Unconventional Mentor no. 24 - Judy Garland
“Always be a first-rate version of yourself, instead of a second-rate version of somebody else.”
I don’t remember the first time I watched The Wizard of Oz. It is one of those films that I have just always known and even still I am mesmerised by Judy Garland in the role of Dorothy. I never wanted to be an actress or solo singer, I’m far too shy to have that much attention on me, but there was something about Judy Garland playing Dorothy that I wanted to be.
For a long time, I didn’t see Judy Garland in any other films, and she was immortalised in my head as 17-year-old Dorothy Gale from Kansas. I still remember the feeling of shock I had when I found out that in later life, she struggled with drug addiction and that she had died at the relatively young age of 47. I saw Dorothy’s dress and her ruby slippers at the V&A costume exhibition a few years ago and got quite teared up. The Wizard of Oz and the glamor of Hollywood was such a big part of my childhood, and here right in front of me was an item that I had seen 100s of times on screen, the very same shoes and dress that Judy Garland had worn.
“Everything you were looking for was right there with you all along.”
Dorothy is a great strong female character to have as a role model and it is perhaps Judy Garland playing her that is what inspires me. She is adventurous and determined, running away on her own. She is a great leader, taking her three companions under her wing to help them find their brains, their heart and their courage. She faces fear and reflects on her own vulnerability. After all the adventures and searching that she does she realizes that everything she ever wanted she already had and that “there’s no place like home.”
“In the silence of night, I have often wished for just a few words of love from one man, rather than the applause of thousands of people.”
I’ve not really looked much into the rest of Judy Garlands life as I know that it was so troubled. I didn’t know that she had been married five times, but I did know that she struggled with alcohol and prescription medicine which would eventually lead to her death. I think I wanted to ignore the troubled life that she led, to maintain the image of her as Dorothy, a happy young girl who had an amazing adventure and then found her way home.
“I truly have a great love for an audience, and I used to want to prove it to them by giving them blood.”
I never thought that I would have shared the same stage as Judy Garland, but that happened in 2018 when I performed Mozart’s Requiem at Carnegie Hall. She had sung there 57 years before I did, in one of her most celebrated performances which was called “The greatest night in show business history”. It must have been an incredible concert to attend, with the crowd applauding and giving her standing ovations right the way through the convert. This New York Times review gives you something of an idea about how much people enjoyed this convert By this stage in her career, she had numerous health problems, with a diagnosis of hepatitis in 1959 and had been told that she had less than five years to live and would probably not sing again. The strain that she was under was shown by her supposed reaction to this by saying “the pressure was off me for the first time in my life.” So to perform at Carnegie Hall two years later and to live for another 8 was nothing short of a miracle.
Mentor Advice: Do things your own way
The advice that I take from Judy Garland is the quote that I used at the start of this piece, “Always be a first-rate version of yourself, instead of a second-rate version of somebody else.” No matter what was going on in her life, Judy Garland knew how to give a performance and she always pulled out the stops to make it a good one. She never tried to imitate other people, but she did things her own way, with her own unique style to the best of her ability. One of the things I want to do with this project is to look at how you can take advice and inspiration from other people without imitating them. We can use the way that people have approached problems in their life to reflect on ways that we can approach problems in our own life. We can look at the attitude that someone takes to adversity and use the same attitude to deal with setbacks in our own careers. I will always strive to do the best that I can, to be a first rate version of myself and to do it my way not try to imitate other people.