Marie Osmond: 'Showbiz isn't for eternity. Marriage is'

By Susan Easton Black and Mary Jane Woodger

Published: Wednesday, May 11 2011 3:00 a.m. MDT

 Editor's note: This is an excerpt from "Women of Character: Profiles of 100 Prominent LDS Women," edited by Susan Easton Black and Mary Jane Woodger.

Singer Marie Osmond’s faith does not come from her parents, she insists. “I am a member of my Mormon faith because I want to be.” Her faith in God and his restored church is her anchor amid the storms that threaten her sense of peace. In 2010, after attending the funeral of a son who committed suicide, Osmond said, “Little did I know I would be relying on my faith, especially as much as I did this past week.”

With faith in the eternal nature of life and a promise of a “forever family,” Osmond, like so many times before, returned to the stage at the Flamingo Hotel in Las Vegas, where she was performing with her brother Donny. She told a standing-room-only crowd, “The way Osmonds survive is we keep singing, and that’s what we want to do tonight.”

The daughter of George and Olive Osmond, she was born Oct. 13, 1959, in Ogden, Utah, and she and her eight brothers were raised on Mormonism and show business. It was in show business that Osmond became a legend. At age 3, she debuted as part of her brothers’ act on "The Andy Williams Show." With Marie seated on Williams’ lap, Williams introduced her as “the youngest Osmond Brother.”

Marie Osmond did her first show when she was 4, and she worked overseas at 6 and 7. Yet she laments that success cheated her “of a normal, happy childhood.” For her, there was always one more performance.

“I had to sacrifice a lot. I grew up in a suitcase — I never did the things normal girls do.” Her parents told her that “show business wouldn’t be easy.” She adds, “They were right.”

“I didn’t like show business at first,” Osmond confesses. “I decided I wanted to be a secretary. I took shorthand and typing.” But as her life unfolded, she realized, “I love crowds. It’s nice to be in front of a television camera or to be in a studio and record.”

Osmond made a name for herself at age 13 by recording “Paper Roses.” The recording reached number one on the country hit charts. She was named the Best Female Country Vocal Performer and Best New Artist. She then booked her first concert performance at Madison Square Garden to a sold-out crowd. The title song of her next album, "Who’s Sorry Now," climbed to number 20 a month after its release. “You know, in the recording business, it was all men; television was all men,” Osmond said of the 1970s. But she knew then and now, “I’m one of the exceptions to the rule.”

At age 14, Marie and Donny Osmond hosted the ABC television variety show "Donny & Marie." “I’m a little bit country,” Marie announced at the beginning of each show. Donny answered, “I’m a little bit rock and roll.” Together, the “toothy duo” performed comedy sketches and musical moments. By the time the show was canceled in 1979, Donny and Marie had endeared themselves to an international audience. They were celebrities and confronted with all the problems associated with fame.

Through it all, the duo maintained their Mormon standards. Marie Osmond turned down the lead role as Sandy in "Grease" due to the script’s lack of moral content. She carefully selected which roles to take in television movies and serials, like "Ripley’s Believe It or Not," and which children cartoon voice-overs met her criteria. In 1985, Osmond's and Dan Seals’s duet “Meet Me in Montana” was named the number one country hit of the year. In 1986, Osmond and Paul Davis sang “You’re Still New to Me,” which also reached number one in the country hits. Since then, Osmond has been in great demand for television performances, Broadway musicals, films, concert tours and authoring.

She is president and CEO of Marie Osmond Collector Dolls. In 1991, her first sculpture, a toddler doll named “Olive May” after her mother, set a collectible record on QVC. She is also co-founder of the Children’s Miracle Network, a project that has raised in excess of $3.4 billion since 1983 for children’s hospitals throughout the United States and Canada.

But domestic life has been a challenging road for the showgirl who said, “Showbiz isn’t for eternity. Marriage is.” She has been married and divorced twice. Last week, she remarried her first husband, Stephen Craig. She is the mother of eight children — five adopted — from these marriages. One biographer wrote, “So joyfully has Marie taken to adoptive motherhood that she insists she doesn’t know which child is of her flesh.” As to eternal marriage, she insists, “I have had many good examples of what marriage can be, and I see all the happiness in my parents’ lives, in my brothers’ lives, and I want the same. There are scars, however, and you just need to work through them and get on with life and learn to trust again.”

In 1999, Osmond revealed that she suffered from severe postpartum depression. She co-authored the book "Behind the Smile" that chronicles her experience with depression. “I guess God never gives us anything we can’t handle,” she writes, “and through all of it, I keep saying there’s got to be a reason you go though it. ... When you feel like hope is gone, look inside you and be strong, and you finally see the truth that a hero lies in you.”

Since the book’s release, Osmond has starred in an exercise video, published a beauty book and designed a line of clothing. In 2006, she launched a machine-embroidery line with Bernina and promoted the Nutri-system brand of weight loss. In August 2007, she danced on ABC network’s "Dancing with the Stars." She joked, “There are worse habits I could take up going through a midlife crisis.”

What’s next? For this legend in the entertainment industry, happiness is the hope. She and her family were recognized as one of the most prolific entertainment families in the world when a star was placed in their honor on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. At that time, the Osmonds had 47 gold and platinum records and had sold more than 100 million records worldwide. Yet Marie hopes for something more. Amid her ups and downs, she believes that her faith in God will bring her the happiness that she desires.

Sources: Fred Robbins, “Marie Osmond: Doing What I Want Now,” "McCalls," July 1988, page 14; Oskar Garcia, “Marie Osmond: My Mormon Faith Got Me Through Son’s Death,” The Huffington Post, May 12, 2010; “Marie Osmond: about my family that TV didn’t tell,” Star, May 4, 1982; Larry King Live: Marie Osmond Discusses Her Battle with Depression and Her Work with Children, May 30, 2000 (viewed July 2, 2010). “Marie Osmond Biography,” (viewed July 2, 2010).

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