Thursday, July 12, 2012

Barbra—The Spark on My Firecracker

Everyone who knows me—and probably many who don’t!—knows of my deep adoration for Barbra Streisand. She has been my inspiration for nearly 50 years. From my days as an overweight teenager through my years as a Weight Watchers leader and businesswoman, she has shown me that it’s possible to make your dreams come true.

Since the first time I head her sing, I’ve never looked back. It was 1963 and I was a young woman looking for my place in life. Barbra’s career was taking off and I enjoyed watching every step. In those early years, I told my officemates I couldn’t work when Barbra was on the radio, and I even had a Baltimore DJ who would say “this one’s for Millie” whenever he played Barbra!

Ever since I can remember, I’ve been determined, like Barbra, to give 150% at everything I set out to do—even when the odds were against me. I started working when I was 10. I wanted to go to college, but because of my family’s financial circumstances, I had to get a job and help my parents. And through this time, I struggled with my weight—and I mean struggled! There wasn’t a day that I didn’t worry about what someone was thinking when they looked at how large I was. I don’t have enough fingers and toes to count the number of attempts I made to lose weight. I was on a diet, off a diet, trying to fit in, trying to look good, and trying to be accepted. I got more put-downs than encouragement from my family, and all I heard was that I’d never amount to anything.

As I read in interviews about the things that were important to Barbra, I found that the person I admired as an entertainer also had humble beginnings. She talked about losing her father at 15 months, the challenges of growing up with her grandparents, and her road toward becoming an actress and singer. I was so drawn to her attitude about life and could identify with her spirit.

But when I thought about Barbra, I was reminded that if could just hang in there and keep doing the important things, eventually it was going to work. If I stayed with it, I could make something of myself.  Barbra was like the spark on my firecracker. I used her climb to believe in myself. I climbed even though I didn’t know where I was climbing to—until I joined Weight Watchers in 1966, when I realized my calling in life was to help others be their best.

Through my years of helping people lose weight and get healthy, I’ve always applied the core value that Barbra shares—putting my heart and soul into everything I do and sticking with what I know works. When you think about that in terms of helping people who have dreams but don’t know how to take a next step, it’s powerful.

What I’ve come to love about Barbra is her “realness,” something I experienced one-on-one when I met her a few years ago. A financial contribution to what would eventually become the Barbra Streisand Women’s Heart Center at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center led to an invitation to her home in Malibu! I don’t think I can use too many words to explain it—meeting Barbra was beyond a dream come true. I never thought that Millie Snyder, living in microcosmic Charleston, West Virginia, would be able to realize her dream. But I did, and it’s more than a dream of meeting a personal hero—it’s a dream of making a difference and doing what it takes to help other people be the best they can be.

I thank Barbra Streisand for motivating me for all of these years and for sharing so many qualities that I’ve adopted as my own. I would love to know if there’s someone in your life that you admire?

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