Fantasia Barrino – Life is Not a Fairytale (but don’t give up on your dreams)

The other night I saw a great movie Life is not a Fairytale about an African American singer Fantasia Barrino.  She wrote the book first, and it was adapted into film.   She entered American Idol when she was 19; a high school drop-out, single mother, very poor and virtually illiterate.

She had had a dream since she was a little girl.  Her grandmother was a very charismatic, but quite intimidatingly powerful pastor.  Her mother and father played in church services, both very passionate musicians.  Barrina was singing in the band from about the age of maybe 6 or earlier.  Her mother adored her and encouraged her at every turn, but her father was prescriptive, controlling and jealous of her talent.  One church service Barrina’s musical joy bubbled up and she took the stage.  Had the whole congregation rocking.

Her father was enraged, shut her down.  Then some musical producer heard her and wanted to give her a recording contract.  Her father insisted on managing it and screwed it up.  It was downhill all the way from there.  What should have been a bright and promising career got stunted.  Her parents separated, there wasn’t enough money.

In one of the scenes, Barrina’s mother was talking about her own dreams to be a singer and her mother said “you don’t get to have dreams once you have children.  You don’t have that luxury.”  Something like that.  She had given up her own.

So Barrina had 2 generations of v. loving women, but women who gave up on their dreams, didn’t try to find a way through the obstacles.  It seemed as if she was continuing the family tradition.  She stopped singing, and in her teens she dropped out of school, got pregnant, couldn’t get work.  Nightmare city.

When she was at the bottom of the pit was when she decided she needed to sing again.  So she entered American Idol.  The amazing thing is that her mother and grandmother supported her, they weren’t jealous.   She flew through to the finals.   Prior to them, the story of her being an unmarried mother and a school drop-out had hit the news, and not in a good way.   She was approached by Idol personnel, who said if she wanted to pull out they were fine with it.

It was a very moving scene.  She spoke about how hard it had been for her so far, that she knew the truth about herself and that other people judged her.  Barrina was acting herself in the film, and you could see the shame she faced within herself.  But she said this dream meant more to her than her life and her reputation.  It hurt when people judged her, but she wasn’t going to let anything get in the way of her dream.  She refused to withdraw.

She won the competition hands down, and when she released her first single I Believe it debuted at number one on the Billboard charts.  Apparently she was the first new artist ever to debut a single at number one.

The last scene in the film shows her sitting by a window with her baby girl in her lap, saying “Grandma gave up on her dreams.  Mama gave up on her dreams.  I want you to have something different.  I want you to know what it’s like to have a mother who lived her dreams, baby”.

Powerful stuff.

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