It isn’t just the surplus of sequins, feathers, and rainbow wigs that lured Cyndi Lauper to her current gig — working all summer as Cher’s “special guest” on tour. Lauper views this road show much as she did a similar assignment two summers ago when she was tapped as opener for Tina Turner.
“When you think about how many times these women have been written off,” Lauper says. “Then they come back — and how they just keep putting their work out there and succeeding in an industry where people can’t wait to get rid of you — it’s pretty inspiring.”
In her own version of coming back from the dead, Cyndi Lauper has also had to reinvent herself more than once, while contending with radio stations, retailers, and record label executives who told her she was past her prime.
“I’ve learned not to wait for other people, or allow them to define who I am,” says Lauper, who told a generation of girls that they just wanna have fun. “You have to create your own opportunities.”
Today, 20 years after launching her music career, Lauper, 46, remains an unapologetic collision of blue hair and glittery excess.
“Yes, I walk around New York this way,” she says, fussing with a patch of her sky-blue tresses. “Do people notice? I’m not sure anymore. They’re used to me.”
What people have noticed over the years, is that there has always been much more to this singer-songwriter than her punk-meets-Oz look. She earned much praise for her wide-ranging ’90s albums Hat Full of Stars and Sisters of Avalon, which incorporated equal parts rock, folk, and pop. She’s also done well as an actress, appearing in several movies, including the soon-to-be-released independent film The Opportunists, starring Christopher Walken. And she was an Emmy-winner in 1995, for her recurring guest role on NBC’s Mad About You.
But it was her stint as opener for Turner in ’97 that got heads turning again. As if her powerful 50-minute sets weren’t enough, Lauper performed these energetic shows while in the advanced stages of her first pregnancy, leaving admirers all the more in awe.
“Working was probably the healthiest thing I could have done,” she says. “You’re carrying a baby. You’re not an invalid.” Her son, Declyn, now 18 months old, is traveling with her for most of the summer.
“It’s a lot,” she says of her schedule, which also includes late-night club shows in some cities — after she leaves the arena stage. “I guess I got busy. But I like that.”
The after-hours shows pump her remake of the old Trammps hit Disco Inferno, which was first heard on the A Night at the Roxbury soundtrack. It was later nominated for a Grammy and is now in stores in single format.
Though music remains her chief priority, she hopes to return to television soon. As part of a now-concluded deal with NBC, she created a sitcom for herself, which she is now shopping elsewhere. “My job is very clear to me,” she says. “My responsibility is to create and keep creating. The other stuff, whether people think you’re great or you suck, isn’t part of it. It’s not my job to judge.”