Barbra Streisand turns 75 next year. In her 50-plus year career, she has made her mark on the silver screen, on Broadway, in nightclubs, and on the record charts. Her beginnings were humble—she grew up poor and scrappy in Brooklyn with a mother and stepfather who were far from encouraging, and knew early on that she wanted to be a star regardless of her unconventional looks and comportment. How did she do it? What was the source of her broad appeal? And why does she stand out as a unique cultural figure in the landscape of so-called ethnic performers?
Writer Neal Gabler tackles these and other questions in Barbra Streisand: Redefining Beauty, Femininity, and Power, a new title in Yale University Press’s Jewish Lives Series. Gabler joins Vox Tablet host Sara Ivry to discuss Streisand as an ersatz Christ figure, how she has functioned as a metaphor for American Jewishness, and the deep debt she’s owed by Melissa McCarthy and Adele.