Chaz Bono, the only child of the singing duo Sonny & Cher, has come a long way in making a name for himself that did not revolve around his superstar parents. Besides his acting work and activism in the LGBT community, Chaz’s issues with his body image and his health have been highly publicized.
Here we take a look at how far he has come with his incredible journey in life—from accepting his gender identity to his impressive weight-loss story.
Chaz Bono, 51, is the son of the late Sonny Bono and Cher. He was born on March 4th, 1969, in Los Angeles, California, and his parents, in case you were not aware, made up the singing duo, Sonny & Cher. Without necessarily desiring the spotlight, Chaz Bono’s life story was made public from a young age, which probably only made his journey to self-understanding and acceptance even harder.
After his parents divorced, they went on to slightly different career paths: Cher, of course, made it big as a solo artist and became a decorated actress, while Sonny Bono was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1994 before meeting his demise in a skiing accident. However, Chaz Bono’s life took a rather unexpected series of turns before he was able to arrive at the happy and healthy place that he is now. Let’s take a look.
Chaz Bono was, as Infoplease describes, born the “cherubic daughter” of a “hippie-era couple.” Originally named Chastity Sun Bono, he got his name legally changed to Chaz Salvatore Bono after he underwent a sex change which was completed in 2010. This came after decades of Chaz Bono being a public advocate for LGBT causes. The actor even had the whole transition documented in a 2011 film titled Becoming Chaz and the documentary went on to clinch the top prize for the 2012 GLAAD Media Awards as well as no less than three Primetime Emmy nominations.
Speaking with Oprah in a 2011 interview, Chaz Bono opened up about his journey and when he knew that he didn’t feel like he was born in the right body. As a young child, he explains that it was always clear for him that he felt like a boy and that all of his friends were boys. But it wasn’t until puberty hit that he began to really struggle with his female body. He told Oprah:
“As I got older and especially going into puberty, it felt like the expectations around me started to change or how I was supposed to act but it also felt as if my body was like literally betraying me because I went from a very athletic, you know, straight up and down little kid to a very curvaceous woman and it was just horrifying to me.” He then adds: “You have this image of yourself and all of a sudden your body does the exact opposite of what you feel.”
Bono goes on to describe that he felt his boyish ways as a child were more accepted by his father than his mother but is quick to explain that it’s probably because he was trying to emulate his father and do all of the same things, whereas Cher, who saw Bono as her little girl, probably experienced a disconnect between what she expected her daughter to act like and what was the reality.
Then in the ’90s, while Bono still identified as a woman, he came out as a lesbian after years of rumors. He and Cher even went on Oprah together and publically discussed Bono’s coming out. As reported by the Daily Mail, Bono told Oprah that coming out as a lesbian woman “worked for a little while” but later on he began to realize what he was feeling was something else. He said:
“I always had this idea that, sure, I wished I was a boy and felt more like a boy and all of that. But I wasn’t, so I would deal with it. And I for some reason thought there were other lesbians that felt that way and that was just part of that community.”
Bono adds: “Then I started to realize, no, that isn’t what a lesbian is at all. That’s what being transgender is.” Chaz Bono’s transition from female to male began in mid-2008 and was confirmed in June 2009. His publicist said at the time, as reported by TV Guide:
“Chaz, after many years of consideration, has made the courageous decision to honor his true identity. He is proud of his decision and grateful for the support and respect that has already been shown by his loved ones.” They went on to say, “It is Chaz’s hope that his choice to transition will open the hearts and minds of the public regarding this issue, just as his coming out did.”
Chaz Bono’s legal transition was completed in May 2010, while the documentary Becoming Chaz was released the following year in 2011.
Despite Cher’s legacy as a gay icon and ally of the LGBT community, even for her, it wasn’t always easy to understand what her child was going through. Chaz Bono told Australian news outlet SBS:
“My mother went through a kind of mourning period. It was difficult for her and we didn’t see each other for about the first year of my transition.”
But they’ve managed to work through things and Bono says, “Now our relationship is the best it’s ever been.” In a 2018 interview with Pride Source, Cher opened up on her experience as the mother of a trans man and how she hopes it influences other parents of LGBT kids:
“This is what I think, and this is what I would hope: I would hope that, look, I didn’t go through it that easily. Both times. When I found out Chaz was gay, I didn’t go through it that easily; when I found out Chaz was (transitioning)…except we talked about it a lot, actually. But then Chaz didn’t mention it anymore, so I kind of forgot. And what I think is, there’s such a fear of losing the child you love, and what will replace that child.
I think it’s about the fear, mostly. I felt, who will this new person be? Because I know who the person is now, but who will the new person be and how will it work and will I have lost somebody? And then I thought of something else: I thought, my god, if I woke up tomorrow and I was a man, I would be gouging my eyes out. And so I know that if that’s what you feel then that must be so painful that it doesn’t make any difference what anyone else feels or what anyone else thinks.”
She echoed her son’s words adding, “Chaz is so happy now and we get along better than ever.”
More recently, Chaz Bono starred in a film called Reboot Camp, which in November 2020, Austin Film Festival announced it won the Audience Award. He takes on the role of Herbie, a character that The Austin Chronicle describes “isn’t too far off” of his character in American Horror Story: Cult, Gary Longstreet. Reboot Camp is a comedy that follows two brothers who create a fake self-help group that unexpectedly becomes really successful.
“Herbie just seemed like, in a strange way, an extension of the character that I played in American Horror Story,” he reiterated to The Austin Chronicle. “Herbie was kind of silly and didn’t, obviously, kill people, but I went into it with that kind of mindset of just getting completely ensnared and moved, just, you know, being so gung-ho in there.”
He explained that despite how seemingly different comedy and horror are, as an actor, Bono doesn’t see a big difference in the two genres: “The key is just being really committed to [the performance]…because if you’re not, it’s fake. And if you are, it works.”
Bono went on to add that his character in the movie goes through a “rebirth,” and it is something which he could probably relate to in his real life. Aside from his journey of transitioning into male, the path to weight-loss has also not been easy for the actor.
Of his ongoing struggle with his weight, in 2012 the actor told Dr. Travis Stork, The Doctors co-host and an ER physician that being skinny was “prized above all else” in his family when he was growing up. Explaining that even though he “wasn’t an overweight child,” he was still “put on diets all the time.” He adds:
“There was a lot of pressure to be underweight growing up,” Bono, who stands at 5 feet 5½ inches said. “I hope the pressure of doing something publicly will give me more incentive [to lose weight].”
According to ABC News, Bono vowed to start losing weight when he tipped the scales at 250 pounds back in November 2012. And he succeeded—by May 2013, he was down to 190 pounds. He had even expressed interest to do Dancing with the Stars for a second time, saying that he would “do it so much better now” than he did the first time in 2011 for its 13th season.
“I really feel very satisfied and comfortable with the way I eat now, which is amazing, and for me, kind of a miracle,” the then 44-year-old said. “I never thought I’d be that kind of a person!” The star noted that eating healthier and exercising also gave him “a lot more confidence,” and he started to “really like what [he sees] in the mirror.”
Speaking with People Magazine, Bono put his successes down to changing the way he eats. He said: “Diets don’t work. You just have to change what you eat, and I have.” Specifically discussing what kind of food he prepares for himself, Bono said: “I cook a lot of different stuff” before adding:
“I really avoid grains and starches, so meats and vegetables and fruits are my diet. I make them all different ways to keep it interesting.”
In March 2015, he took to Facebook to post a black-and-white picture of himself dressed in a leather jacket and boots. Fans were quick to comment on how good he looked and many congratulated him on the weight loss. One comment read: “Great job on the weight loss! Looking spectacular!” while another read “You look happy and you look awesome. We are so happy you are doing so well. Great job on the weight loss. So handsome! We are all proud of you.”
A weight-loss journey can be undertaken for a number of reasons—health, self-image, etc—and as long as one’s motivations are coming from a healthy mindset, the results usually bring about more than just an attractive figure, it can also change one’s mental state and inspire them to keep progressing in other areas of their life. That appears to be the case for Chaz Bono, who, after reconciling with his identity, moved on to tackling his weight, and ever since his acting career has gone from strength to strength. On top of the films and shows already mentioned, Bono has also appeared on The Bold and the Beautiful, Curb Your Enthusiasm, and various other film projects.
Chaz Bono was one of many trans men and women to appear in Netflix’s 2020 documentary Disclosure, which looks at Hollywood’s depiction of transgender people over the years and how that’s impacted American culture. Posting to his Instagram last year, Bono wrote:
“I’m so proud to be one of so many talented trans actors interviewed in this amazing documentary. Disclosure looks at transgender depictions in media going back to the silent film era.”
As well as his acting work, Chaz Bono appears to be an avid collector and builder of watches, judging from his Instagram. Frequently posting his handiwork, Bono’s passion and attention to detail are clear, with many of his watches featuring unique meteorite dials. As well as posting about watches and his acting and activism, Bono’s Instagram is also home to his many pets including a number of cats and a dog.
After an incredible journey that involves coming to terms with his gender identity and embarking on a weight-loss journey, it’s clear when scrolling through Chaz Bono’s Instagram feed that he is living his authentic life and is truly happy and we love to see it!
Did you know about Chaz Bono’s incredible journey to self-love and acceptance? If his weight loss journey has inspired you, let us know in the comments and pass it along to someone who you think could use a boost.