He has sold more than 100 million albums, earned five Grammys and even an Oscar®. She had a privileged childhood, living in a lavish Hollywood home with famous celebrities as her neighbors. But behind their glamorous exteriors, Lionel Richie and his daughter Nicole spent years dealing privately with family anguish.
Nicole was actually two years old when she came into Lionel's life. Nicole's birth parents were friends with Lionel and his first wife, Brenda, and thought it was a better idea for the little girl to live with them because they were more stable. At the time, Lionel's solo singing career was just taking off.
Oprah: Did you take your "father role" seriously?
Lionel: "Father" meant to me provider…and I was working myself to death…but I wasn't physically home; I wasn't there every day.
Oprah: So tell me, were you a good father, Lionel Richie?
Lionel: I don't think so, in the standpoint of being an attentive, there-every-day-father.
Lionel says he often chose singing engagements over his daughter's school functions and recitals, and would call her to get a recap. "It was always, 'How was it honey? I'll see the video when I get home.'"
Nicole: Sometimes I was hurt but a lot of the times I just—once it started happening so many times you just don't even expect him to be there. I just assumed that he wasn't going to be there.
Oprah: Did you have a different relationship with your mother?
Nicole: My mom was definitely more there, but at the same time she was trying to be a wife as well. So a lot of times she would go with him.
Oprah: So who took care of you?
Nicole: I did.
Nicole says her life came crashing down when her father had an affair with another woman.
"When my dad divorced my mom it was kind of like him leaving me also," says Nicole, who was about eight years old at the time. "I just really didn't understand why he wasn't returning my phone calls, or why I couldn't see him whenever I wanted to. That was the most hurtful thing to me."
After Lionel had been caught cheating on her mother Brenda, Nicole began to live a secret life. She was 13 years old when she began drinking alcohol and taking drugs. She soon began hanging out at clubs and staying out until the early morning hours. Her four-year cocaine addiction began to spiral out of control, and she began taking pills and heroin.
"I was like a trash can—I took everything," Nicole says.
Nicole's parents begged her to go into rehab. But just one week before she was supposed to check in, she was arrested while driving and police found a balloon of heroin. "I was extremely, extremely scared," she explains.
Out on probation, the incident scared her straight into counseling. The entire family participated in heavy therapy. "Everything came out," Nicole says. "I was definitely trying to mask hurt, abandonment. I had no idea I was feeling this way."
Just five months ago, Lionel's second wife of eight years, Diane, filed for divorce. Lionel says that he had left the music business to devote himself to home and family, but his eventual return to the music industry caused trouble for his marriage.
Lionel is father to not only Nicole, but also to nine-year-old Miles and five-year-old Sophie. He says that as he goes through his second divorce, he's trying to communicate more with his children.
Oprah: How does all of this [the divorce] affect your music?
Lionel: Well, I always heard something when I first moved to Hollywood: You write your best stuff when you're in pain. I kept saying, "That's a bunch of baloney, because you should be as happy as you can be." But I find the greatest songs in the world come out of pain, and I don't like it! Here's what it does: It strips away all of your façade. It makes you so honest. It's cleansing.