Barbra Streisand’s life story is a testament to the power of resilience and determination in the face of adversity.
Her remarkable success can be attributed, in part, to the very obstacles she encountered. As she celebrated her 81st birthday on April 24th, we are reminded of the incredible woman she is and the remarkable journey she has undertaken.
Born in Brooklyn, United States, in the early 1940s, Barbra entered the world into a Jewish family. Sadly, she lost her father at such a young age that she has no memories of him. Her mother, Diana Ida Rosen, worked as a school secretary and would later marry Emanuel Streisand, a grammar and literature teacher.
After the birth of her older brother, Sheldon, Barbra arrived, though she later dropped one “a” from her stage name. However, tragedy struck when Barbra was just 15 months old, as Emanuel passed away suddenly after suffering an epileptic seizure. This heartbreaking event forced Diana and her two children to move into her mother’s home.
Barbra Streisand has openly shared how, during her school years, she was known as “the girl with a good voice and no father.” Emanuel’s absence lingered throughout her life, even influencing some of her most significant career decisions. She once revealed that she asked her mother why she had never spoken about her father, to which her mother replied that she didn’t want her to miss him.
Rather than the presence of her father, it was the influence of her mother that left an indelible mark on her life. Diana, deeply affected by her husband’s death, raised Barbra without displaying much affection and often emerged as her harshest critic.
Streisand has candidly discussed the lack of support she received from her mother and stepfather during her formative years. In a New York Times interview, she recounted how her mother told her she wasn’t pretty enough and should consider a career as a typist. She also shared her reluctance to sing in front of her mother, as her mother often embarrassed her. “While others praised my voice, my mother insisted, ‘She’s not good enough, not strong enough,'” she admitted.
Furthermore, Barbra revealed the harsh treatment she endured from her stepfather, Lou Kind, who never truly cared for her and subjected her to feelings of inadequacy from a very young age. She recounted, “I tried for a while to make him like me. I even called him Dad and brought him slippers at night when he came home. He would bend me over on my stomach and crawl so I wouldn’t block the TV while he watched wrestling. But did I ever manage to win his favor? Not a chance.” These early experiences have deeply influenced Streisand’s life and shaped her into a vocal advocate for self-esteem and self-confidence, challenging beauty stereotypes within the entertainment industry.
Perhaps due to her father’s sudden death, Diana saw her daughter through a lens of frustration. Before becoming a secretary, Diana had been a soprano but was too shy to perform in public. In a revealing interview, Barbra acknowledged that her mother may have harbored jealousy toward her career. She stated, “Yes. It was quite surprising to discover. She never directly praised me, but I have a feeling she did so with others. She wasn’t one for physical contact, never hugging me or uttering ‘I love you.’ I simply could not win her over, yet I owe her my career.”
Barbra reminisces about her early years, living with her grandparents as a little girl after her father’s death. She and her mother shared a bed while her older brother slept in a cot. Their modest home didn’t even include a living room. Later, Diana remarried, introducing a new man into her life, Lou Kind, and revealing that Barbra would have a stepsister, Roslyn.
As a solace, Barbra would sit in the hallways of her neighborhood, singing her heart out. She was invited to sing at weddings and camps, but it wasn’t until she was 13 that her mother allowed her to record a tape with some of her songs. At 16, she was already living independently, searching for her place in the entertainment world, initially as an actress. However, she was often told that she was not attractive enough and should consider a nose job. It wasn’t until the age of 18 when Barbra arrived to sing at a nightclub that she thought, “This might be the beginning of a significant change in my life.” Indeed, it was, as her career took off, and never looked back from that moment.