Songs have been written about her. Art pieces have been created in her honor. To top it off, she’s a powerhouse in her own right, with a catalog of hit films and songs (that you’ve definitely belted out in the shower). But this woman of many talents has a surprisingly dark past.
While nearly the entire world is familiar with her name, few people know the inner workings of Barbra Streisand’s rise to success. What makes her tick? What ticks her off? The rarely told story of Babs is a wild one that even those who can belt every word to “The Way We Were” don’t know all the details of…
Barbra Streisand has been a performer for nearly all her life. Known for her acting, singing, songwriting, and film directing, the megastar recently revealed what drove her to this success!
Born into a Jewish family from Brooklyn, New York, in the early ’40s, young Barbra grew up smack dab in the middle of the entertainment and business world. Still, she felt lightyears away from it all as her family was not well off.
Her parents both worked at a school, but her father died when Babs was only a baby. Without him, the family suffered huge financial stresses — something that would come back into play once Barbra’s career took off.
As a young girl, she attended public school in Brooklyn, where developed an interest in acting. While she may have dreamed of being recognized for her acting chops, her neighbors praised her stunning singing voice.
Despite a flubbed audition with MGM records (at age 9!) she recovered gracefully. At age 13, she recorded a demo tape, starting her career much sooner than most people would’ve imagined.
When she graduated from high school, it was time for Barbra to make a difficult choice: stay with her family and get a job to support them, or leave them behind and follow her dreams of being in the spotlight?
No more than a week later, she moved into an apartment in Manhattan, ready to pursue an entertainment career. She started as an usher for The Sound of Music, but the director of the show encouraged her to keep auditioning.
In September of 1960, she opened for comedian Phyllis Diller at the Bon Soir nightclub. This was important on two fronts: it was her first paid gig and she got to practice humorous banter in between songs.
Since she was still auditioning for Broadway roles, she finally got cast for the musical I Can Get It For You Wholesale in 1962. Although her part was small, she earned a Tony Award as Best Supporting Actress and instantly broke through in the industry.
Fast forward to the late ’60s and early ’70s, when Barbra Streisand was becoming a household name. Opportunities in the film, theater, and music industries appeared left and right. She even tied with Katharine Hepburn for Best Actress!
From 1969 through 1980, Streisand appeared on the list of Top Ten Money-Making Stars ten different times, and she was frequently the only woman on the list. Her highest-earning project? The 1976 remake of A Star Is Born of course.
Meanwhile, Barbra was also working on her career as a pop singer and stealing hearts across the globe. Her debut album, The Barbra Streisand Album, peaked in the top 10 and won her 3 Grammy Awards. It didn’t stop there.
As Barbra continued to shoot movies, record award-winning albums, appear on countless TV shows, and made millions on millions, her family grew bitter. After all, her mother had worked hard to keep a roof over her head, and Barbra left her in the dust.
“I think sometimes there are parents who don’t really like themselves,” Streisand said. “They don’t like their offspring either. My mother meant well. She loved me as best she could. She had dreams of her own, and she wanted to be a singer.”
Still, that may be exactly what drove Barbra to succeed the way she did. “I just couldn’t please her. But I owe her my career. It was painful on the way up. I was always trying to prove to her that I was worthy of being somebody.”
In an attempt to be the mom that her own mother wasn’t, Barbra fully supports her only child’s career in any way that she can. Her son, Jason – whose father is Elliott Gould – took after both parents and became an artist, writer, and film director.
“We sang together every night when I put him to sleep, so he knew lots of songs as a baby,” Barbra said. “I never heard him sing again until he was 15. I heard him hum through a closed door, and I said, ‘Jason, that is the most beautiful hum.”’
After getting remarried in 1998 to her current husband, James Brolin, Barbra finally felt as loved as she deserved. “People who have two parents who love them are very lucky. They are not left with a hole to fill. And it’s very hard to fill. You have to fill it with yourself eventually.”
And what type of love is more unconditional than a dog’s? Her pup was an unconditional comfort that got her through the tough times. But when she lost her beloved pet, she couldn’t cope with the pain — another way in which her past haunted her.
Streisand’s dog, a sweet 14-year-old Coton du Tulear named Samantha, was a shaggy, white-haired pup who had long been a mainstay in the megastar’s life and on her social media feeds. Even the fans adored her.
Sadly, in 2017, Samantha passed away. As is the case when anyone loses their beloved pet, this devastated Streisand. “It was like losing a child,” she recalled. Obviously, she would do practically anything to get her puppy back—if only she could.
Eventually, she decided it was time to welcome some new dogs into her home. Yet her social media followers began noticing something strange about these new dogs: they all looked exactly the same. Like… exactly.
Turns out, they weren’t wrong about the similarities. As Streisand revealed in an interview with Variety, she’d become so attached to her pup during the 14 years they shared together that she chose to do something most would only joke about: she cloned her!
The result was two identical dogs named Miss Violet and Miss Scarlet, who were brought into this world in late 2017. While they were mirror images of Samantha physically, there were a few differences…
“They have different personalities,” Streisand explained to reporters when news of the cloning first broke. “I’m waiting for them to get older so I can see if they have [Samantha’s] brown eyes and seriousness.”
Genetically, Miss Violet and Miss Scarlet were pretty much twins. In fact, they looked so similar that Streisand dressed them in different clothing—one in lavender and the other in red, hence their names—in order to tell them apart.
There was also a third dog—Miss Fanny—whose name referenced the Academy-Award winning actress’s role as Fanny Brice in Funny Girl. While not a clone herself, she was a distant cousin of Samantha’s.
While cloning an animal might seem like something only possible in a science fiction movie, it’s actually a practice that’s been around for the past 20 years. The first known animal to be cloned was Dolly the sheep in 1996.
Dolly might have been the first cloned animal, but she wasn’t the only one. Almost 10 years later—in 2005—a team of scientists at Seoul National University in South Korea cloned the first dog, an Afghan hound named Snuppy.
Then in 2016, Nubia, a Jack Russell terrier, became the first dog to be cloned in the United States by the Texas-based company ViaGen. Of course, this opened the doors for people like Streisand to have their beloved dogs cloned.
Regardless of success rates, cloning a dog is a rather expensive procedure. It makes sense that you only really hear of the wealthiest people doing it. So, how much did cloning Samantha set Streisand back?
In recent years, Sooam Biotech Research Foundation—the South Korean laboratory responsible for successfully cloning upwards of 600 dogs since 2006—charged interested customers a whopping $100,000 to clone their pooches!
As of now, ViaGen charges $50,000 for dogs and $25,000 for cats, and it’s still the only company in the United States that clones pets. This was how Streisand was able to bring Samantha back into the world.
Cloning animals will likely become more affordable in the future. Still, some people are opposed to the practice for clear ethical reasons. For instance, author John Woestendiek, who wrote the book Dog, Inc., hopes to stop it before it’s too late.
Chief among his concerns was that there were plenty of dogs in the world who didn’t have homes. “One is the sort of philosophical question of whether we really need new ways to make dogs when so many are already being put down in shelters,” he explained.
Another concern was that it would take multiple animals—more than 12 separate dogs in heat—to harvest enough egg cells in order to clone just one. Once the cells were collected, they would be implanted into a surrogate, who would then carry the pregnancy.
In the meantime, celebrities and others who can afford it will likely continue to clone their pets, especially when they reach their twilight years. It’s simply their way of dealing with such a devastating loss.
And as for Streisand? She seemed content with her choice. Still, since the dogs hadn’t turned out to be exactly like her beloved Samantha, she likely had to learn that there were no guarantees when it came to dogs—even if they were clones.