BHM Fashion Tribute: Josephine Baker
Josephine Baker was an actress, singer and dancer who took 20s and 30s by storm.
Gaining popularity as a chorus girl during the Harlem Renaissance in NYC, she went on to become an overnight sensation in France – the country where she spent most of her time anyway, and eventually became a citizen of.
Born in St. Louis, Missouri with humble beginnings, the once “street child” soon became the first African-American woman to star in a major motion picture, (racially) integrate an American concert hall, and become a world famous entertainer.
While she was never quite celebrated in the U.S., where she was often a target of racism, even the Nazis wanted to protect Josephine!
She was unconventionally open with her sexuality for that time, performing in next to nothing – most famously in her “banana skirt”.
Unlike many exotic dancers of today, Josephine still maintained a charming, elegant and positive image even while scantily clad.
“I wasn’t really naked. I simply didn’t have any clothes on.”-Josephine Baker
With the flapper movement being huge in the 20s, Josephine rocked gorgeous satin gowns, luxurious furs, glitter, her signature “bakerfix” hairdo and dramatic makeup.
She continues to influence our stars of today, like Beyoncé Knowles, who was inspired by Josephine when recording B’Day back in 2006.
“I wanted to be more like Josephine Baker, because she didn’t, she seemed like she just was possessed and it seemed like she just danced from her, her heart, and everything was so free“, she told Good Morning America‘s Diane Sawyer.
Josephine is also known for her contributions to the Civil Rights Movement in the U.S., even being offered the leadership of the movement after Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated.
She also supported her adopted country of France, assisting the French Resistance during World War II. She became the first American-born woman to receive the French military honor, the “Croix de Guerre”.
Josephine’s personal life was full of drama, with six failed marriages, claims of many bi-sexual affairs, and 12 adopted children. She peacefully passed away at the age of 68 on April 12, 1975, from a cerebral hemorrhage.
Check out Josephine in action with a dance from Princess Tam Tam, a 1935 movie she starred in: