You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Bette Midler Sings and Gets Emotional About the Environment at Power of Women Event

“I figured it out early: if you didn’t get cast, or didn’t care to play the game, you’d better figure out how to put on your own show.” Words to live by from Bette Midler.

Beginning by singing a bit of “There’s No Business Like Show Business,” the Broadway star and actress revealed the inspiration behind her famous personality — the Divine Miss M — at Variety‘s Power of Women NY event presented by Lifetime.

“Nowadays everybody calls our work ‘the industry.’ I call it ‘the biz,’ or ‘the business,’ because I’m old school and I’ve always, always been riveted by the feuds, the fights, the hits, the misses, the disses, the slights. Despite what the song says, as we all have come to realize, everything about it is not appealing.” She continued, revealing that if no one was going to cast her in a production, any production she would simply have to do it herself.

Instead of waiting for a job to come, she carved her own path, and has been working steadily for 50-plus years now. The multihyphenate has garnered three Grammys, three Emmys, four Golden Globes, and a Las Vegas residency from 2008 to 2010. After earning a special Tony in 1974, she received a competitive one in 2017 for “Hello, Dolly!,” moving her one step closer to being an EGOT winner. She has sold more than 30 million records worldwide, and has four gold, three platinum, and three multi-platinum albums to her name.

Joking that although she was being honored on Friday, her career has been “splattered with trash,” an easy transition into the charity she also started, helping to clean up New York City’s parks and gardens.

Midler founded the New York Restoration Project in 1995 to restore neighborhoods in the five boroughs by planting trees, picking up litter, building gardens, and reclaiming green spaces. Since then, the nonprofit has rooted 1 million trees, removed 5 million pounds of trash, and rehabilitated 80 acres of parks. The beautification has also impacted crime in the areas. One study shows that East Harlem had 213 fewer felonies per year after the NYRP added 1 million square feet of green space to the neighborhood.

Midler explained that the principle of caring for the environment was ingrained in her from birth in Hawaii.

“I have always picked up trash. I was born in Hawaii, when it was a pristine territory, and it was considered a sin to defile the land with so much as a gum wrapper.” She brought that practice with her to New York City, where she joked, “I’m the Marie Kondo of the outdoors! Because make no mistake, I love nature despite what it did to me.”

And Midler brings her resiliency to her charity work. When asked why she wanted to clean up some of New York’s most neglected areas, her answer was simple: because it needed to be done.

“I refused to accept the status quo and refused to ignore what was so clearly unfair. And that, to me, is empowerment.”

“[We have] become a nation that serves a few, while ignoring the anguish of the many. I often think to myself, in the middle of the night, where will this unfairness lead? Will it lead to revolution? Will it lead to ruin? Will it lead to the end of democracy?” she went on. “Will we all wind up in a bad ‘Mad Max’ movie, caked in dust with bad hair and wearing skunk?”

But Midler takes solace in the fact that when women raise their voices against the injustice we see every day, “I know in my heart that the ground will shift and we will see common ground again. That’s what I think empowerment is.”

Midler spoke alongside the other Power of Women honorees — Gigi Hadid, Taraji P. Henson, Kacey Musgraves, and Christiane Amanpour — at Cipriani in New York City.

More Legit

  • Paula Vogel Never Expected 'Indecent' to

    Paula Vogel Never Expected 'Indecent' to Be This Timely

    When Paula Vogel began writing “Indecent” in 2010, she had no idea how resonant its exploration of immigration woes, anti-Semitism and homophobia in the past century would become in the current political climate. The Tony-nominated play, running until July 7 at L.A.’s Ahmanson Theater, traces the theatrical history of 1907 Yiddish play “God of Vengeance” [...]

  • Bitter Wheat review

    West End Review: John Malkovich in David Mamet's 'Bitter Wheat'

    How soon is too soon? Hardly a year had passed since allegations against Harvey Weinstein were made public before David Mamet announced that his satire on the subject, “Bitter Wheat,” was set to star John Malkovich in the West End. Six months later, we’re sat watching a corpulent, super-rich movie mogul — Barney Fein (cough, [...]

  • Batman Julia Roberts Spike Lee

    Batman, Julia Roberts, Spike Lee Among 2020 Walk of Fame Honorees

    Batman, Julia Roberts and Spike Lee are among the names selected to be inducted into the 2020 Walk of Fame. The full list of honorees was announced by the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce’s Walk of Fame Selection Committee via an exclusive livestream by Variety. Chosen from hundreds of nominees during a selection meeting in June, [...]

  • Tracy Letts

    Tracy Letts' Comedy 'The Minutes' to Hit Broadway in 2020

    Playwright Tracy Letts’ comedy “The Minutes” will hit the Broadway stage in Feb. 2020. “The Minutes,” written by actor, producer and playwright Letts, is a comedy taking a look at the current state of American politics through the lens of a small, fictional town called Big Cherry. The play is set in a city council [...]

  • Jamie Forshaw Tapped as Executive Producer

    Jamie Forshaw Tapped as Executive Producer of MWM Live (EXCLUSIVE)

    Jamie Forshaw has been named executive producer of MWM Live, Variety has learned. The theater veteran most recently served as VP of production for Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Really Useful Group. In his new role, he will oversee MWM Live’s slate of stage productions with an emphasis on expanding the division’s work on Broadway. MWM Live [...]

  • A Midsummer Night's Dream review

    London Theater Review: 'A Midsummer Night's Dream'

    “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” can be many things. There are earthy “Dreams,” airy “Dreams,” saucy “Dreams” and sweet “Dreams.” It’s Shakespeare’s most malleable play. Nicholas Hytner’s new staging strives to set itself apart, plunging its immersive audience into a festival-style fairy kingdom and casting the ethereal, white-blonde Gwendoline Christie (fresh off “Game of Thrones”) as [...]

  • Audra McDonald Frankie and Johnny

    Listen: How Audra McDonald Faced Her Fear in 'Frankie and Johnny'

    When producers offered Audra McDonald a role in “Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune” opposite Michael Shannon, she immediately said yes. Then she remembered the nude scene. Listen to this week’s podcast below: “Hell, yes, there was trepidation,” the Tony-winning actress said on the new episode of Stagecraft, Variety’s theater podcast. “I was [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content