Streisand: Perfection Is Imperfection

By: CBS
By: CBS

(CBS) At this point in Barbra Streisand's legendary career, no one can rain on her parade -- not even President Bush.

To add to her stellar list of accolades, Streisand has been given the prestigious Kennedy Center Honor.

"It's a recognition of your country in a sense towards you, the artist, and the recognition of the importance of the arts in general," Streisand told Early Show co-anchor Julie Chen.

Streisand has been a vocal critic of President Bush and many wondered if she would accept the award and attend the traditional White House gala.

"This is a weekend that celebrates the arts and artists, so I shall say that -- art transcends politics this weekend," she said.

On her official bio from the Kennedy Center, they list her job title as director, actress, singer, writer, composer and producer.

"You could add to that activist and environmentalist," Chen said.

Streisand grew up poor in Brooklyn, N.Y. Her father, a teacher, died when she was just 15 months old. The family continued to struggle. Streisand will never forget those early memories.

"My early childhood, we never had a couch. We never had a living room. We only had a dining room. And then my grandmother and grandfather lived in one bedroom and my mother, my brother and I slept in another bedroom, so we never had fancy things," she said. "We moved to another -- a project in Brooklyn and I remember the luxuriousness of this couch! Now I love couches. I never had a doll. I had a hot water bottle."

But those humble beginnings somehow helped Streisand find confidence in herself, even when her mother did not.

"My mother wanted me to join the school system. She kept saying, she was a school secretary, she kept saying 'You have free vacations, summers off and this is going to be good for you.' I kept saying, 'But, mom, I want to be an actress. No, you'll never make it. You're not pretty enough, you're not this enough, you're too skinny.' I was always very skinny. But I owe her a lot because, in a sense, I was proving to my mother that this skinny little girl, unconventional looking, I suppose, could be a movie star," she said.

Besides being a movie star, Streisand became a world class recording artist outselling the Beatles.

Despite the recognition, Streisand admits that her voice is far from perfect.

"I was gifted with a good set of vocal chords, I suppose. I believe in if you tell the truth or -- it comes from your heart, what comes from the heart goes to the heart. So it reaches people," she said.

She also can credit her deviated septum for her success as well.

"I think it helps," Streisand admitted.

Film Career

Streisand made her film debut 40 years ago and became one of Hollywood's leading ladies.

She won her first an Academy Award in 1968's "Funny Girl" and said she knew it wouldn't be her last.

"How do I say this? Belief inspires reality. Perception and belief creates reality. It's a vision. I don't know. I remember it was an awful choice I made wearing the dress I made for the first Academy Award, but I thought to myself, I'm going to win this again. Isn't that terrible to say? But that's the truth," she said.

Streisand was nominated for four more Oscars, and won again for writing "Evergreen," the love theme to "A Star Is Born." She was the first female composer ever to win an Academy Award.

In 1983, Streisand released her 15-year labor of love "Yentl." She was the first woman in Hollywood to star, co-write and produce a film. The film paid tribute to her father, who died when she was an infant.

"I had to become my own father in a sense. And I also had to be everyone else's parent. You know, when you direct, you -- they are your children in a way. So it brings out all those instincts that are dormant sometimes, you know?" she said.

Another big personal triumph for Streisand was "The Prince of Tides," which garnered her seven Oscar nominations.

"What drew you to the book?" Chen asked.

"How human beings can transform and heal through a search for the truth. That's the basis of this story, and understanding your childhood, understanding your parents, forgiveness," Streisand said.

But the film many called the most romantic of all time is "The Way We Were," her 1973 pairing with Robert Redford.

"He was wonderful to work with. I loved working with him. Always interesting. Always in the moment, you know? So we never knew what each other was going to do -- take to take," she said.

In the '70s and '80s, Streisand was visible on the silver screen, but absent from concert stages.

It was stage fright that kept her away from the stage. During her performance in Central Park in 1967, Streisand forgot the words before 135,000 people -- prior to that she never experienced stage fright.

"No stage fright. You know, it was scary. It was wonderful. But I remember it being a horrifying experience. Really embarrassing to forget the words, forget the words. That's why I didn't sing for a very long time until they invented Teleprompters. It still scares me to this day," Streisand admitted.

"What is the biggest misconception about you," Chen asked.

"One? Gosh, I don't know. What do they say? What do they say about me? I'm difficult. Oh, difficult. That's one. Right? I don't know. Maybe in the search for the -- striving for excellence, I think may be perceived as difficult. It's not perfection because there is no such thing as perfection. I remember writing in my journal when I was 15, observing an acting class, that perfection was imperfection. Because, otherwise, it's inhuman, you know? It's almost too perfect," she said.

Well, in the eyes of millions dedicated and adoring fans, she's pretty close to being perfect.

The 31st annual Kennedy Center Honors will be broadcast tonight at 9 p.m. ET, on CBS.

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