Whoopi Goldberg Says She Was High Accepting Her Oscar—and Her Mother Could Tell
Her attempt to calm her nerves backfired at the 1991 ceremony.
Whoopi Goldberg put the O in her EGOT when she won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress in 1991 for her work as Oda Mae Brown in Ghost. Years later, it was revealed that she had smoked cannabis the day of the ceremony and was actually high when she accepted the prestigious award in front of millions of viewers. Read on to find out what led up to the baked acceptance speech and what she had to say about her mother immediately recognizing her less-than-sober status.
The weeks before the Oscars had been "traumatic" for her.
Goldberg's nomination for Ghost was her second, having been passed up for Best Actress for her breakout role as Celie in The Color Purple in 1985. This time, the lead-up to the ceremony was made all the more intense due to the buzz around her likely win, she revealed later in an interview with her The Color Purple costar Oprah Winfrey. "The six weeks before it were somewhat traumatic because people were so positive and so encouraging that I would be in the bathroom in the movies and people underneath [the stall] would be coming saying, 'You know you're going to win, don't you?,'" Goldberg recalled.
She turned to a natural remedy to relieve the stress.
In a video TMZ published in 2011 of Goldberg recording of her voiceover for the 1994 live-action/animated film The Pagemaster, the actor revealed that by the time the big day rolled around, she was so stressed out she decided to take calming her nerves into her own hands.
"Smoking cigarettes and pot every now and then are one thing that relaxes me and I thought, 'I've got to relax,'" she shared in the video date-stamped Aug. 9, 1992. Then she admitted that she "smoked this wonderful joint that was the last of [her] homegrown" sometime prior to the Best Supporting Actress announcement.
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She had some regrets.
That turned out to be a decision she would come to quickly lament after Denzel Washington presented the nominees—a list that also included Annette Bening, Lorraine Bracco, Mary McDonnell, and Diane Ladd—and then announced Goldberg as winner. In the Pagemaster outtake, the star shared the hilarious experience of trying to act normal while stoned, as well as the regret that followed.
"Honey, when [Denzel] said my name and I popped up, I was like, 'Oh, [expletive], oh, [expletive]. Up the stairs one-two-three-four-five, around to the podium. [Gasps.] There's millions of people, okay, grab the statue, get the statue,'" Goldberg recounted before adding, "I knew I should have never had done it."
Her mother could tell.
Goldberg's intoxication went largely undetected by viewers at the time (unlike Jack Nicholson's famously "baked" 2003 Critics' Choice Awards acceptance). Now, it's impossible to watch the video of her exasperated acceptance speech the same way with the knowledge of what went on beforehand, and for those who knew her best, her state was apparently immediately evident. In the speech, Goldberg noted her mother was at home watching (she told Variety in 2021 her mother had declined to attend, because she was worried about revealing her disappointment if Goldberg wasn't the winner). But despite being miles away, her mother could tell something was up, the actor shared in the TMZ video. "My mother called me and she said, 'You smoked, didn't you?'" she said.
She called it a learning experience.
The win made Goldberg the first Black female actor to win an Academy Award since Gone with the Wind's Hattie McDaniel in 1939, and she would continue the successful run to become the highest-paid female actor of the time for her role in Sister Act 2. In the 1992 video, she admitted the experience was life-changing in another way too, teaching her to "never smoke pot before there's the possibility of having to talk to one hundred million people."
In the years since, The View co-host has gone on to advance the use of cannabis for better health, co-founding Whoopi & Maya, a now-defunct company that made cannabis products for relieving menstrual pain, before gracing the first cover of Black Cannabis Magazine to promote the launch of Emma & Clyde, her "elevated and socially conscious" brand of products for both medical and recreational users, according to a press release.
Goldberg also recently reacted to this year's Oscar's nominations, which did not include the film Till, a biographic drama about Mamie Till-Mobley and her fight for justice after the 1955 lynching of her son Emmett Till that Goldberg produced and co-starred in. Most notable was the absence of lead actor Danielle Deadwyler (pictured above with Goldberg), who had already received BAFTA and Screen Actors Guild Awards nominations for Best Actress, and hours after the nominations were announced Goldberg referenced the snub opening The View by congratulating the nominees but noting soberly, per Entertainment Weekly, "Unfortunately, my film Till was not nominated."