Rosie O’Donnell was born on March 21, 1962, in Commack, Long Island, in New York as the middle of five children to Edward and Roseann O’Donnell.
Her mother died of breast cancer four days before her 11th birthday, leaving her father to raise Eddie, Danny, Rosie, Maureen and Timmy all on his own.
Rosie told the Washington Post in an interview that she grew up watching a lot of television. She found her niche with brazen, in-your-face humor at a young age, starring in high schools skits where she imitated Gilda Radner’s character Roseanne Rosannadanna, according to Patrick Spreng, who wrote the biography "Everything Rosie!"
At 16, she made her stand-up debut at the Round Table restaurant’s amateur night and then performed at the East Side Comedy Club in Huntington, Long Island, according to People magazine.
Rosie graduated from high school, enrolled in Dickinson College in Carlysle, Penn., transferred to Boston University, and then quit school altogether at 18 to tour comedy clubs full-time. She made her first appearance on television in 1984 on the talent show "Star Search," where she won five times, earning $14,000 despite losing in the final round to Steve Mittleman, People reported.
In 1986, Rosie made her acting debut as an Irish dental hygienist in the last 11 episodes of NBC’s "Gimme a Break." In 1987, when the show ended, she was hired as a VJ for VH-1, where she hosted its comedian showcase "Stand Up Spotlight" for the next four years.
In 1992, Rosie landed her own TV show, "Stand by Your Man," that lasted seven weeks on Fox. Also that year, she starred in her first movie as a loud, unabashed first-baseman in "A League of Their Own," which co-starred Tom Hanks, Geena Davis and Madonna. She went on in 1993 to play supporting roles in "Sleepless in Seattle" (which starred Meg Ryan) and "Another Stakeout" (with Richard Dreyfuss and Emilio Estevez).
Rosie next hit the big screen as Betty Rubble in the live-action version of "The Flinstones," and as a police officer in "Exit to Eden," both in 1994. The same year, she appeared for the first time on Broadway as Rizzo in the revival of "Grease."
In 1995, Rosie played a smart-mouthed doctor in the film "Now and Then" and a similarly witty character in the 1996 ensemble comedy "Beautiful Girls."
Rosie O’Donnell adopted two-day old Parker Jaren in May of 1995, and later that year, after playing a housemaid in "Harriet the Spy," she decided to change her career focus so that she would have more time for her son. She finished up commitments with the film "Wide Awake" and started concentrating on obtaining her own daytime talk show.
Warner Brothers offered Rosie a daytime television talk show slot in January 1996, where she “wanted to avoid the sleaze of other daytime talk shows and concentrate on the celebrities and live performances that usually show up only on the late-night shows,” according to biographer Spreng.
March 1996 launched Rosie’s full-time work on "The Rosie O’Donnell Show," which made its official debut on June 10. At this point, Rosie was making a $4.5 million salary and living in a New York City brownstone, reported People magazine. Her show proved popular in ratings, ranking only below "The Oprah Winfrey Show."
Despite her up-front personality in many of her movies, Rosie followed her own rule to "never say anything on the air that you wouldn't say to someone's face."
Dubbed the "Queen of Nice" by Newsweek magazine, Rosie featured some of her own influences like Bette Midler and Barbra Streisand as well as other famous guests like Elton John and Tom Cruise. The show lasted six full seasons, going off the air on June 26, 2002.
Also in 1996, Rosie was offered a $3 million book deal also by Warner Brothers, which she used to form the For All Kids foundation and write her memoir, "Find Me." In April 2002, the book hit the second highest spot on the New York Times Bestseller List.
McCall's and Rosie launched her magazine, Rosie’s McCall’s (more commonly known as Rosie) in 2000. Only three years later, McCall’s sued Rosie for $30 million for resigning from the magazine early, but upon Rosie's filing a counter suit, the judge threw out the case.
In January 2002, Rosie made a guest appearance on NBC’s "Will & Grace" as a lesbian mother. Shortly after, Rosie announced that she was gay at an Ovarian Cancer Benefit at a comedy club.
In February 2002, Rosie married Kelli Carpenter, a former Nickelodeon executive in California, although the marriage license was voided by the California Supreme Court, according to "Entertainment Tonight." The couple adopted Chelsea Belle and Blake Christopher, and a fourth child, Vivienne Rose, was conceived through sperm donation to Carpenter in November 2002.
In 2003, O’Donnell and Carpenter started Rosie’s Broadway Kids, a free program for children’s music and dance instruction in New York public schools.
In 2006, Barbara Walters announced at the Emmy Awards that O’Donnell would be joining her and other co-hosts on "The View," an ABC daytime talk show. Walters had seen Rosie’s documentary on HBO about a cruise she sponsored for gay couples and their families, and had asked Rosie to join her show, TV Guide said.
While on "The View," Rosie got into a huge war of words with Donald Trump when she made fun of him for giving former Miss USA Tara Conner a second chance after she was caught drinking undergage.
Rosie hosted "The View" until 2007, when she quit before her contract’s expiration date following an argument with co-host Elizabeth Hasselbeck on May 23.
Rosie is reportedly releasing a second memoir, "Celebrity Detox", in September 2007 about the pressures she felt under the public spotlight on the "Rosie O’Donnell Show" and "The View."