By Lori Bitter, Publisher of GRAND Magazine
Marie Osmond – Singer, actress, spokesperson, entrepreneur, philanthropist, wife, mother, and grandmother extraordinaire
The first thing you notice when talking with Marie Osmond is her hearty, authentic, and frequent laugh, which mirrors her philosophy: “If you are going to laugh about it later, you might as well laugh about it now.” That thread of optimism clearly weaves through every aspect of this multi-talented star’s professional and personal life—an especially happy life, now that she has a grandson, and another grandchild on the way.
“It is the most incredible experience!” Marie said, laughing. “It is a wonderful extension of your child. When you’re a parent you have to be a disciplinarian; as a Grandma all I have to do is love him.”
“My husband and I love being grandparents,” she continued. “I’m reminded of being so loved by my grandparents. I wish my younger kids had known my grandparents. My mom and dad loved my children so much. Grandparents give perspective to children that they can’t get anywhere else. They have experience and such a library of wisdom.”
How it all began
The only daughter of nine children in the famous, singing Osmond Family, Marie made her debut at age three on The Andy Williams Show. At age twelve, she recorded “Paper Roses,” and became the youngest female artist to have a debut reach #1 on the charts, and be nominated for a Grammy. In 1976, she joined brother Donny to become the youngest host of a national TV variety show, The Donny & Marie Show.
“I had wonderful parents,” Marie explained, “They didn’t make my choices for me. They helped me realize the importance of choice and the consequences. Sure there were times it was lonely, but how do you feel sorry for yourself? I’ve had an incredible life with wonderful people.”
Since her debut as a toddler, Marie’s life has played out in the public. She married her college boyfriend in 1982 and divorced three years later, when their son was still a toddler. She married her second husband in 1986 and had two more biological children and adopted five. That marriage, which Marie describes as “a bad marriage,” ended in 2007 after twenty-one years.
She’s gone through some very tough times
In her book Behind the Smile: My Journey Out of Postpartum Depression, Marie described motherhood as a calling. “I have eight kids [and] used to joke with my Mom, who had nine, that I’m a slacker! As the mother of adopted kids, I do feel it [being a mother] is a calling. It is something I wanted to do. I knew they were mine. We lovingly took on the responsibility.” But being a grandmother is different. “It’s a gift you receive. It’s more a privilege than a calling. Though I do know grandparents who are called to take on much more, depending on [what’s happening in] their kids lives.”
Sadly, Marie lost her son Michael in 2010 as a result of depression, followed by a suicide. In an interview with Oprah following Michael’s death, Marie said her son told her the day before his death that he was lonely and isolated—feelings she recalled from her own post-partum depression. “It was the first time I heard him start to cry and say he was alone,” she said. “That he had no friends. That he felt despair.”
Losing a child was devastating. “I’ve gone some tough times. But you know, everyone has. I see where God has strengthened me throughout my life. He does it a little bit at a time. I believe he lifts you and sees if you can carry it. And then he lets you be. Then, he’ll come back and strengthen you. And he sees how you are doing and helps you come at your problem from another angle. It’s a great eternal principle of growth: You just [have to] trust that he won’t give you anything you can’t handle.”
She believes in optimism and service
Marie credits her mother, Olive, with teaching her strength. “My mother was the most positive woman. She had great faith in God. Her family was all schoolteachers. She would say, ‘Marie, let’s just get simple: Faith is nothing more than a positive attitude. You must believe that good will come.’”
Marie uses this philosophy today. “The greatest way to get me out of my own funk is to turn around and serve other people. I promise you, there is always someone struggling more than you are—and that lifts you up. It has a profound, positive effect in your life.” To serve other people, Marie has devoted thirty years to the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals, helping them to raise some $5 billion
How she remarried her first husband
Today Marie’s nest is nearly empty with only one daughter, who is twelve, at home, and a four-year remarriage to her first husband, Stephen Craig, about which she is as surprised as anyone. “My second marriage had ended. Donny and I were working five nights a week at the Flamingo. I wanted to focus on my kids and my work [so] I was moving to Las Vegas. I called my oldest son to help me move some things into my house. He asked if it was okay if he brought his dad. We hadn’t talked in awhile, but the friendship we started in college was still there. Those core things that attracted us to each other had never changed. I think we have both grown up a lot and we appreciate each other more because we have been through some hard times.”
Having a pre-teen at home keeps the star of Vegas’s #1 show (for the 3rd year running), humble. “She asked if she could bring some friends to our show a few weeks ago. They are eleven- and twelve-year-olds [who] know me as her mom [although] their moms know me as Marie Osmond. When the show was over, one her friends said to me, ‘So you are kind of like Selena Gomez, right?’” Marie paused to laugh. “I am very humble.”
She’s going on a world tour with Donny
Marie shows no signs of slowing down. She recently joined Kathy Lee and Hoda on the Today Show to announce a world tour with Donny. Baby Stephen James, Jr., lives in California, and Marie’s husband Stephen gets her there as often as possible for quality grandmother time. Her grandson, who is just forming words, calls her “Gam Gam.” When asked if she hopes he will join the “family business, Marie laughs, “He’ll be a genius at whatever he decides to do. My children are all very eclectic. I have loved helping them find what they enjoy. My oldest son was on stage with me at four years old for the Sound of Music on Broadway; now he’s a financial analyst who speaks Chinese. Children should have all kinds of experiences and opportunities to help them make their choices in life.”
Truisms her parents taught her
“My parents taught us to have a good name, be honorable. Be loyal, faithful and true. Your handshake should mean something. Have faith in God. Teach that to your children and they can get through anything.”
“My husband and I taught our children to stand on their own two feet and be independent. Be financially capable. Be responsible. Use their education. Be ethical people and serve others.”
“At the end of the day for me, it not about gold records. It’s what kind of mom were you? Or what kind of grandmom? That’s what it’s really about.”
Her devotion to the Children’s Miracle Network
As one of the founders (along with actor, John Schneider) of the Children’s Miracle Network (CMNH) charity, in 1983, Marie has long had a passion for philanthropy. She remains a fervent, involved supporter, helping the organization become the largest and best rated children’s charity in the country, raising more than $5 billion for 170 children’s hospitals across North America.
“My two oldest brothers are deaf, so our mother started the Osmond Foundation to help the hearing impaired. We aligned the Osmond Foundation with CMNH to broaden the mission,” said Marie of the inception of the organization. “People don’t realize that their local children’s hospitals are charities that need our support. They rely on donations to buy equipment, provide care to children in need, and for basic expenses. They are often last on the list to receive funds. CMN Hospitals serve 10 million kids every single year. These kids deserve the best care available.”
To learn more, go to https://giveamiracle.childrensmiraclenetworkhospitals.org, get involved, and donate. “I have had some amazing experiences in thirty years. I’m so blessed to know these kids. They have changed my life.”
Her little wedding miracle
Marie’s mom Olive was so happy when Marie and Stephen were set to marry a second time, she produced a little wedding miracle. “I was having a dress made for the wedding, and the lady making it had a little breakdown,” Marie explained. “The dress was awful . . . That night, as I was leaving for the Flamingo, I walked around my car to leave and there was a huge box in front of the car. I opened it, and it was my dress from my first wedding!”
“I had not seen that dress since my first wedding. I’m an organized person—I know where things are in my house. I had no idea where this was stored. I have no explanation, except my mom. She loved Stephen and she made it happen. It’s my Marie Osmond miracle!” she said, laughing. “And that’s how I ended up getting remarried in the same dress. It looked fine but if I had lifted my arms . . . oh my!”
Marie on getting fit & healthy
Marie became a spokesperson for Nutrisystem when she lost fifty pounds on the plan, eight years ago. “I couldn’t walk up the stairs without huffing and puffing. You can’t breathe and run all over the stage with that weight. I [also] couldn’t be a grandmother, keep up with eight children—I still have a twelve year old at home—or perform seven years in Vegas with Donny, without losing the weight. I love the kind of energy I have in my life now.” But she also needed to be fit, and hates going to the gym. “I asked my athletic and very fit husband to find me something I could use at home, and we settled on the BodyGym,” (which she now promotes/sells on QVC). “I don’t lend my name to many things, but I like being involved with things that will help women. We all need each other.”
Marie’s books & such
Yes, in edition to everything else, Marie has authored five books!
- Behind the Smile: My Journey Out of Postpartum Depression
- Might as Well Laugh About It Now
- The Key is Love: My Mother’s Wisdom, A Daughter’s Gratitude
- Marie Osmond’s Heartfelt Giving: Sew and Quilt for Family and Friends
- Marie Osmond’s Guide to beauty, health, and style
She’s also recorded over 35 albums earning multiple gold records, starred on Broadway, occasionally appears on The Talk, continues to perform five nights a week at the Las Vegas Flamingo Hotel Showroom, and is going on a world tour with Donny in coming months
Marie Osmond is a co-founder of the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals, raising over $5 billion for 170 local children’s hospitals nationwide. This work is a lifelong commitment for Marie who had two children whose lives were saved by children’s hospitals.
“I have had some pretty amazing experiences in the 30 years I’ve been involved with CMNH. I am so blessed having known these children. They have changed my life.”
Marie recalls an encounter at one of the early Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals telethons in Disneyland. “I was on stage and they were counting down 30-seconds until we went live. I was holding a baby – our very first successful heart transplant. This little boy was sitting on my lap. I had my hand on his back and I could feel his heart beating. I thought, ‘God is so amazing . . . that we have this technology and this baby is alive.’
“Right in front of me were the cameras and they continued counting down. There were two women watching, and I could hear them talking. One had tears in her eyes as she turned to the other and said, ‘Thank you so much for giving my baby life.’ I thought, that’s the doctor with the mother of this child I’m holding. The other woman broke into tears and said, ‘Thank you for letting my baby live on through yours.’ I could barely speak. I could tell you story after story where you see this tender mercy; I see this love and service on so many levels.”
For more information on Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals, go to https://giveamiracle.childrensmiraclenetworkhospitals.org “Get involved. It will change your life!”
Lori Bitter, President of The Business of Aging, also serves as publisher of GRAND. Her book, The Grandparent Economy is due in 2015. Her favorite title is “Gigi” for grandsons Gabriel (3) and Henry (5 months).