BY SHAVONE HARRIS, 17
Even though she's a living legend, I first discovered Barbra Streisand about six years ago. I was home alone, cleaning the house. I wanted to find a nice song on the radio and when I changed the station I heard a soothing voice that blew me away.
It was Barbra and she was singing "People." The lyrics dug a brightly lit tunnel to what was bothering me at the time. Her words told me that while the world may isolate me, it needs me and I need it. No matter how different you are, there will be someone who needs and loves you the way you are, and you will love and need them for who they are as well. The song was like a heavenly light shining on a withering rose that believes it is a weed living in a field of weeds.
The next day, I went to the library to find out who sang the song. When I saw a picture of Barbra, I thought she was the most beautiful, elegant and sophisticated being on the face of this earth. Her large nose, eyes of two different blues, and wide mouth with a full top lip were unique, just like the way she presented and carried herself.
At the time of my discovery, I was ridiculed by "friends," family, classmates, and even teachers. They already thought that I was weird, a white grandmother in a black girl's body because I loved listening to oldies, baking, or hanging out in the library.
Ever since hearing "People," anything that had to do with Barbra I had to have. Any movie she was in, I would record it from TV or put the video on layaway in the store.
And her music I had to have ASAP. I would do whatever I could around my home to raise money for my self-described "Barbra fund," such as cleaning the bathroom and yard, baking pastries and selling them, giving pedicures, and selling the little trinkets that were lying around my room. Regardless of how gross it was, I'd do it to get the money to buy her cassettes.
I started going to thrift shops or old record shops for her vinyl records. They cost no more than $1 apiece. I would buy all that I could find. Out of the 16 movies she has starred in, I am only missing three: "Yentl," "The Main Event" and "Up the Sandbox." But very soon my collection will be complete.
I've done a lot of research on her. Even though it was her voice that called to me, I soon realized that I could relate to Barbra as a person.
Since I am the youngest child of seven, I have never had anything that is brand new. Everything has been handed down to me from my older brothers and sisters. My mother believes in "waste not, want not."
Barbra and her family also could not afford to buy new clothing and shoes, until she entered the music business and became a star.
After 45 years in the music business, Barbra Streisand has decided to retire. The music she's already made is very important to me. It helps me to release the stress, tension and depression I feel because of the way the people around me handle my differences.
The more I learned about her music and films, the more I grew to accept and appreciate myself, and not care if anyone else could or could not handle who I am.
(c) New Youth Connections, New York