe Awards, and a Cannes Film Festival award, among several other honors. She has sold 100 million records worldwide, making her one of the best-selling music artists of all time. She is the only artist to date to have a number-one single on a Billboard chart in each of the past six decades. Outside of her music and acting, she is noted for her political views, philanthropic endeavors and activism for LGBT rights.