Beth Graham

“When I grow up, I want to be just like *insert name here*”

It is fair to say that most of us have said this in our lives at various different stages. Along with the cautionary saying to never meet your idols. As children, we build these movie stars, sports champions and other amazing individuals up in our heads, that they can do no wrong and that we will love them forever. We create an illusion for ourselves, we create our own version of our role models.

“So, who is your role model?” It’s a common question you’ll hear in a variety of situations from job interviews to first dates. Most of the time people struggle to answer or reminisce on past inspirations. For me, I always have one answer that leaves my lips before my brain can even process it.

Julie Andrews.

My instant answer always seems to bring a sense of joy to people as they remark how nice that is, but then they start to question it. Many have asked me why she is still my role model and comment on how ‘random’ or ‘odd’ it is. To me, Julie Andrews captures a sense of wonder in me as her work has always been present in my life. (I’ve even been on BBC Radio Norfolk’s The Social expressing my love for the star, oh yes!)

Growing up, my dad would always talk about going ‘up to the rooftops’ and ‘stepping in time’. One of his earliest memories as a child was going to see Mary Poppins in the cinema with his mum and just like that his love for the English nanny was passed down to me! This was followed by my mum and Grum introducing me to The Sound of Music and Andrews’ portrayal of Maria Von Trapp in the hills of Salzburg.

Although I had a variety of role models growing up, the entire line-up of the Disney Princesses and Lara Croft included, Julie Andrews, is the one that stuck with me from primary school to this present day. If you know me, you’ll know my respect and love for the woman that brought so much of my childhood to life. I had built up such an illusion in my mind of Salzburg, Mary Poppins and the star herself, that I never wanted it to change.

It was at this moment that reality decided to come knocking, even if it started off subtle. 2018 saw the release of Mary Poppins Returns with Emily Blunt taking over the magical carpetbag – it was at this moment that I realised that so many children would grow up with this version of the nanny and it made me somewhat emotional.

Then 2019 hit and my boyfriend had won us free flights to Salzburg through an Instagram competition. My dream holiday was just given to us. I think we all know that as soon as we touched down in the Alps, my eyes were full of tears and my heart about to explode. Our trip was one that I will never forget, we got to explore the city that I had dreamed about since I was a little girl, we got to visit all of the shooting locations of The Sound of Music, even re-enacting the ending of Do-Ri-Me. Being surrounded by people of different nationalities, ages and backgrounds cemented my love for the star and the incredible body of work that she has created in her career.

Then it happened, November of 2019. 

In the London Southbank Centre, I finally got to meet my idol. Upon the release of her second autobiography, Home Work: A Memoir of my Hollywood Years, Julie Andrews hosted a one-off conversation talking about her life and to promote her book. When I arrived at my seat, my hands were sweaty and my heart was pounding. I looked around me to see mothers and daughters, groups of old friends, people gathering from across the globe to see my idol. The centre was soon filled with her music, it was only when Edelweiss played that everyone slowly joined in and the women sat next to me grabbed my hand as we sang. I will never forget the joy, love, and admiration that filled that room.

After years of building this illusion of Julie Andrews in my mind, I was astounded to find myself living this reality with hundreds of people from completely different stretches of life. The main takeaway from all of this was to not always believe the cynical thoughts that creep into our minds, that our illusions can be our realities in whatever capacity.

So next time you hear the phrase ‘Never meet your idols’ just take a minute and question why. You never know what will happen.

Words: Beth Graham, Storehouse Content Team, @beth_grahamm

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