The year 2022 ended with a BAM just the same as the previous year when Betty White passed away at the age of 99, This time, it was Barbara Walters who passed away at the age of 93 on December 30th. Yes, they were both old women, and we’d all be lucky to live such long lives and achieve so much success in our careers and lives. But I think we can all agree that we thought that both women were eternal and would live forever.
I only got to know of Barbara Walters and her work through The View, a show that she created, produced, and hosted. But her pioneering work began more than 50 years ago as a journalist. She was the first female lead anchor on ABC News and 20/20 before creating The View in 1997, a female led daytime talk show that’s still on the air today, and still includes original co-host Joy Behar. The show also has featured women like Raven Symone, Sherri Sheppard, Whoppi Goldberg, Rosie O’Donnell, and many more. Walters was not just just the first woman, but the first person ever to get a living president to come and be interviewed by a daytime talk show when Barrack Obama was a guest on the show during his presidency.
The View came back from its holiday break to pay tribute to Barbara Walters. Current and former hosts came together to the show to share fond memories of the woman that believed in all of them. I’m never, ever interested in tributes for celebrities who passed away. I find them fake and newsworthy. I must admit, though, The View’s tribute was beautiful, and it was most likely because Walters was a mother figure to all the women who have hosted the show since its debut 25 years ago, and because she was the one who created the show in the first place and made it what it is today.
I always knew that Barbara Walters was a respectable woman. She achieved so much in her life and career that not a lot of people achieve in their lifetimes. When I first read of her death, I realized that there was so much more about her that I didn’t know; like that she had a sister that was living with a developmental disability. Walters wrote about her experience of having a disabled sister in her 2008 autobiographical book. In it, she wrote:
“Her condition also altered my life. I think I knew from a very early age that at some point Jackie would become my responsibility. That awareness was one of the main reasons I was driven to work so hard. But my feelings went beyond financial responsibility.
“Much of the need I had to prove myself, to achieve, to provide, to protect, can be traced to my feelings about Jackie. But there must be something more, the ‘Something’ that makes one need to excel,” she added. “Some may call it ambition. I can live with that. Some may call it insecurity, although that is such a boring, common label, like being called shy, that means little. But as I look back, it feels to me that my life has been one long audition — an attempt to make a difference and to be accepted.”
I could never tell you what it’s like to have the person that’s closest to you have a disability and struggle because of it. I can only tell you what living a life with a disability can look like through the eye of someone who’s actually living with a physical disability and a chronic illness. Those that are closest to the one struggling with a disability and/or illness are often forgotten about because no one truly understands what they go through. I didn’t understand it myself until I went through it with my loved one.
There’s recently been talk about nepo-babies. For those of you who don’t know what the term means, nepo-babies are those people who got ahead of the game in the entertainment industry because their parents are famous. They’re known to be anything but talented, and therefore, it’s assumed that they take jobs away from those people who actually deserve the employment. Examples of nepo-babies include people like Kate Hudson, Chris Pine, Rumer Willis, and, you guessed it…. Barbara Walters. Her father wasn’t the face of the entertainment industry, but he DID find the talent behind the legendary film, ‘The Wizard Of Oz’. That’s definitely got to count for something, right?
What I understand from Barbara Walter’s words on having a sister living with a developmental disability is that it takes strength and courage to take such a responsibility to watch a loved one live with and struggle with a disability no matter what kind – physical, mental, chronic, or developmental. As a person that’s closest to the person, you take the role of a caretaker no matter what it takes you. You already know early on in your life that you’ll have to take that role. Therefore, you work harder to achieve whatever it is that you need to achieve in order to provide the best and most comfortable life possible for your disabled loved one.
Barbara Walters felt that she had no choice but to be as successful as she was, and we all, especially us women who are constantly deemed to be housewives even today in 2023, should strive to be just like her and leave as big of a legacy just like her in our lifetimes.