Stephanie’s View:  Whoopi Goldberg Spills More Than Bits And Pieces With Adriana Trigiani At The 92NY

May 13, 2024

By Stephanie Woods-McKinney

Caryn Elaine Johnson, famously known as Whoopi Goldberg, the Harlem fave recently sat down with fellow author Adriana Trigiani and had a candid and open conversation.

The conversation was in regard to Whoopi’s newest book titled ‘Bits and Pieces’ published by Blackstone Publishing at the 92NY Center for Cultural Arts

The ‘EGOT’ (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony) winner gets downright honest and open with her close-net small family secrets and lets it all hang out.  The full audience was eager to hear about their life and rise to fame in person from the “Iconic” comedian, actress, daytime talk show host, producer, humanitarian, and author, as she discussed her humble beginnings. The audience was able to not only relate to her stories, but they were able to lend a sympathetic ear as she discussed her mental health challenges. 

Listening to Whoopi speak so lovingly and honestly about her life was a real treat to the many fans in the audience, as she was able to mix wit with sorrow. 

“… find ways to make herself happy and to not rely on anyone to uplift her spirits.”

Whoopi’s mother Emma Harris, an educator in schools who loved working with the neighborhood youth struggled with mental illness when Whoopi was a child and was admitted to a mental health facility while enduring ‘electric shock’ treatment for two years when Whoopi was only eight years old.  Whoopi’s mother may have experienced mental challenges. However, after her release from the hospital, her mother still instilled values in her to ensure that she would always find ways to make herself happy and to not rely on anyone to uplift her spirits. Her mother’s cultural spirit and constant visits to museums, the circus, art exhibits and attending The Beatles concert opened a world of ‘magic and adventure’ for Whoopi and helped her cope with her introverted personality. 

Yet it was her drug-addicted, extremely handsome, charismatic and womanizing brother Clyde Johnson (the extrovert) and her cousin Arlene who kept the family entertained.   Whoopi admits of her own struggles with cocaine and everything in between but it was the loss of both her mother in 2010 from a stroke and the passing of her brother Clyde in 2015 from a brain aneurysm that the gates of conversation around loneness and keeping busy to help combat grief.   

Why tell the dirt now after 40 years in show business? Whoopi admits, that most family members are no longer here so what better time to keep it real than to crack the audience up.  It was the open and honest discussion around celibacy, cleansing, and the juicy 411 on her name change from Caryn E. Johnson to Whoopi Goldberg which the audience sat tight. It anxiously awaited her disclosure.  The foul truth around the name change draws dismay and shock from all as she tells the nasty truth of how a habit of passing gas to get laughs is how she amused and sickened the family at the same time, thus Whoopi as in “whoopee” cushion. 

Magical moments of visiting Coney Island as a child riding the train for hours and smelling the popcorn, hotdogs, and urine with the hopes of getting a ‘kewpie doll’ on a stick was one of her fondest childhood memories and is what keeps her happy when she’s missing her family.  

Whoopi credits her life as a mother at the age of 18 with her daughter Alexandrea Martin, with saving her life.  It was Alex’s birth that instilled a deep sense of responsibility for Whoopi, even though she continued to work on her new career as a comedian, motherhood was extremely important to her and was instrumental with her struggles for sobriety. 

“… be ready for loss and prepare for change …”  

Today Whoopi is a proud grandmother of three (granddaughters Jerzy and Amara, grandson Mason). The Godfather of Harlem star credited her mother Emma’s guidance and nurturing motherly love with aiding in Whoopi being the ‘iconic’ woman that she is today and advised the audience “be ready for loss and prepare for change-as life and situations are not promised.”  

Stephanie Woods-McKinney

Stephanie Woods-McKinney is a Bronx native who graduated Magna Cum Laude from The College of New Rochelle with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Liberal Arts. She is a vocal community activist who sits on Community Board #10 in the Bronx; is a Co-chair of the Youth & Education Committee and holds a deep love for Hip Hop culture and community activism. Stephanie writes throughout NYC, and Harlem, she has also received countless awards and letters of recognition for her hip-hop photojournalism and a ‘Citation of Merit’ from Eric Adams.

Photo credit: HWM (modified).

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