A whopping six decades into her career, Marie Osmond continues to reinvent herself. She recorded her first hit, the country chart-topper “Paper Roses,” at age 13, and she still holds the record for youngest person to ever host a TV show, as she was 14 and a half when the Donny & Marie pilot premiered in 1976. And now, at age 62, she has released her aptly titled operatic album (and first album in five years), Unexpected, which just debuted at No. 1 on Billboard’s Classical Crossover Albums chart. The record, which she says “musically is a dream come true,” features accompaniment by the Prague Symphony Orchestra and showcases Osmond pushing her vocal range to new heights on songs in Italian, French, and Czech.
“I don’t think age should define us as women. I think we get better, like wine, and we have a lot to give back. And so that’s something that this album Unexpected is trying to show people,” Osmond, a self-described “Rodgers & Hammerstein girl,” tells Yahoo Entertainment/SiriusXM Volume. “It took me 20 years to make [Unexpected]. I studied [opera] for 15 years, probably, before I ever did it publicly. Why? Because I’m a perfectionist, and I’m a weirdo! … But I have been so lucky, so blessed, to be a female who’s worked consistently, moving into my sixth decade. And so, I own that time. It’s given me an opportunity. Some people study a character, some people study instruments — to me, my study is the palate in my throat and how to change it into multiple sounds. That’s kind of been my thing.”
Osmond has, like many former child stars, been through the wringer personally — she was sexually abused as a child, briefly battled an eating disorder, and suffered from severe postpartum depression, all of which she opened up about in her memoir Behind the Smile: My Journey Out. “I’ve had a lot of different kinds of abuse. I guess you could say you can’t be naive in this business,” she muses. “But you can learn to not let that define who you are.” And unlike some of her ‘70s peers, Osmond never struggled with drug or alcohol addiction.
“Music is what you should get high on. I had lots of sadness, of course, but I believe that music is medicine,” says Osmond. “A lot of people joked about me because I didn’t drink and smoke, and they called me ‘naive.’ Well, I have to laugh, because that’s probably more ‘naïve’ than you could ever be — to think you can grow up in the entertainment business and be naïve! But I made choices. When I was a kid, I saw all my friends who were just partying hardy, many of them who aren’t here now because of it. I would look at that and say, I chose sobriety before I had to.”
Another choice Osmond made, as she transitioned from teen stardom to adulthood, was refusing to succumb to any external or internal pressure to undergo a “sexy” makeover (think later examples like Christina Aguilera’s “Dirrty,” Britney Spears’s “I’m a Slave 4 U,” or Miley Cyrus’s Bangerz era). “It’s an interesting question,” she says, when asked about maturing in the public eye. “I would maybe say that the answer to that is I actually was back in the original women’s movement, when it was really [about] equality. Sometimes I feel like this one is about more [about] anger. To me, I wanted to be respected. … Hey, I was offered $5 million by Playboy to pose nude — and it was at a time where I was a single mom and I really could’ve used the money! But they wouldn’t let me do it in sweats, and I didn’t quite understand that,” she chuckles.
Osmond continues: “Could I have [accepted Playboy’s offer]? Yes, sure. But to me, that was demeaning — I’m speaking just to me. I didn’t want to teach my daughters that in order to be popular, you had to take your clothes off. I wanted to tell them that you did it through talent and reinvention. … And so, that was kind of my mantra growing up. But you know, the opportunities were there. … You have to remember at that time in my life, my family lost everything financially. We had nothing. … I needed the money. But my mother said, ‘How would you feel if I did it as your mother?’ And I always thought that would be so embarrassing to me as a child. And so really honestly, a lot of my thinking — this is me talking, I’m not judging [other women] whatsoever — is, how would my children want to see me as their mother do that? And what would that tell them? And so, really that was a lot of my decision process.”
Osmond credits her own strict mom — who she compares to Taylor Swift’s mother — for keeping her on a straight path, even though she admits, “My mother drove me crazy as a child, because she was always so positive. … I had a mother who was really, really tough on me and made me realize [show business] was just a job, and there was this thing called ‘reality.’ I mean, Donny & Marie was dubbed into 17 languages worldwide and I was probably Taylor Swift of that era or whatever. More people saw our show on one Friday night than a blockbuster movie like Jaws. And so when I came home and I’d been working 15- to 18-hour days, I’d say, ‘I’ve got to get to bed. We’ve got a taping in the morning and I need to look good.’ And my mother goes, ‘You haven’t done your chores.’
“And I’d be like, ‘Um, Mother, hello? You know, like, I’m Marie Osmond!’ And let me just tell you, man, that was the worst thing I could’ve said! [My mom would say] ‘Oh really? Well now, besides your chores, you’re going to clean all the toilets tonight. I have more chores for you, because you’re going to learn that different life, and that [the TV show] is a job, and jobs can change and go away.’ She was a really great mother that way. Did she make me angry? You better believe it! But I believe every daughter goes through a period where they have to distinguish from their mother to figure out who they are. I’m just really grateful to God every day that I had a mother that taught me to be a real well-rounded female.”
Now, as mother of eight who’s lived at least nine lives, Osmond is following family tradition. “Look, life is not easy. And I think I have just channeled [my mother] as I’ve gotten older, because I have ended up being the same way,” she says. “I’ve learned that we all go through really hard things in life, but that’s why we’re here: to learn how to go through them, not around them. And I believe the best way to go through them is to what I call put on your ‘big girl panties’ and charge [ahead]. To me, faith is positive. Fear shuts you down. And I believe the world is so full of fear right now that it’s going to stifle this younger generation. And that’s one of the reasons why I wanted to get back out [doing Unexpected]. I believe music, tone, frequency, all of that, brings such joy to the soul.”
And that’s why Osmond isn’t afraid to try new things — like recording an opera album. “Here’s the thing with me: I’m not afraid to close the door,” she stresses. “I think as a young girl, I was always fearful of change. Maybe it was [the strict] mother I was raised with, but in getting control of your life, you stand in front of your fears and you face them. And so for me, it’s never been, ‘Oh, what do I do now?’ I’m not afraid to try things. I’m not afraid to sell it. And I think when you take on that mantra or whatever it is you want to call it, it gives you the ability to keep trying and to just enjoy life.
“I mean, I had a residency for 11 years in Vegas [which ended in 2019], and people said, ‘Why didn’t you just keep going?’ Because I’m not afraid to close the door and try something new. So, why sing this style of music? Because it’s very challenging, while I can still do it.”
The above interview is taken from Marie Osmond’s two appearances on the SiriusXM show “Volume West. Full audio of those conversations are available on the SiriusXM app.
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