There she was again at the Tony Awards after first winning an award there more than 30 years ago. The undisputed queen of the Broadway, Bette Midler, won the Best Leading Actress in a Musical at the Tony Awards 2017. And she had everyone cheering her wildly during her long-but-fun acceptance speech. She cussed and ordered orchestra to stop playing before her speech finished, sending a wave of laughter among the audience. Amidst the really long list of people she thanked, Midler took the time to acknowledge the locals of Hawaii. Her touching, tearful rekindling of folks who supported her during her poor childhood struck an emotional chord.
Hawaiian Years of Struggle
Bette Midler was born on December 1, 1945 in Honolulu, Hawaii. Daughter of a house painter father and homemaker and seamstress mother, Midler grew up in a poor family. She was third of the four children. Growing up amidst poverty was tough. Midler summed it up aptly in one of her interviews, “I had a hard-scrabble childhood with my parents. I have a lot of baggage. To come down to the footlights and accept the audience’s affection inside a Broadway theater – that didn’t come easily to me.”
Little did anyone realize, this shy, nondescript girl would go on to become a legendary singer-songwriter, actress, and entrepreneur. She took inspiration from nature and was naturally inclined towards dramatics.
Growing up in Hawaii, Midler was introduced to theater, and that changed her life forever. She took an instant liking to drama and theatre. Midler studied at the Radford High School, and she was voted “Most Dramatic” in her senior year. She majored in drama at the University of Hawaii. However, she dropped out after just three semesters.
Making Brave Moves
She made a bold move to New York from Hawaii, knowing New York was the perfect place to realize her dream. She starred in a 1966 film, Hawaii, which earned her crucial money to make the move to New York. Midler’s move was fraught with risk of failure, but with her determination to succeed, failure wasn’t even an option.
Once in New York, she made a debut with Broadway plays, ‘Miss Nefertiti Regrets’ and ‘Cinderella Revisited.’ She found her first big break in the Broadway show ‘Fiddler on the Roof.’ She remained a part of it for many years among other works, but success eluded her.
Innovating to Succeed
It was then the innovative streak in her decided to do something out of the ordinary. She went against the grain and signed up for a weekend singing gig at ‘The Continental Baths,’ a gay bathhouse. The act won her many accolades and hordes of admirers. Many years down the line, she also acknowledges that she might have played a part in the gay rights movement. Everyone loved her routines and she was now well and truly on her path to stardom. But, in Midler’s own words, her success wasn’t easy to come by—she had to work very hard for it.
Handling Critics’ Ire
Midler then went on to do a number of other successful work, which brought her appreciation, awards, and money. It wasn’t, however, a smooth ride. A couple of failures, which she expected to succeed brought critics’ wrath and bad press. Her movie and live performances started drawing ire from a lot of directions. A reviewer for Billboard said: “Miss Midler sounded and even looked good during the Carpenters’ hit Superstar. But she ruined the effect when, midway through the song, she started flopping her legs and bounced out of her bodice.” Midler soon found the work drying up and not much worthwhile coming her way.
Not beaten down by all this negativity, Midler knew what it takes to bounce back. With immense faith in her talent and passion for hard work, Midler persevered and stuck it out. A string of hit movies followed, including Oscar nominations and a Grammy Award as well. Midler was truly and deservedly back to her winning ways. And she never looked back, winning even more awards and making new fans world over.
Challenges in Personal Life
Bette Midler has been married to Martin von Haselberg for last 28 years. During recent years, she revealed that they had fights where things would threaten to get out of hand. She, however, had one thing very clear in her mind. Divorce wasn’t an option. They felt their daughter deserved love from both the parents, and they both ensured she did. It’s not easy handling issues at home when you have a skyrocketing career. But Midler had her priorities right. Not only did she worked hard in her career, she was as fiercely determined to make her marriage work. After all these years, Midler is glad that it was the best decision and appreciates the sacrifices both of them made. Things went from bad to good to better to bliss for the couple.
Bette Midler, the Nature Lover
There is another dimension to Midler’s dynamic personality—her love for nature. The nature lover in her prompted her to start the New York Restoration Project (NYRP) in 1995. With the objective of making the neglected areas in the city green, NYRP has planted more than one million trees. The organization also provides free environmental education programs in high-poverty schools. Midler shows that it’s not enough to be successful but to give back to the society as well.
Bette Midler has shown that perseverance, hard work, and innovative thinking can take you places. How are you striving? Sign up to be notified when the Strive book becomes available.