Who puts the Oy in Beyonce? Do the Chosen People have a twenty-time Grammy award winning, multi-platinum, superstar getting in Formation on the bimah? In the annals of history, has there ever been a celebrity that compares to Mrs. Carter but goes by something more like Mrs. Greenberg?
A few contenders come to mind.
1) Bette Midler
She’s the wind beneath an entire generation of theatergoers’ wings. That’s right, Bette Midler, the buxom redhead who stole our hearts in “Beaches,” began her career as Tzeitel in “Fiddler on the Roof” and blew up with her debut album, “The Divine Miss M.” Like Beyonce, Bette comes with pipes for powerhouse ballads, mesmerizing acting chops and terrific comedic timing. The tribe proudly bows down to Bette, a Bathhouse Betty who cast a spell on us all.
As a musical act, Bey is multi-talented. She even raps. The tribe boasts several male rappers but who among female Jewry possesses a sick flow? Kreayshawn, otherwise known by her birth name of Natassia Gail Zolot, fits the bill.
The voice behind viral sensation “Gucci, Gucci”, Zolot spits mad bars like Lady Bey. Listed as one of the 19 Most Important White Rappers to Watch by Business Insider in 2011, this rising star owns her Missy Elliott inspired fashion sense and pulls serious crowds. Perhaps she derives her ferocity from her Russian Ashkenazi Jewish mother? While she holds potential to be a “Jewish Beyonce” only time will tell how her career will evolve.
3) Paula Abdul
Speaking of evolutionary careers, before she hosted “American Idol” Paula Abdul was the head cheerleader and choreographer for the Los Angeles Lakers at the tender age of eighteen. A regular shayna maidel, perhaps Abdul acquired her tenacity from her Jewish Syrian father or her mother, a concert pianist with Ashkenazi roots from Canada. Like Bey, Abdul slayed as one of the most influential singer, songwriter and dancers of the late twentieth century - tying with Diana Ross in seventh place for the most number one hits on the Billboard top 100 list. Like Queen B, Abdul rose to stardom at a young age and led the pack on innovative choreography during the height of the music video era in the 1980s.
4) Amy Winehouse
Another Jewish artist who rose to stardom young and proceeded to dominate the charts was the soulful songstress, Amy Winehouse. Born to a working class Ashkenazi Jewish family in south London, Winehouse is portrayed as a precocious, outspoken child in the 2016 academy award winning documentary “Amy.” The late, great Winehouse was a bright light who burned out too soon. Like Beyonce she possesses a unique sound and sense of style that makes her an immediately recognizable pop culture icon. In the documentary Amy, we learn that Winehouse derives much of her strength from her Jewish Bubby. Winehouse passed away at the too young age of twenty-seven. By the time she was twenty-five, the superstar who came from humble beginnings became the first British artist to win five Grammys.
5) Carole King
Before Beyonce was one of the best-selling musical artists of all time, there was Carole King. King holds the record for most weeks at number one on the charts by a female artist for more than twenty years. Prolific and immediately recognizable, Carole King (originally Carol Klein) came of age in New York City. Born to a nice Jewish family, her father was a firefighter and her mother was a school teacher.
Like a young Beyonce wowing audiences on Star Search, King found an audience at age eight when she sang on a local children’s television show. Like Bey, King has collaborated with some of the industry’s top artists and appeared in national ad campaigns for major brands. A Jewish diva force to be reckoned with, with four Grammys under her belt and an induction into the Songwriters Hall of Fame AND the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, King might give Knowles a run for her money.
6) Regina Spektor
Another Jewess that should be in the running for the Jewish Beyonce crown is the sultry Soviet export, Regina Spektor. Her anti-folk sound and hauntingly complex vocal range is probably most recognizable on the theme song for “Orange is the New Black.” Born in Moscow, Spektor comes from a musical Russian Jewish family. In 1989, when Spektor was nine, her family emigrated with the help of the Hebrew Immigrant Aide Society and landed in the Bronx. Like other contenders for the “Jewish Beyonce” title, she possessed a drive and desire to create music from a young age and has always stayed true to her sound, like Queen B, who reminds us: always stay gracious, the best revenge is your papers.
7) Barbra Streisand
It’s time to whip out our most serious contender for the title of Jewish Beyonce: Babs! The incomparable Barbra Streisand.
With a career spanning more than six decades, Barbra has proven herself an icon to multiple generations. Like Bey, Babs rightfully occupies the ultimate diva throne. And like Bey, Babs translates her super stardom into political activism. In a 1995 address at Harvard University, Streisand emphasized the role of artist as citizen.
Before Beyonce took to the field dressed in a Black Panther tribute leotard at the 2016 Super Bowl, Streisand was already paving the way for entertainers as legitimate political influencers. Referring to herself as a “Friend of Bill”, Streisand sang at President Clinton’s inaugural gala in 1993. Similarly, Beyonce has rocked the mic for the Obama family on numerous occasions. Most memorably, Queen B sang a diva-licious rendition of the national anthem at President Obama’s 2013 inauguration.
So who has more universally recognizable nicknames: Bey or Babs? And which diva leads with the most pop culture references under their belt: Queen Bey or Mecha-Streisand?
Regardless, the future remains bright for both divas. May these two starlets enjoy many more mitzvahs to come.
Watch Beyonce’s tribute to Streisand at the Kennedy Center: