Multi-faceted entertainer Donny Osmond shares the secrets to his longevity in show business
to invent again or anew
That word, reinvention, sums up the superstar staying power of Donny Osmond. And, as we enter a new year, people often reflect on the past, set some goals and look forward to the upcoming year — an opportunity to evolve. Donny’s example of healthy living and goal-setting offers wisdom to those on their own journeys.
At the age of three, Donny was already singing and entertaining. He is the seventh of nine children of Olive and George Osmond, who were strong in their faith and believed in family first. Donny’s two older brothers were hearing impaired, and to buy hearing aids for them his parents decided the children could perform to raise the money needed. They were so popular in their hometown of Ogden, Utah, that the family eventually moved to Los Angeles — and so began the legendary career of the Osmond Family, one of the most celebrated and enduring show business families in history. Though Donny began singing as part of his family’s act, his solo career took off when he was a teenager. Osmond’s career spans over five decades with worldwide success, selling over 100 million records, including 33 gold records. He’s been a popular television star, radio host and author, and has been lauded for his performances on Broadway and in movies. Staying relevant is a constant evolution of self, he says, and to continue reinventing himself and his career he challenges himself to do the hard things, to set goals and not put things off until tomorrow.
The minute you start to talk with Donny, you hear in his voice the excitement and passion he has for life. He dreams big, works hard and is genuinely appreciative of his success, both personally and professionally.
Donny distinctly remembers when The Osmonds’ first No. 1 song went to the top of the charts. “I was 12 years old. My brothers and I wanted to stay home on Sunday morning to listen to Casey Kasem’s radio countdown, because the previous week our song had hit the No. 3 spot. My parents made us go to church instead and when we came out of church the countdown was playing the No. 3 song but it wasn’t ours. Then they played the No. 2 song and it wasn’t us either and I thought, ‘man, we fell in the charts and we didn’t even get to hear what number we were’ … and then they played the No. 1 song and it was us! It was so exciting — we were all jumping up and down and I knew right then that’s the career I wanted!”
“My philosophy is moderation is everything, treat your body with respect, work hard and don’t just wish your life away.”
That excitement led Donny to becoming arguably one of the biggest teen idols of his time.
When asked what it was like to be a teen idol, Osmond laughed. “Chaos!” he said, “and I loved it! I had already experienced a lot of success in the entertainment industry, so I had somewhat of an adult-like perspective on it.” Regarding today’s teen idols, he says, “I smile knowing how exciting it is and how it makes you feel so important, but I also know how easy it is to get ‘caught in your own hype’ and I know that it doesn’t last. It’s when the teen idol part is over and you try to transition that the real work begins.”
Osmond remains humble and respectful in an industry where many lose their way. “I remember wanting to put all the teen idol stuff behind me, but something happened at a show around 1990-ish that completely changed the way I looked at things. I decided I wasn’t going to sing ‘Puppy Love’ anymore, I was so tired of it, but the crowd kept shouting for it. So I turned to the band and told them to play a heavy metal version and I sort of screamed out the words like a heavy metal song. After the show, a woman came up to me and asked why I was making fun of ‘Puppy Love’ and I said something like ‘It’s my song, I can do whatever I want with it.’ And then she said something I have never forgotten that was hugely impactful. She said ‘Yes, it’s your song, but that song is also part of my childhood, too, and it’s not right to take that away from me!’ And that was a big insight for me; I realized that my songs don’t only belong to me, they also belong to all the fans and to their childhood memories. I’ll forever be grateful for that lady and her words as it helped me come to a valuable realization.”
Osmond continues to reinvent himself. He had what many in the entertainment industry called the “comeback of the 80s” with “Soldier of Love,” which reached No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100. He says, “If you don’t evolve, the world passes you by — I’d rather stay relevant.” And Osmond has done just that, expanding his craft into new arenas and audiences through the years. He loves how new generations find him through new projects like winning season nine of Dancing with the Stars and his role as Li Shang in the animated Disney movie Mulan. He and his sister Marie have been headlining five nights a week for almost a decade at the Las Vegas Flamingo Hotel in the popular, award-winning stage show Donny & Marie. He’s also currently pitching a new music-based TV show.
“Life’s a balancing act for us all. Be kind and true to yourself.”
“People ask me all the time – ‘where do you find your energy?’ Once the lights go up and the crowd is there, the ‘magic of showbiz’ kicks in and I just enjoy it!” Donny & Marie is filled with spirited choreography and high intensity dance numbers. “Our show is my fitness routine,” Donny said, “as five days a week I’m sweating my guts out, dancing like a teenager with backup dancers half my age.”
Staying fit allows Osmond to continue his fast-paced schedule, which includes sensible, healthy eating as well.
“I’m pretty careful with what I eat and drink. I really avoid sugar! I don’t eat a lot of dairy, but do like yogurt — I load it up with raisins and berries and pomegranate (his personal favorite) and I eat a lot of salads and veggies,” shared Osmond. “Water, water, water – that’s my drink, as it’s important to stay hydrated, and I also have a bone broth protein shake every morning.”
“It’s all about your definition. What really is success? It means different things to different people.” stated Osmond. He sees two distinct levels: personal success and professional success. “Even though someone can have a lot of professional success, it’s not necessarily what makes someone a success in life. I give myself some ‘atta boys’ for professional success, but at the end of the day no one really remembers that, nobody cares — it’s the relationships I have with my wife, kids, grandkids, family and friends that define success. The bottom line to happiness is relationships.
“Faith is an important part of us being down-to-earth. Normalcy is kind of an important word for me,” shared Donny. He and his wife, Debbie, married in 1978. They purchased a home in Utah over 20 years ago to raise their five boys in. “We raised our kids in a normal atmosphere, not a showbiz atmosphere. In my neighborhood, I’m not a celebrity. The local kids call me ‘Uncle Donny’ and they come over and play in the bonus room and swim in the pool. In fact, one of the younger kids on the street told me if I keep doing more Disney movies like Mulan I ‘might make it big someday’ — and I loved that. I’ve always felt if you start believing your own hype, you need to go home and mow your own lawn!”
As Osmond has reinvented and evolved throughout his life he’s learned to be kind to himself. “My philosophy is moderation is everything, treat your body with respect, work hard and don’t just wish your life away.”
As we wrapped up our conversation we asked him if there was anything else he wanted to share with us as we enter a new year.
“Life’s a balancing act for us all. Be kind and true to yourself.”
Jodi Marsh is the executive editor for Healthy Living Made Simple.