Emmy and Grammy winner Cyndi Lauper of 1980s pop music fame had 10 top 40 hits including "Time After Time," "True Colors" and "Girls Just Want to Have Fun." The 59-year-old from Queens, N.Y., published her memoirs, which recount the ups and often disturbing downs of her life. She left home at 17 because of a threatening stepfather. In the book she reveals sexual assaults, once while hitchhiking and once by a band member. She is a champion for women's rights and the rights and protection of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, especially teenagers who have left home or been kicked out. She will appear in her own reality show, "Cyndi Lauper: Still So Unusual," premiering 9 p.m. Jan. 12 on WE tv.
What were your reservations about doing reality TV?
I wanted it to be people doing something in the world. I mean, I think that "Bridezilla" is great and funny, but I wanted to show people actually trying to do something different.
The title of the show, "Still So Unusual," made me wonder if your unusualness was a natural phenomena.
I think other people see me like that. Me, I don't think I'm unusual. I think I'm pretty normal. I think it's everybody else.
What do you think they see that is unusual?
I have no idea. But I don't think I am. I think other people are. And you know what? The people who think I am unusual are very unusual.
Did you have control over the editing process?
Some of it, yeah, because I'm the guy selling it. It was a learning process. I love TV, and I had seen [Joan Rivers'] piece and thought it was really fun. I'm a huge fan, obviously. And I thought it would be fun to do. My family is involved, but it's not just about them. It's about me. I had a lot of stuff I was doing and stuff I wanted to bring attention to, and then in between it was life happening. You try and be the master of your life, but while you have one set of plans, life steps in.
You recently published your memoirs as well.
Ahh, my life's an open book, yes.
It really is. You experienced a lot of painful things, including the sexual assaults. What held you together?
Well, what you should understand is that unfortunately it's not such an unusual occurrence. If you look at the statistics. It is quite a common occurrence for women. Statistically, is it out of the blue? Hell no. Ask other women. Talk to women.
You talk about it so openly. Some people would have a great deal of difficulty.
It was freeing for me. It was freeing for me not to have that. I wanted to say I never wanted to let that kind of stuff get me down. I was gonna win. Not my circumstance. I win. Not circumstance.
Where does that kind of strength ...
Sicilian. Sicilian defense. My family came from Palermo, and my father was German Swiss. My mother is a full-blood Sicilian.
Well, the German Swiss, they're kind of like maybe they were fighting the Germans, and then the guy in the middle was going, "Hey, I'm neutral here!" [laughs.]
So you were raised Catholic. Are you religious?
Nope. I'm a recovering Catholic. But you know, I'm glad I had the whole angel thing and the Christmas thing because as a kid it helped me get through the whole nun thing and priest thing. A lot of religions kind of say the same things, but then people put themselves in charge. Power corrupts all. I do not believe in the end that any human being has the right of redemption for any other human being. That is up to the individual. So formalized religion, I don't believe in because people step in.
As a supporter of women's rights, where do you think women are today, especially with those rap/hip-hop songs that objectify women?
That is the industry. That has nothing to do with the artist because nowadays you can't get a deal as a rapper unless you talk about sex and violence. They don't want any message songs. They don't promote that. It's the record companies, the recording industry and what they think will sell. A lot of times the rap kids are, you know, just playing "Scarface." That's a big movie for all of them [laughing]. I don't know, I think they see it as a character.
The celebrity culture has heated up the race to become famous.
I think that every person has a story. For me, this whole reality show was about bringing the stories of what I was doing [to television]. For "The Voice," I had gone to see my sister. Every time I go to LA I see her. I had gone to talk to her because I was interested in Beverly [McClellan], the singer that asked me to sing with her [on "The Voice"]. I thought she was a wonderful singer and maybe didn't get her just deserts there. I thought she was kind of like an underdog, so I wanted to sing with her. But actually she was friggin' phenomenal, and it was nothing like I thought. You know, in the end the performance on "The Voice" was very electric.
Do you think fame comes at too high a price these days?
Fame is part of what I do. It allows me to do my music. It allows me to do other projects that are important in the world. Fame is part of it, and there is a time when the cameras shut off and that's fine. That's great.
Both your parents were musical. Is your son musical?
You know, we've yet to tell what's going to happen. He's only 15. I think he's talented, but I'm not sure yet who he will become. It's up to him.
Well, have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
Yes, merry, merry! And Happy Hanukkah! When my son was little he wanted to be Jewish because they get eight presents each night. Then he wanted to have Christmas and then he was looking at Kwanzaa until he found out that you have to make those presents. That put a real clamp on that one. He was only little then. Now it's an adventure, different adventure.