Grammy and Oscar winner Cher once 'had no money' and 'owed the government $278,000'

Actress/singer Cher performs onstage during the 2017 Billboard Music Awards
Ethan Miller | Getty Images Entertainment | Getty Images

Pop music icon Cher first caused a stir in the music industry in 1965 at age 19. It was the year she and her first husband, Salvatore "Sonny" Bono, released their big hit, "I Got You Babe."

From there, her career took off: Between 1965 and 1972, the couple recorded nearly a dozen Billboard Top 40 hits. Around the same time, "The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour" was one of the most popular TV shows in America.

But the beginning of her career was also marked with low points. "There were certain parts that were really difficult and I was struggling," she told Jimmy Fallon on an episode of "The Tonight Show" in 2016. "In the beginning, what happened … Sonny and I, we were really famous, and then our career just went off a hill. We had no money, we had no job and we owed the government $278,000. … We were broke a-- broke."

When their marriage ended in the mid-70s, Cher was deeply in debt. "I had no money and no way to live," she told Vanity Fair in a 2010 interview.

"I did modeling, because that was the only thing that I could do to keep myself going," she continued. "My friends were Jack Nicholson, Warren Beatty, Anjelica [Huston], Goldie [Hawn] … all these women and men who were working at their prime. And I couldn't take a job. I couldn't do anything."

In the late 70s, she started recording again. She also took on acting roles in plays and eventually films. Cher earned her first Oscar nomination in 1984 for Best Supporting Actress in "Silkwood." Four years later, she won Best Actress for her performance in "Moonstruck."

Today, at age 72, Cher's impressive collection of awards includes three Golden Globes, an Emmy and a Grammy.

"You can just never give up," she told Fallon. "No matter what people say about you, and people have said some pretty terrible things about me, you just don't give up."

Singer Cher poses for photos on January 1988 in New York City
Joe McNally | Hulton Archive | Getty Images

She's far from the only pop star whose career has featured extreme highs and lows. Nine-time Grammy winner Lady Gaga, who won her first Oscar in 2019, was $3 million in debt after her second worldwide concert tour, which ran from 2009 to 2011.

She eventually worked her way out of the red and is doing well for herself today: In 2018, she had already earned $50 million as of July, Forbes reports.

"I've worked hard for a long time," Gaga said during her Oscar acceptance speech for Best Original Song. "It's not about winning. What it's about is not giving up. If you have a dream, fight for it ... It's not about how many times you get rejected or fall down or you're beaten up. It's about how many times you stand up and are brave and you keep on going."

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Lady Gaga was $3 million in debt after her Monster Ball tour
Lady Gaga was $3 million in debt after her Monster Ball tour