World star Barbra Streisand is shockingly honest in her voluminous autobiography

She looks in My Name is Barbra among other things, she looks back on her youth, love, endless performances and meetings with celebrities.

Joris Henquet

The book has 1,032 pages. The audiobook, narrated by herself, lasts 48 hours. It is clear that Barbra Streisand has put a lot of effort into her autobiography My Name is Barbra. The long-awaited book was released worldwide on Tuesday, also in a Dutch translation. In My Name is Barbra legendary singer, actress and director Streisand – now 81 years old – discusses in detail her impressive career, which spans six decades of show business. According to the back cover, Streisand is ‘honest, funny, outspoken and charming’.

Streisand is spending her old age at her estate in the Californian coastal town of Malibu. She no longer performs and has been heard sporadically in recent years. This week, however, she is back in the media again. She gave several interviews, such as to the BBC, where she said about her book: ‘This is my legacy. I wrote down my story. After this I will never have to give an interview again.’

Over by author
Joris Henquet is theaterjournalist van de Volkskrant. He mainly writes about cabaret, stand-up comedy and musicals.

American TV interviewer Gayle King from CBS was given a tour of Streisand’s villa. She got a look at the famous mini shopping street that Streisand had built in her basement. We see a shop full of antique girl dolls, to compensate for the fact that Barbra never received a doll from her mother in her youth. There is also a shop where you can get ice cream. Streisand shares her reason for writing the book with Gayle King: “I want to tell the truth. I like truth. There are stories about me and there are myths.’

‘Blood on the Pages’

In addition to looking back on her famous roles in Broadway theater and in Hollywood films, Streisand writes about the men in her life. Because, her editor said, there had to be some ‘blood on the pages’. Streisand has had relationships with actors Elliott Gould and Ryan O’Neal, Canadian ex-Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau and tennis player Andre Agassi, among others. In 1998, Streisand married actor James Brolin, with whom she now lives in Malibu.

Barbra Streisand did not have an easy childhood in a Jewish family in Brooklyn, New York. Her father died when she was 1 year old and her mother showed little affection. Barbra was saved by her talent and started singing and acting fanatically as a teenager. Streisand was not a classic beauty, but did not let critics who commented on her special nose stop her. Streisand writes, “I sometimes felt like my nose got more publicity than I did.”

Her unique and unprecedentedly powerful singing voice was praised from the start. Streisand made a splash in the New York nightclub Bon Soir and in 1964 he played the famous leading role of maverick Fanny Brice in the musical on Broadway. Funny Girl, which was also made into a film in 1968. Streisand portrays an atypical female character here: not a beautiful fashion model, but a quirky, funny woman. From then on, her career paralleled the feminist movement and the changing role of women in entertainment.

Barbra Streisand and Mandy Patinkin in 'Yentl' (1983) Image

Barbra Streisand and Mandy Patinkin in ‘Yentl’ (1983)

Creative control

With the movie Yentl In 1983, Streisand was the first woman to be both a lead actor, writer and director in a Hollywood film. That didn’t happen without a fight. In her book, Streisand writes about the different ways in which men and women were viewed: ‘A man is powerful, she is pushy. He shows leadership, she is controlling. When he acts, writes and directs at the same time, he is an all-rounder. She is called vain and selfish.’

In the chapter about the romantic film classic The Way We Were from 1973, Streisand explains how she decided to become a director. The film tells about the love between politically committed student Katie Morosky (Streisand) and blonde athlete Hubbell Gardiner (Robert Redford). Streisand was deeply disappointed at the time when director Sydney Pollack decided to omit two important scenes in the final edit. “I felt powerless,” she writes. ‘Afterwards I decided: enough is enough. I’ve always had creative control over my albums, my TV specials, my concerts. I also need to gain more control over my films. I have to start directing.’

Robert Redford en Streisand in ‘The Way We Were’ (1973). Beeld

Robert Redford en Streisand in ‘The Way We Were’ (1973).

Celebrating this year The Way We Were its 50th anniversary, and in a new edition Streisand has done everything possible to include a extended cut to release. It worked, and the two extra scenes, which Streisand had kept at home all these years, were added to the film.

Streisand directed after Yentl more movies: The Prince of Tides (1991) in The Mirror Has Two Faces (1996). In The Prince of Tides Dutchman Jeroen Krabbé played a role as Herbert, the husband of Streisand’s character, psychologist Susan Lowenstein. Krabbé also receives a mention in the book: ‘I had seen him in Dutch films by Paul Verhoeven, in which he captured the arrogance and charm of his character very well.’


After looking back on endless performances, awards and meetings with celebrities and presidents, Streisand looks back on her life with satisfaction in the epilogue of the book: ‘Nothing is impossible. I became a movie star, even though I didn’t fit the beauty ideal. Me with my asymmetrical face, my remarkable nose… and my big mouth. I had a dream, and I didn’t listen to the people who tried to stop me.’

Barbra Streisand: My name is Barbra. Translated from English by Robert Neugarten and Barbara Lampe. Bruna; 1,032 pages; €35.

Nice facts

The autobiography is full of nice facts for the fans. For example, Streisand reveals that she once personally called Apple boss Tim Cook to report that the iPhone virtual assistant Siri mispronounced her last name: Streisand should be pronounced with a real ‘s’, and not with a z sound. Barbra also discusses the ‘Streisand effect’, a term that arose after she tried to ban photos of her house through the courts in 2003. The term stands for the phenomenon that attempts by a person or institution to hide or remove information actually increase the media attention for that information.

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