Google "Renaissance Woman" and it will ask if you meant Barbra Streisand, as she has done it all in her illustrious career. The singer, actor, director, producer, writer, and philanthropist—to name a few—has found success in every medium she’s pursued and has the awards and accolades to prove it. On top of that, she was a pioneer when it came to women’s rights in Hollywood and pushed boundaries by commanding respect and equality from her peers, something she continues to campaign for today. She came from humble beginnings and worked her way to the top, yet at 77 years old, she acts like she’s just getting started! Here are 45 facts about Barbra Streisand.
Barbara Joan Streisand was born on April 24, 1942, in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, New York. And no, that is not a typo in her first name, as her given name was spelled that way. She would eventually drop the second “a” in her name at the beginning of her career, as she thought it would help her stand out more.
Streisand was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on December 16, 1976.
During a fan Q and A, Streisand was asked if she could pick any six people, dead or alive, to have dinner with, who would they be. Her answer was George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Albert Einstein, Edward Hopper, Gustav Klimt, and Fanny Brice. How many people had to Google those last three names? Be honest.
Streisand attended Erasmus Hall high school and graduated when she was only 16 years old. Not only did she graduate early, but she also finished fourth in her class in grades. Even more impressive is the fact that she was also attending two acting schools, one of which she gained a scholarship to in exchange for babysitting the teachers’ kids. Where she found the time and energy to attend three different schools and still graduate with honors is baffling.
Yentl holds a special place in Streisand’s heart as it took her years to finally get the movie made. It all started when she first read the short story the film is based on in 1968 and felt an immediate connection to it, as it made her think about the relationship she never got to have with her father. She would have to wait 10 years for the movie rights to become available, but she didn’t wait one second to purchase them and immediately go to work.
After graduating high school, she opted out of college and instead moved to Manhattan, where she dedicated the majority of her time to acting classes and auditioning for roles, while working office jobs for money.
She married actor Elliot Gould in 1963 and had one son with him, Jason Gould. They were divorced in 1971 after eight years of marriage. She then got married for the second time on July 1, 1998, to actor James Brolin. They never had any kids, but remain happily married today and will be coming up on 21 years together very soon.
Streisand is one of the most decorated recording artists in history but she never intended to pursue a career in music, she merely stumbled into it. She never took a singing lesson in her life but was persuaded by a friend to enter a talent show at a club, which she won. This led to her performing as a cabaret singer at numerous clubs in New York, and soon the country, and her fan base started to grow.
CBS Television was so impressed with Streisand’s first TV special, My Name is Barbra—which won five Emmy awards—that they locked her into a 10-year deal to create more TV specials, and even gave her full creative control for the first four.
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Only 14 people can call themselves EGOT winners—Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony—and Streisand is one of them. On top of that, she won the first three awards on her first attempt in each, winning for her first television appearance, album, and feature film.
Streisand has had the most success from her singing career, where she’s been nominated for 45 Grammys and won 8. Her first appearance came at the 6th Annual Grammy Awards in 1963, where she went two for three, taking home Album of the Year and Best Vocal Performance, Female. She was later awarded the Grammy Legend Award in 1992 and the Lifetime Achievement Award in 1995.
Streisand is the only artist to have a number one album in six consecutive decades—the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, 2000s, and 2010s. In total, she has 11 number one albums.
Streisand may be an EGOT winner, but she technically never won an “official” Tony award. What that means is she was the recipient of the Star of the Year award in 1970, which is a non-competition Tony. She has been nominated for traditional awards, though, once in 1962 for Best Featured Actress and 1964 for Best Actress. Regardless, it counts. Plus, has anyone looked at the other EGOT winners? There are a lot more questionable winners than Streisand.
Streisand literally did it all when it came to the 1983 movie Yentl, as she wrote, produced, directed, and starred in the Oscar-nominated feature film. Not only was that an impressive feat in and of itself, but it was also the first time a woman had ever accomplished that in the history of Hollywood!
Streisand has appeared in 19 films as an actress, three of which she directed and one she wrote—not including A Star Is Born, which was uncredited. She has a lifetime box office gross of $995,351,940 but when adjusted for ticket price inflation that total goes up to $2.7 billion! Her highest certified fresh rated film on Rotten Tomatoes is her debut Funny Girl with 93%, and the lowest rated is Little Fockers at 9%.
With all that Streisand has accomplished in her career, one would think that she would have no issue getting any project she wanted made. That may be the case when it comes to music, but she still—for some reason—hasn’t earned that same respect in the film industry. Streisand was connected to direct two movies, one in 2013 about the relationship between photographer Margaret Bourke-White and author Erskine Caldwell and another in 2015 about Catherine the Great, but neither came to fruition. She also wanted to direct The Book Thief and Hidden Figures, but lost out on both to male directors.
Streisand has been nominated for five Academy Award throughout her career, with two wins. She won Best Actress for her performance in her feature film debut, Funny Girl, in 1963 and her second win came—not surprisingly—in the Best Original Song category for “Evergreen” from A Star Is Born. This also marked the first time a woman won an Oscar for composing music. When it comes to the three films she directed, her totals go up as they received a combined 14 nominations across various categories but only Yentl picked up a win for Best Music.
Streisand’s first Oscar win made her one of 19 actors to win an award in their feature film debut. She also tied that year with Katherine Hepburn in voting and shared the award with her, something that has only occurred six times in the history of the Oscars. Lucky for Streisand though, Hepburn didn’t attend the show, so at least she didn’t have to share her acceptance speech time.
Streisand has been nominated for nine Emmys and won four, with her first nomination coming all the way back in 1964 and her last one happening over 18 years ago. Streisand had the potential to break that streak of no nominations last year with her well-received variety special Barbra: The Music… The Mem’ries… The Magic! but it wasn’t meant to be. One of the main reasons had to do with the fact that the Emmys got rid of the variety performance category in 2008, meaning Streisand had to look for a nomination in a more broad category. It’s a shame that didn’t happen, as she is currently tied with Bob Hope for the most Emmy-winning variety specials with two, so a win would have given her the lead.
Streisand has amassed 52 gold albums, 31 platinum albums, and 13 multi-platinum albums in her career, all of which are records for female artists. She is the only female artist with 34 albums in the Top 10 on the US charts and overall she is number two behind only the Rolling Stones. Her 11 number one albums have her tied for third with Bruce Springsteen on the list of most number albums and she is the only women on the all-time top 10 best selling artists list. Finally, she has sold over 72 million albums in the US and 250 million albums worldwide.
Streisand has been the recipient of countless awards that go beyond the four major entertainment ones. She was named Star of the Year by the National Association of Theater Owners for Funny Girl, she’s won three Peabody Awards for My Name Is Barbra, Barbra Streisand the Concert, and Serving in Silence: The Margarethe Cammermeyer Story—that time as a producer. She received the American Film Institute’s twenty-ninth Life Achievement Award in 2001 and was the first female director to receive the Kennedy Center Honors.
Streisand is renowned for her many contributions to charities and various causes, most notably through the Streisand Foundation, which she founded in 1986. In 1994, she went on tour and raised over $10 million for numerous charities and another $7 million from the sales of her Barbra Streisand: One Voice concert. As a reward for her efforts, she was given the Humanitarian Award in 2004 and in 2015 then President Barack Obama gave her the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Streisand attended high school with musician Neil Diamond and even performed in the school choir with him. The two would reunite in the 1970s to collaborate on the song “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers,” which went on to debut at number one.
Her beloved dog Samantha lived to be 14 years old—which is quite long for a dog—before passing away in 2017. Streisand took the death hard, as Sammie was like a daughter to her. That was the driving force behind her decision to clone her dog, and that’s not even the crazy part. The cloning process ended up producing four puppies!
She ended up keeping two, giving one away to a friend while the other sadly passed away. On top of that, while waiting for the cloning process to end, she got another dog from Samantha’s breeder. Now, she has three dogs named Miss Fanny, Miss Violet, and Miss Scarlett.
Streisand has an honorary doctorate of philosophy degree from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and an Honorary Doctorate in Arts and Humanities from Brandeis University in Massachusetts. The accolades and achievements are seemingly endless at this point for Streisand.
Streisand has been recognized for her work and accomplishments outside of the entertainment industry not only by America but—oddly enough—France as well. In America, she’s been award the Medal of Arts from the National Endowment for the Arts and was presented with the National Medal of Arts from then-President Bill Clinton.
Then there’s France, where she was honored as a Commander of the Order of Arts and Letters and was given the country’s Legion D’Honneur from the French President Nicolas Sarkozy. What they all stand for or represent, who knows, and at this point, it’s up in the air if even Streisand knows what half of them are either.
It may be hard to believe but Streisand has experienced failure in her career, albeit it very early on. When she was a teenager, she auditioned for The Sound of Music but didn’t get the part. She ended up as an usher at the theatre the play was performing at and supposedly kept her head down so no theatergoers would see her face as she didn’t want them to recognize her when she inevitably became famous.
In 2014, with the release of Partners, Streisand set the record for the longest span of number one albums on the Billboard 200 chart at 49 years, 11 months and 14 days, with her first number one album, People, being released in 1964. Then, she broke the record again two years later with the release of Encore at 51 years, 10 months and 17 days.
Streisand has performed the song “Happy Days Are Here Again” for three presidents—John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, and Bill Clinton—but the luck ran out the fourth time when she sang it for Hillary Clinton at a fundraiser during her presidential run in 2016, which she ended up losing to Donald Trump.
Streisand has her own archive, started by an assistant who has been with her for over 40 years. It consists of fan letters and other “wonderful things” that she received over the years. She’s been using the archive to help write her memoir, a memoir that she has yet to even submit a rough draft for, despite an announcement in 2015 promising a 2017 release date.
Streisand used her antique clothes for the wardrobe of A Star Is Born, partly because she had full artistic control and because if she went over the six-million-dollar budget she would have to pay the extra herself. She avoided that by using her own stuff. There is even footage on YouTube of a wardrobe test she conducted with the various stars of the film. Fans of the movie may have even noticed that her clothes get a shout out in the credits, as it says “Miss Streisand’s clothes from her closet” in the crawl.
Streisand helped form First Artists Production Company in 1961 with Paul Newman, Sidney Poitier, and Steve McQueen, in the hopes of helping actors make the movies they want to make, on their own, without having to worry about, cater to or deal with the big studios. The company was similar to United Artists, which was formed by Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, and D.W. Griffin in 1919.
Streisand wanted to make a sequel to the movie The Way We Were and release it on the films 21st anniversary, but her co-star Robert Redford put the kibosh on the plans, as he is not a fan of making sequels to his movies. If anyone is curious what that movie might have looked like, Streisand has that covered, as she came up with a plot that would have followed “Katie and Hubbell’s daughter Rachel’s political activism at UC Berkeley and the Democratic Convention in 1968.” Hopefully, that’s enough to satisfy fans that were looking forward to a sequel.
Streisand mentioned in an interview that her favorite actor of all-time is Marlon Brando, and he just so happened to be her teenage crush as well. She would end up becoming close friends with the actor and the two would talk on the phone regularly for hours. At one point, the two took a road trip together and Brando tried to take their relationship to the next level but Streisand shut him down. Apparently, teenage crushes don’t last forever.
Even though the majority of her accolades, awards, and accomplishments come from her career as a musician, Streisand “considers herself to be an actress who sings and not the other way around.” She even noted in an interview that she doesn’t “sing unless it’s for a purpose, like fundraising or making a record.” She keeps it strictly professional.
Streisand was arguably overlooked in the Best Director category at the Oscars for the three films she directed, as she never received a nomination. However, she did get to be a part of history when she presented Kathryn Bigelow with the Best Director Oscar for The Hurt Locker, the first—and only—time a woman has won the award.
Streisand has an estate in Malibu that consists of three houses—a main house and two guests house that she calls The Barn and Grandma’s House. It gets better from there. Her basement is essentially a mall that consists of a frozen-yogurt shop, a dress shop filled with old costumes and Oscar dresses, a doll shop called Bee’s for her antique doll collection, and a screening room with a 17-foot wide screen.
Streisand would purposely not put her name in the opening credits of the movies she directed because she didn’t want audiences to see that a woman directed and immediately judge the movie. She wanted them to focus their attention solely on the characters and their journey and then in the end credits see her name beside director. That seems ludicrous today but the times were different back then.
Streisand’s first two experiences directing were drastically different and location played a huge part in that. Her first film, Yentl, was shot in Europe with a European crew, who welcomed Streisand with open arms. She found them more progressive and more accepting of a female director, as opposed to her native America, where she shot her second film, The Prince of Tides. This experience was difficult—to say the least—as Streisand had to deal with “the boys’ club” and struggled to gain command and control over her crew and actors.
In 1961, Streisand booked a two-week gig at the Town and Country nightclub in Winnipeg, Manitoba but ended up only performing for three nights before leaving. Why that happened depends on who you ask, as there are conflicting stories. For the longest time, it was believed that the manager of the club fired Streisand because he didn’t like her singing voice, but that was debated by a former employee who claimed Streisand’s manager asked for her to be released from her contract early to pursue another opportunity.
Streisand has a career that spans nearly seven decades, so it makes sense that she would have a few regrets when looking back at it all. According to her, the biggest ones have to do with the various roles she turned down, specifically in the movies Cabaret, Klute, and Julia. Her reason—at the time—for not doing them was because the directors who ended up on the projects weren’t attached when she was offered the role, but if they had been she would have taken them.
Streisand has a term named after her called “The Streisand Effect” which is used to describe a situation where someone tries to draw attention away from a subject but ends up unintentionally drawing even more attention to it. The term was coined in 2003 after Streisand sued a photographer who worked for the California Coastal Records Project for taking aerial photos of her estate, as she argued they showed people how to break onto her property.
In reality, they were solely meant for scientists and researchers who study coastal erosion. At the time of the lawsuit, the photos had only been seen six times, two of which were by Streisand’s lawyers. Once the lawsuit became public knowledge, they were seen over one million times!
Due to her unique look, Streisand struggled early on in life and had to deal with bullies both at school and at home. She was mocked by other students, emotionally abused by her stepfather and never supported by her mother, who believed she wasn’t attractive enough to make it in the entertainment industry.
Tragedy struck Streisand very early on in her life when her dad passed away after suffering a seizure. She was only 15 months old at the time and ended up having to move in with her grandparents after her mother struggled financially to raise her and her siblings. As difficult as it is to lose a parent, especially at such a young age, Streisand believes his death, in a way, helped shaped who she would later become in life, and even used that moment as inspiration while filming the movie Yentl.
In 1967, Streisand forgot the lyrics to some of her songs while performing a concert in Central Park for more than 130,000 people. This moment took such a toll on her that she developed stage fright, which led a 27-year period where she did not perform live in front of an audience. To this day she still suffers from stage fright but finds ways to power through it.
Streisand was friends with Michael Jackson for many years, and she's recently come under fire for her comments about his accusers after the release of the documentary Finding Neverland. Though she didn't imply that Jackson's accusers were lying, she did say: "His sexual needs were his sexual needs...You can say ‘molested,’ but those children, as you heard say, they were thrilled to be [at Jackson’s Neverland ranch]. They both married and they both have children, so it didn’t kill them.” She also took the blame off of Jackson, instead pinning fault on the parents "who would allow their children to sleep with him." Not long after the comments, Streisand offered a public apology online—but it's hard to take words like that back.
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