Barbara Streisand: The Beauty With a Humour

6:13 am  |  27.01.2022

Barbra Streisand redefined good looks with humor, talent, and an eye-catching nose. This has now been captured in an illustrated book by photographers Steve Schapiro and Lawrence Schiller.


Pictures from the life of Superwoman: Barbra Streisand rose to fame and popularity as a singer, dancer, and actress.

Credit: © 2014 Steve Schapiro/TASCHEN

Barbra Streisand’s beauty is so idiosyncratic that she’s always made fun of it herself. One of her jokes on the subject was about a woman who wishes she looked like her at the hairdresser. “So the barber takes the hairbrush and breaks her nose.”

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The joke can be read in a portrait volume published on October 27. Even the format of the work shows that great things are being negotiated, as it resembles a medium-sized flat-screen television. The book is only about the start of a gigantic career.

Crazy Polaroid: Barbra Streisand in 1969 with a hat and a dog.

Credit: © Lawrence Schiller / Polaris Communications, Inc./TASCHEN

Photographers Steve Schapiro and Lawrence Schiller – themselves big names in their field – followed the singer as she worked her way up to Hollywood diva in the 1960s and 1970s.

In addition to numerous, mostly previously unpublished photos, Schapiro and Schiller have brought out a number of anecdotes which, taken together, show one thing above all: skillful blemish marketing by an artist who exemplified a new self-confidence right at the start of the women’s movement.

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Streisand celebrated her premiere in Hollywood in 1968 at the age of 26 with “Funny Girl”, the film adaptation of a musical in which she had already been entertaining on Broadway for three years. The (true) story of the heroine Fanny Brice is reminiscent of her own: a Jewish girl from New York who manages to become a star in the musical business with a lot of voice, humor, and assertiveness – despite and because of the kink in her nose.

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“Is a nose with deviation such a crime against the nation?” rhymes Fanny’s film mother.

Imperfect Perfection

In the illustrated book, one can examine the nose in profile and learn that Streisand preferred to be photographed from the left. The kinked image was no coincidence, but the result of Streisandian perfectionism.

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The ballet “Swan Lake” can be so funny – when Barbra Streisand dances a little awkwardly like in the movie “Funny Girl”. Before accepting the role, she had been taking dance classes for just six months of her life.

Credit: © 2014 Steve Schapiro/TASCHEN

Schapiro, who photographed on the set of Funny Girl, describes how he showed her all the photos and they came back with specific instructions on the back, such as “Kill” or “Fix the neck.”

Colleague Schiller, on the other hand, remembers that on a flight to London she asked him to snap numerous Polaroids. She crossed her legs differently on each one. Her reasoning: “If there’s a press conference at the airport and I’m supposed to be sitting behind a table without a tablecloth, I want to make sure my legs look good.”

Image Work with Sustainability and Self-Mockery

“Centerfold”: Streisand in on the bed (1970).

Credit: © 2014 Steve Schapiro/TASCHEN

The image work paid off. Especially at the beginning of her world fame, Streisand was considered an optical role model. Her make-up (smokey eyes), her clothes (wild patterns and lots of furs), and her fingernails (very long and narrow) – women emulated her in all of this back then.

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Streisand in a sequined dress: The Roller Skate Rag first played on Broadway, then the story was reimagined in the movie Funny Girl.


Credit: © 2014 Steve Schapiro/TASCHEN

The best comment on this comes from her film character Doris, which she embodied in “The Owl and the Kitten”. “I’m not pretty, but I can make you believe it.”

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The career with kink and self-mockery has proven to be a sustainable model for success. Barbra Streisand, 79, has just conquered number one on the US album charts for the sixth consecutive decade with her new album “Partners”. No career break!

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