The controversial comedian was born March 21, 1962, in Commack, Long Island. Her upbringing was a tough one, particularly when her mother died of breast cancer, leaving a 10-year-old O’Donnell and her four siblings without much parental supervision. She found comfort in movies and television, idolizing strong, funny women such as Lucille Ball and Bette Midler.
After graduating high school, O’Donnell toured the U.S. comedy circuit, though she found it to be too grueling and sexist. After she made five winning appearances on Star Search, she decided to move to Los Angeles in 1984. Six years later, O’Donnell was cast as Madonna‘s sidekick in A League of Their Own, and the two remain friends to this day. After the film’s success, O’Donnell was cast in hit movies such as Sleepless in Seattle and Now and Then. In 1994, her Broadway dreams were realized when she was cast as Rizzo in Grease!, although the reviews were lukewarm.
In 1995, O’Donnell became known as the “Queen of Nice” when she hosted her own talk show, called The Rosie O’Donnell Show. While raising her two adopted children in New York (Parker and Chelsea Belle), she continued to work on the show and film small roles in movies like Harriett The Spy. In 1999, O’Donnell adopted her third child, Blake. One year later, O’Donnell announced she planned to quit her talk show when her contract expired in 2002.
Upon the conclusion of her chat fest, O’Donnell officially came out as a lesbian in her autobiography, Find Me, in 2002. Shocking fans yet again, she announced later that year she would no longer publish her namesake magazine. The revelation spurred a nasty, highly publicized courtroom battle with her publisher. Despite her hectic year, O’Donnell and her partner, Kelli Carpenter (a former Nickelodeon marketing executive), welcomed daughter Vivienne Rose (who was conceived through artificial insemination).
On Feb. 26, 2004, O’Donnell wed Carpenter a mere two weeks after it became legal to grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples. In 2006, the funny woman replaced Meredith Vieira as co-host and moderator of The View. O’Donnell’s outspoken personality sparked several heated debates, most notably with co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck. In April 2007, the two went head-to-head while discussing the war in Iraq — it would be O’Donnell’s last day on set.
In November 2009, O’Donnell revealed that she and Carpenter had been living apart for nearly two years. Now married to Michelle Rounds, O’Donnell welcomed daughter Dakota into her family in 2013.