After winning a Tony, Bette Midler offers tearful thanks to Hawaii teachers

After winning a Tony, Bette Midler offers tearful thanks to Hawai'i teachers
Published: Jun. 12, 2017 at 4:58 PM HST|Updated: Jun. 13, 2017 at 1:34 PM HST
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NEW YORK CITY, NEW YORK (HawaiiNewsNow) - After winning a Tony award Sunday night, Hawaii's own Bette Midler took the chance to give the teachers who introduced her to theater an emotional "thank you."

"I never had a chance to thank them publicly," Midler told reporters. "But 57 years later, I got my chance."

Midler won the 2017 Tony Award for best performance by an actress in a leading role in a musical for "Hello, Dolly!" 

Speaking back stage, she took the chance to pay tribute to her former speech and drama teachers, Myrna Ishimoto and Betty Blake Rice.

The Radford High alumna recounted how everyone – including herself – spoke pidgin growing up. She was enrolled in a program to learn "proper English."

Midler said her teachers took her "under their wing," encouraging her to enter speech competitions.

"They kept pushing me along to do these state-wide contests," Midler said. "And I became state champion."

She said that opportunity introduced her to acting.

Tearing up, the actress shared how fundamentally important the role her teachers had in her life, even beyond the stage.

Midler's speech teacher, Myrna Ishimoto, took the then-14-year-old her to the first restaurant she'd ever experienced.

"I was really, really poor and she showed me there's another way, another way of life, and it was marvelous," Midler said.

Ishimoto told Hawaii News Now that she always knew Midler would be successful.

"Bette was somebody that if she made up her mind, she went after it," Ishimoto said. "I thought she would be somebody. She always wanted to be an actress, that I always knew."

Although Midler's public praise surprised her, she now looks back fondly on her time with a star student.

"I am proud to have been her teacher," Ishimoto said.

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