Barbara Streisand was born in Williamsburg, Brooklyn in 1942. Her father died when she was only 15 months old from complications of an epileptic seizure. Barbara’s family was on the brink of poverty and they were forced to move in with her Grandmother. Barbara’s mother worked as a bookkeeper in the high school system to support the family.
In 1949, Barbara went to Jewish Camp. Whilst she was away, her mother married Louis Kind. Barbara wasn’t told about the marriage or that her mother was pregnant. She has painful memories of her childhood and describes her stepfather as emotionally abusive. Her mother choose not to support her dreams of becoming a performer because she believed Barbara was too unattractive to succeed.
Before she finished high school, Barbara would travel to Manhattan and take acting classes. She would sit in the library and read all the great plays. As a 14year old, she worked in her local Chinese restaurant. She was quick at adding up and was given a role working the till. Barbara was determined to earn the money she needed to fix in the gaps in her two missing front teeth.
She auditioned for Allan Millers acting school. He described it as the worst audition he had ever seen, but he saw her raw talent. He noticed that she was not imitating other actors. He agreed to allow her to baby-sit his children in return for the cost of acting classes. Barbara did as many acting classes as she could between her school schedule and working.
Barbara decided not to go to college. She was desperate to be an actress. She shared accommodation with other struggling actresses. She learned how to make free soup from the tomato ketchup that was supplied for customers and the boiling water available for tea drinkers. As a child, she hated growing up poor in Brooklyn but she was energised by being a struggling actress.
Barbara was encouraged to enter a talent night at a local club. At that time, she had never received any formal singing lessons. The night was a success and she took up a career as a cabaret singer. She learned to hide her insecurities by studying the flamboyant drag queens and copying their moves.
Streisand made her Broadway debut in ‘I can get it for you wholesale’, where she played a vamp. She won the New York Drama Critics award and was nominated for a Tony. The album for the show was her first recording. She was offered a recording contract by Columbia before she was the age of twenty. She recorded her first album in 1963, The Barbra Streisand Album. The album became a top ten gold record and she won two Grammy Awards. She was the youngest person ever to receive the honour.
Barbra went on to have a have a career in music, recording award winning albums with Neil Diamond, Barry Gibb and Donna Summer. She started her own production company Barwood Films, where she produced, directed and wrote. She is credited for dozens of gold and platinum albums, and has sold over 250 million records world-wide, and she is the highest selling female recording artist. She has two academy awards, one Tony, five Emmys, 10 Grammys and 13 Golden Globes. Her net worth is estimated at $370 million USD.