You Should Never Meet Your Idols...Or Should You?

On August 16th, my second day all summer without work, I left my house at 10AM, got into Boston around 11, and spent the day wandering around. At 4 I met my friend Florence for dinner, buzzing the whole time, bouncing around my seat while trying to eat a burrito at a Mexican restaurant somehow questioningly located in Chinatown. Florence finally asked me what was wrong and I practically screamed as I told her—I was going to see Barbra Streisand in concert that night.

Ever since I was little I have absolutely adored Barbra Streisand. I was always familiar and in love with her movies—especially Funny Girl, of course—but once I got older and started exploring more of the world of musical theatre and more of my favorite artists I truly fell in love with her. I loved her albums—I started to listen to songs I had never explored before—songs like “Answer Me,” “A Piece of Sky,” “Down With Love,” “Lover Come Back to Me,” and “When The Sun Comes Out.” I started to read about her life and her struggles, her passions, her resilience, and her sheer force of will, and I slowly found myself idolizing her more and more. As a young girl constantly in search of women to idolize and emulate, Barbra Streisand strolled into my life and has stayed as one of my biggest inspirations.

When I saw that her tour was coming to Boston I was ecstatic. Barbra has always had stage fright and has toured very rarely if at all since the 1960s. Her last tour passed me by, and I was afraid that I would never get the chance to see my idol live. When I saw that tickets had gone on sale, however, I put off buying my ticket for a long time. The price, of course, was a concern—I was a college student working full time to save money for school, and the best seats for the show were going for THOUSANDS of dollars. Even the “cheap” seats were over $100, and I just wasn’t sure if I could justify spending the money for which I had worked so hard for just two hours of entertainment, even if it was Barbra Streisand. In the end, my love won me over, and I spent $170 dollars on a seat at the very back of the stadium, only one row before the last. I justified this to myself by reminding myself that it was BARBRA STREISAND and that after a summer of working a job that made me absolutely miserable, I deserved to treat myself with something that would actually make me happy.

Another concern that was stuck in my mind was the fact that I would be seeing someone I had always loved—what if she wasn’t what I thought she would be? What if her voice and personality were different than what I had always heard and adored? I’ve heard the phrase “never meet your heroes”—did that apply to seeing them perform live as well? Knowing myself, though, I knew that I would regret not going, so I bought my ticket and headed for the show.

Once I arrived at the stadium, I walked in and was struck by the sheer amount of people around me. People old, young, life-long fans and even children, filled the giant TD Garden, and I felt like a tiny part of a huge experience. All of us had gathered together to see this woman that we loved and had helped shape all of our lives, and we waited, anxiously murmuring to each other, as the lights went down and the piano started tinkling out its first few moments.

Then, all of the sudden, there she was. The wall at the back of the stage parted and out she walked, singing the first notes of “The Way We Were.” It sounds silly to say, but I had never even been in the same room as her before, and my heart caught in my throat and I started to cry. Even though it was true that I had never met her or even been in the same room as her, Barbra Streisand has always been a part of my life. Her face was the one I watched, amazed, as she sang notes I didn’t even know were possible, her voice was the one I heard while I cried or laughed, or even while I focused on other activities and just heard her voice in the background.

Seeing her in person, even if from seemingly a million feet away, was a reminder that she was real, that despite everything I have learned from her and everything that she has given me by simply existing, she too was a person who was inspired by others, was shaped by the influence of artists she loved, and simply lived. Although she no longer seemed like a divine figure, her voice has changed with age, and her performances weren’t “perfect,” I loved her just the same, if not more. Realizing my idol was human, just like me, I felt all the more inspired.

Even though the phrase “don’t meet your idols,” or in my case, “don’t see your idols perform live,” is still prevalent, I’ve now decided to put those phrases behind me. Seeing Barbra Streisand perform live is easily one of the best experiences I’ve ever had, and if I had allowed my nerves to get the better of me and not attended the concert I know I would have regretted it. Even though she had changed, aged, and was different from the woman I had grown up watching on screen, her talent shone just as brightly as it always had, and her humanity was refreshing and exciting to see. Although our idols are  just that, “idols,” it’s important to recognize, and appreciate, their humanity as well. I still love and idolize Barbra Streisand as a performer, but now I have even more respect and love for her as a human being than I did previously—and I will always be grateful for having the opportunity to experience her live.

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