“Always be a first-rate version of yourself, instead of a second-rate version of somebody else.”
– Judy Garland
Judy Garland was an American actress and singer, who began her acting career as a teenager in the 1930’s with MGM and won a starring role as Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz in 1939. She also went on to star in other films as well, including Meet Me in St. Louis, The Harvey Girls, and Easter Parade. Additionally, she worked as a recording artist and television host and won several cinema awards, including the Golden Globe Award and Special Tony Award.
From all of this success, you may think Garland had it easy being in the entertainment industry – where wealth and fame abound. Yet, her biography shows a darker side to the perception of a glamorous Hollywood life.
Born in 1922, Garland’s childhood roots were in Grand Rapids, Michigan. She had two sisters and her parents were vaudevillians of a movie theater in town. By 1926, the family moved to Lancaster California. At the age of 13, she was discovered by studio producers when she and her sisters were performing a vaudeville act at a Los Angeles theater. Garland then signed a contract with MGM, but discovered the pressures of fame quickly. Her appearance was widely criticized there, for she did not have what studio executives viewed as the appropriate stature nor stunning features of leading actresses at that time. At 4’11 with the “girl next door” look, she received a lot of backlash. This negative perception prompted Garland to see psychiatric help.
Not only did Garland struggle with her appearance, she also was financially unstable, failing to pay back taxes. She went through several failed marriages, struggled with an addiction to drugs, and eventually died from an overdose at age 47,
The quote Garland states, “Always be a first-rate version of yourself, instead of a second-rate version of somebody else” hints at the hidden pain and suffering she may have dealt with at never being “good enough” in her appearance at work, always competing to stay ahead of the rest, and make a name for herself. Despite the odds she faced, I feel that Garland was sending a message to women everywhere that still resonates today – to always be true to yourself and to never let anyone force you to change what makes you uniquely you. Love yourself first instead of changing yourself to be loved by someone else.