Since then, Lauper -- who turns 60 this year and still sports pink "salmon"-colored hair -- has sold more than 50 million records worldwide, released 40-plus singles, penned a best-selling memoir, and fights as a tireless advocate for LGBT equality.
Lauper always dreamed of being a comedienne, but when she went to pitch a comedy show, she said the producers looked at her and saw a reality show.
Her show, "Cyndi Lauper -- Still So Unusual," which premieres Saturday at 9 p.m. ET on WE tv, chronicles her life as part rock star, part working mom.
At the Dalloway restaurant in Lower Manhattan, Lauper dished about the hazards of raising a teenage boy with her husband of 20-plus years, actor David Thornton, and the struggles that come when Dad is the stay-at-home parent.
"We switch back and forth, and then my job kind of never ends so he stayed," Lauper said. "You've got to be there for them. Even if you're not in the same room, you're in the same house."
In one episode of her reality show, she complains to her husband that he "basically raised" their now-14-year-old son Declan and it hurts to watch him grow up without her at home. But at the same time, Lauper said she knows she is still providing for him.
"I work a lot because I want to give him everything I never could have," she said. "I didn't grow up with a silver spoon."
Lauper was raised in Ozone Park, an Italian, working-class section of Queens, N.Y., waiting tables and working in a thrift store in the early '80s. She said she had to hit rock bottom before she hit the big time.
"In '83, I got my record deal as a solo artist but I had to go bankrupt first," Lauper said. "Honestly, the judge said, at the end of the whole thing, he took the gavel and said, 'Let the canary sing.' So this canary sang."
Even now, Lauper doesn't forget her humble beginnings. She has the same domestic chores as everyone else, like washing dishes in pajamas, sans make-up.
"I don't want to be a fake parent," she said. "I don't want to be a fake singer. I don't want to be a fake writer. I don't want to be fake anything. I want to be the real thing."
But sometimes keeping it real can land Lauper in hot water. There was the time she dropped the f-bomb on live television for a parade and her son Declan gave her grief for it.
"He said, 'Dad, what Dad always says that if you don't curse when it's not important, you won't curse when it is,'" Lauper said. "And I was thinking, "F-- yeah.' No, I'm kidding, no, no, I'm thinking, 'I know, Dec. I know, it was a long day. you know.' It's hard to be me."
And it's hard to keep up Lauper too, who is busier than ever. Aside from the reality show, Lauper has also been in the recording studio working on a Broadway musical she co- wrote called -- what else -- "Kinky Boots," the story of a struggling shoemaker who turns to producing sexy stiletto-heeled boots to revive the family business.
In short, Lauper is a workaholic who still has her edge, but in an ironic twist, the wild rebel, the girl who just wanted to have fun, has been in a stable marriage for over two decades and has a down-to-earth son.
"Well it's hard for David raising both of us," Lauper said, laughing. "No, I'm kidding."
But as in any marriage, Lauper said she and Thornton have had family discussions about her slowing down or getting out of the business.
"But we also talked about 'When you're done, you're done. You don't have to do any more. You do what you want to do and that's it,'" Lauper said. "[We're] a couple that's trying to raise a kid and trying to still be together."
Perhaps those are just her "True Colors" shining through.