By DJ Doran
I recently had the pleasure to chat with the indomitable Sandra Bernhard while she was in town to accept one of this year’s “Shining Light” awards during the Shining Light Gala hosted by Indiana Youth Group.
Bernhard has never been one to mince words, and during our conversation she did not disappoint. I found her brash, unapologetic style of conversation refreshing and honest. She, of course, is well known for her fearlessness in taking on issues that are both intensely personal – such as her religious faith and sexuality – as well as the highly political, but I also found her to be uncommonly informed and articulate during our discussion about the staggering statistics regarding LGBTQ youth suicide rates in the U.S., and Indiana specifically.
We chatted about what it was like to grow up as a young Jewish girl in Flint, Mich., and then moving to Arizona when she was only 10 years old. She spoke eloquently about moving out on her own at the age of 19 and relocating to Los Angeles, a town with a penchant for chewing up and spitting out young teens and twenty-somethings chasing their dreams in Hollywood. Although she did have parental support behind her, she worked in as a manicurist in a high-end salon to pay her bills and support herself while she honed her craft and found her pathway to success.
She spoke of living an authentic life and exercising intellectual muscle instead of depending on others. Her life example of living on her own terms is what gives her credibility and standing as a role model to LGBTQ youth here and around the globe, showing that it can be done, it will get better and you can succeed and thrive in this world by being true to yourself about who you are and what you believe in.
It is worthy to note that Ms. Bernhard embraced who she was and came out in a period when it was not popular or politically correct, and her choice to be herself in such a public domain could have and most likely did have an impact on her career. She explained that she had to be willing to really put herself on the line and maybe lose out financially to be able to say exactly what motivated her, what inspired her, and what she found completely unacceptable in humanity and in our culture.
And because of everything that she is and continues to be, we, too, agree that Ms. Bernhard is a true Shining Light of inspiration and hope and the world is a better place for people like her. Keep on shining bright, Sandra, and continue leading others not only by your words, but by your deeds.