Image courtesy of UGG. 

An interview with Cher

The 75-year-old icon sat down with us to discuss fashion, politics, emojis, elephants and life’s greatest lessons.

by Osman Ahmed
|
16 February 2022, 8:11pm

Image courtesy of UGG. 

There are few icons who are simply known by their first names. Cher was probably one of the first mononymous celebrities. At 75 years old, the original multi-hyphenate is busier than ever. Last year, she appeared in the Pirelli calendar, photographed by Bryan Adams. She journeyed to Pakistan mid-pandemic to rescue an elephant from captivity. She paid tribute to her late friend Betty White on stage. She’s operated as one of the most raging (and entertaining) political commentators on the Twittersphere. She’s even become a meme for a generation of TikTokers who are now attuned to what it means to “give Cher”, thanks to Shawn Mendes. As it happens, Cher is also the new-ish face of UGG, the footwear brand most known for its fluffy, comfy slippers. So, what does the woman who was once banned from MTV for a fishnet, thonged bodysuit have in common with the world’s cosiest casual footwear? Well, she’s Cher, bitch! She can do anything.

After all, this was the woman who practically invented reinvention, setting the skin-baring blueprint for every pop star and fashion icon to follow in the trail of her hip-length wigs — and the generations of queer fans who identify with her sense of self-invention. Those crystal-spangled bodysuits that are a rite of passage for every A-lister today? Cher wore them 40 years ago. This is a woman who has seamlessly traversed the fields of pop culture — going from TV to music to film and back to music with a whole new sound (her 1997 hit Believe ushered in a new era of auto-tuned vocals) — all of it with her own distinct looks. Unafraid of making bold fashion choices — she was the first woman to ever show her gym-toned midriff on national television — and date whomever she wanted and defy the conventions of ageing, it’s little wonder that her epithets from over the years have aged like fine wine, and resonated with a progressive generation of kids on the Internet: “Mom, I am a rich man!”; “Men are like desserts”; “if I want to put tits on my back it’s nobody’s business but my own.” In many ways, it took decades for the world to catch up to Cher — throughout which, she’s always marched to the beat of her own drum.

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For UGG, she starred in a campaign for the brand’s FEEL ___ collection, filmed at her home in Malibu while she potters around going about her life. She calls her mum, meditating in her bed surrounded by candles, getting cosy in her home cinema with her cat, Mullet, and painting her suede Uggs with the kind of boho exotica that she first wore decades ago on Sonny and Cher show. See, she’s just like us! Only she’s not. She’s Cher! We caught up on the phone — she’s in said Malibu home, me in London — and talked about everything and anything. That’s the thing about Cher — she’s an old-school pro. No publicist required. No ten-minute time slot. We discussed politics and fashion, elephants and emojis, and the recent films she’s loved and the ones she’s starred in. At one point, she took me into her bathroom to find her current beauty obsession, which she marvelled over as if it were precious goldust — even though it’s available at most supermarkets around the world. “Oh, babe,” she would begin so many of her answers with, filling me with warmth.

So, dear readers, it’s time to sit back, slip into your UGGs, and prepare yourself for some very important life lessons from none other than Cher herself.

Hi Cher! I've got some questions to run through with you on a variety of Cher related topics.

I can't stand behind everything I've ever said.

Well, no one can. But let's start with your wardrobe. So you are, obviously, known for your thousands of dazzling crystals and leather and showgirl feathers. How do you feel about dressing for comfort?

Oh, babe. I'm so down on that. Around my house and when I'm going just to my friends, I like sweatpants and I still do it. They are sweatpants my way, but I'm still in sweatpants and old T-shirts but fabulous earrings and rings. I kind of dress it up in my own way.

Do you have a favourite look that you have ever worn?

Oh gosh. I'm trying to think. It would have to be between the Met Gala — oh, this is so me — Okay, this is who I am in a nutshell: somewhere between the first [1974] Met Gala naked dress that I wore and my Turn Back Time outfit. But wait, I have to sneak one in because I really love the outfit I wore to the Academy Awards where I had the gigantic feather mohawk.

That is a very, very special one.

It freaked everybody out except the very cool people were like, ‘Oh my God!’ Jane Fonda said, ‘Cher, I can't believe you.’ She said, don't go out until I can get to my seat. I was kind of doing it in protest because the Academy said that I wasn't serious because of the way I dressed.

That's a big thing, right? When you are really into fashion, often people don't get it. And it could be the most fabulous thing, but guys sometimes don't get it. What's your advice for if you are dressing for yourself but get a bad reaction from a date?

Give them car fare.

Fair enough. And what would you say has been your biggest fashion faux pas?

I've had so many. Well, I'm not going to tell you because then you'll find it and put a picture of the thing. This is also the truth, when you're as old as I am and as adventurous in clothes as I was from the beginning, you have millions. When Sonny and I first started, people wanted to beat us up, and I'm not kidding, because of the way we looked. Because no one looked like us. Those were our day clothes. Those weren't costumes. But sometimes a faux pas has to have time to catch up with you.

Do you have a favourite look that you have ever worn?

Oh gosh. I'm trying to think. It would have to be between the Met Gala — oh, this is so me — Okay, this is who I am in a nutshell: somewhere between the first [1974] Met Gala naked dress that I wore and my Turn Back Time outfit. But wait, I have to sneak one in because I really love the outfit I wore to the Academy Awards where I had the gigantic feather mohawk.

That is a very, very special one.

It freaked everybody out except the very cool people were like, ‘Oh my God!’ Jane Fonda said, ‘Cher, I can't believe you.’ She said, don't go out until I can get to my seat. I was kind of doing it in protest because the Academy said that I wasn't serious because of the way I dressed.

That's a big thing, right? When you are really into fashion, often people don't get it. And it could be the most fabulous thing, but guys sometimes don't get it. What's your advice for if you are dressing for yourself but get a bad reaction from a date?

Give them car fare.

Fair enough. And what would you say has been your biggest fashion faux pas?

I've had so many. Well, I'm not going to tell you because then you'll find it and put a picture of the thing. This is also the truth, when you're as old as I am and as adventurous in clothes as I was from the beginning, you have millions. When Sonny and I first started, people wanted to beat us up, and I'm not kidding, because of the way we looked. Because no one looked like us. Those were our day clothes. Those weren't costumes. But sometimes a faux pas has to have time to catch up with you.

Do you go to the gym every morning?

Well, I only have to go downstairs. But I usually get five days in for sure. And also, I've always worked out. I was a tomboy. When I met Sonny, I was playing on a baseball team and he said, you're too old to be playing games. But I was 16, so I wasn't too old…. Anyway, the routine. I have this kind of chapstick that I wear that I really love. What’s the name of it? Well the other day I gave a plug to something and then they put my picture next to it and I felt really pissed off. Hold on, I don't know where this thing is, but it would be good for people to know about…. Wait a minute, I’m getting out of my bed and going to the bathroom. Hold on. [Cher disappears for a couple minutes]

It took me a long time to find it. It's nothing special. That's why I'm telling you about it. It's Nivea — I'm sure you have Nivea in England. It has different coloured tops on it. I'm not sure why. I think there's some flavours there. But it's called ‘Hydrocare’ and it's just a little lipstick and it's blue on the top or a colour on the top. It's got Nivea in a round, dark circle, maybe blue circle. And it just says Hydrocare on it. And it has a white bottom.

I know the exact one that you're talking about. I’ve used it, too.

See, we're sister-and-brother under the skin!

Now tell me, Cher, how often do you watch your own movies?

Never.

Never?

No. As a matter of fact, I'm having to watch them now because I'm doing a biography and it's like grated glass. I don't like watching myself. I mean, I don’t mind. What do I kind of like? Oh, I kind of liked Mermaids and I liked … well I'm going to just have to take everything I said back. I liked Witches of Eastwick, I liked Mermaids and I liked Moonstruck. I just watched them.

Were there ever any costumes from your roles that you wish you kept or that you would wear today?

I kind of wish I would've kept everything. I have the shoes that I wore when I stepped out of the car in Moonstruck. I have the dress and I have the coat. But I wish I had everything from all my other movies. But in Witches, I supplied a lot of my own clothes and I even supplied a couple of things for the girls.

What was the last thing that you watched that you really loved or inspired you?

This is going to sound really crazy. So Elijah [Blue Allman, her son] and I were watching a movie last night that he wanted me to watch. It's actually about my friend, Gary's, life: Licorice Pizza. And they were playing a Sonny and Cher song in it. I was freaked out. It's called, But You’re Mine, and it was so good for the movie because it said you're ‘not too pretty, but you’re mine’. I don't know where the director dug it up or whoever did the music dug it up, but it's perfect for this movie. There’s this scene where they went to the teenage fair. And I remember my mom used to sell things at the teenage fair! It was really kind of nostalgic — I also lived, at many points, in the valley right near where she was from. So it was really fun for me to watch it.

And then, I didn't really like this film, but I was fascinated. I was fascinated by the dog. What's the rest of that title?

Oh, The Power of the Dog?

Yes. It's fascinating. It's disturbing, but fascinating. The performances are amazing. And CODA. I loved CODA.

Do you watch RuPaul's Drag Race? I feel like a whole new generation have discovered you through that.

I haven't watched it in a while. I watched when they first started. I love RuPaul. He's the nicest man ever. Ever! And he's a great actor. I wish he would do more acting because he's spectacular. And he's just kind and sweet and just lovely. And without his makeup, he's more grounded. There's two people there — but then, in me, there's five people here.

What is your recipe for a great tweet?

Oh, babe. I don't have any recipe. And if you ever saw my Twitter, you would see that if you didn't know me, you might think I was writing it from hospital.

How do you avoid negativity on social media?

Well, a couple of times when I've gone too far out on a limb, I’ve had death threats. I had to call Facebook and have these people thrown off. For the most part, I don't get a lot of it. Mostly I have people that want to talk, that want to know things, or who want to have some help in some way. And they're having a hard time or something like that. They just want advice. But then they like to know what I'm doing. When I did the thing for Betty White, everybody acted like I did some gigantic thing. I sang two lines at the end of the show. Do you know who the Golden Girls were?

Of course.

Okay. So we did this thing, this tribute to Betty. And I had been a fan of hers since I was seven years old. She had a show called Life With Elizabeth. And so they asked me to come on and share it and then sing the Golden Girls theme at the end. But everybody was so excited, but I think it was because it was from a time before all this insanity was going on: Covid and Trump and Afghanistan and all the things that are making people feel really upset. Oh, wait, is Boris Johnson going to get sacked or are people just going to talk about it?

Oh my God. Don't even get me started. I think he should be, but I don't want to get too political.

You know, he should be sacked for many other things. You know what I don't understand? When I was little, I used to think that politicians were the brightest and the smartest and the bravest and the most principled people. And I find that is only true with a very few people. And it seems like the leader of your country and [the previous leader of] my country are scraping the bottom of the barrel. I actually got sick when he was president the first time. I take my politics seriously.

Are there any politicians that you really like?

I have to tell you, I really like Joe [Biden]. I've known him for a long time and I don't think anyone's come into politics — you know, with everything falling apart and half the nation thinking you're not the president. And then to jump right into Covid and then having everyone's businesses shut down. I know that he seems like a person, but he's getting it from both sides. He's getting it from the left, and then he is getting it from [Joe] Manchin and all these people. He's a much more effective president than all the publicity from the other side would want you to know. And I'm not saying that because I'm his friend. I'm just saying that because he's a good person. Also I love Hillary [Clinton], I don't give a flying fuck what people think!

Well, good for you. Moving on, you love emojis. What is your most used emoji?

Well, I use the thinking man a lot. Do you know what? I'm very upset with emoji because they don't have things that I want. I had my own emojis made up. I had them, all these emojis made up, but at the time it just seemed like we didn't have the facility. We didn't know exactly how to put it out. I got all these artists to do it and I might put them out — because there’s a lot of emojis that we don't have and that I need because I'm dyslexic. So for me, emoji are like hieroglyphics. And they say a lot … it's like, when I want to say ‘cool’, I have the lady blowing the wind. And then I have a little snowflake next to it. So for me, that says, cool.

How would you describe yourself in one emoji?

Oh gosh. Oh, the crystal ball. The blue crystal ball. I think it's not blue. It's purple.

Why that one?

Because I'm deep inside and you don't know who I really am. So when you look in, it depends on the person looking in, as what they see.

What did you learn from your time involved with elephants and helping rescue the elephant Kaavan?

Do you have any idea how many animals we're saving right now? We're going to make a big video about it. We've saved five lions, a tiger, two bears and we're trying to save a whale right now and an African elephant. But African elephants are very, very difficult to fly because they're so huge. And also we have sniffer dogs in places in the world where small animals, endangered species, are transported to rich people — God knows why they want them and what they're going to do with them. But we're trying to keep them from being transferred.

Do you have a favourite animal?

I think my favourite animal would be the elephant. I know so much about them and they are like us only better. They're like us but nicer. I do things for children too. I do things for people. It's like, if you're lucky enough to be where I am, then you have to give back. Only thing I don't think I'm going to do anymore here is that I used to sit on the street with homeless people and just hang out and talk and meet. A lot of homeless people are being killed now. It really breaks my heart because that was something that I really loved doing.

It’s hard with Covid, I guess.

I know. It's hard, but when we went to Islamabad, it was raging. We had no vaccine and I didn't have a mask because I was shooting and a lot of my crew got sick, but I didn't.

What advice would you give that 19-year-old Cher if you could?

This is advice that I use myself, which is that you must be kind and you must be honest, because it won't serve you well if you're not. And you must not take any shit — and just do all the things you want to do now. Don't save up for a vacation you're going to take in 10 years or something like that. Just try to live your life. And also, just if you're wearing something and people don't like it, tough. You have to be who you are. You have to be true to who you are and you have to be adventurous if that's what you feel. My mother's golden rule, which I absolutely have lived by for such a long time is: if it doesn't matter in five years, it doesn't matter. So if you're wigging over something and you have to ask yourself, will this matter to me in five years? And usually it won't, but if it will, then you know you have to do it.

I consider you to be a queen of self-invention, but also reinvention. What's your advice for someone who is seeking reinvention?

Well, maybe it would be good to make a list of who you think you are now and how it serves you and how it doesn't. And then think of what you want to be if you change. Just make a list. I've never done this, but I'm telling you how I would do it if that's what I did. Just make a list of things, the things you think you are now, the things you like, the things you don't like, and the things you would like to be. And then start heading towards the things you would like to be on that list.

Is there anyone from a younger generation who you admire?

Well, I love Saweetie. I got a chance to be with her and she has great style, she's hysterical and she's really smart. And I think she's great. And Billie Eilish, she's really… She's a strange, special object. A butterfly! She's kind of ethereal in a strange way, and I like her lyrics a lot. There are a lot of people. Sometimes you just don't find them and sometimes you just stumble onto them and you're amazed. You have to kind of keep looking always. And sometimes I just don't have the time – if I hadn't met Saweetie, I don't think I don't know that I would have come in contact with her music and her. She's kind of an art object in life. So I wouldn't have known her and gotten to be friends with her. Also young people always want to ask me things.

I guess because you’ve done so much.

Yeah. Well, I have done a lot. It's just also, if you're on this earth as many years as I've been on it, and I've just kind of gone to different places. I wanted to try other things. I'm writing a book with this English woman right now, and they keep saying there's too much for the book. My friend, Eric, is writing a play about my life, and a movie about my life. And he just said, Cher, ‘I wish you'd done less!’

Thankfully, you didn't.

I just can't believe that I'm still famous at this age. It's like, there was Betty White and me. The first show she had was on local TV in LA and I was seven years old and I fell madly in love with her then. So I was always a huge fan. So I think that for younger people, sometimes it's good to have an older person that you like, or you think is still cool or relevant. There's lots of people who don't think that, but whatever. I go to my mom sometimes because my mom still was cool. So sometimes she'll just give me advice.

That's great. So you've still got people to look up to, as people are looking up to you.

Oh, babe. I look up to a lot of people. I mean there are a lot of people that I think are amazing. When I made that movie with the girls, Maggie [Smith] and Judy [Dench] — Tea with Mussolini — I was just sitting like a little mouse in the corner when those girls would talk because I wanted to hear everything they had to say. Judy and I stayed friends. Did I make a film before I was 40? I made Witches when I was 40. I think Silkwood and The Mask were before I was 40. I can't remember. But I was old. I was old for what I thought I was going to be. As it turned out, I wasn't.

‘Old’ is such a weird word. I feel like you really defy that.

Oh, babe. I don't know what I've done. I know I'm here and I'm offered more work now than I can actually do and I don't understand it. I swear to God, I do not get it at all. I'm happy that it's happening, but I don't get it. I'm just thinking, I'm just Cher.

Credits


All images courtesy of UGG.

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