Through every day of February our international correspondent Gigi Mac will celebrate a different woman of color to mark Black History Month. This is too good an idea to slip off the following day’s F-book feed so here, for our delectation & education, is Part 1 of her selection.
Josephine Baker 6/3/06 – 4/12/75
Normally we see ‘La Baker’ dancing around being the life of the party– topless, in her little banana skirt, feathers, tulle, dripping with pearls & other costume jewelry… I liked this shot, not just because it was glamorous & elegant, but I love her eyes, and how slightly sad they are… tough life in the ’20s, being a flapper of color, not being accepted in her own country, and having to fight her way thru an odd paradox of being the toast of Paris and at the same time exploitation in a new country, but having the smarts & wit to flip it to make it work to her benefit. Later, having the resources & tenacity to pave the way for others as a civil rights advocate. A bittersweet life, but Josephine endured.
“The things we truly love stay with us always, locked in our hearts as long as life remains.”
Eartha Kitt 1/17/27 – 12/25/08
A life of controversy and drama makes some people more than ready to be a performer. Like Josephine, Eartha Kitt was not a stranger to the success one could garner overseas…in this case, the result of that forced foray produced world-wide notoriety, multilingual fluency and a hunger to perform. Broadway, cabaret, film, dance, comedy, vocals, Eartha did it all! There was a little kerfuffle later regarding her statements about the Vietnam War, but to be that bold to voice her opinion, at a White House luncheon mind you, as foolish as it appears to be, was well-calculated and needed to be expressed. Might as well add activist to Eartha’s list of accomplishments as she was inclined to give back in droves.
While Julie Newmar could do amazing hypnotic things with her eyes, making her a very close second, Eartha was still my favorite Catwoman… slinky, playful, crafty… was she just a villain? or purrrrrfectly misunderstood…? I love this shot of her laughing. I suspect a dastardly plan was being cooked up for her lovely Batman as we speak!
“My recipe for life is not being afraid of myself, afraid of what I think or of my opinions.”
Louise Vyent – b, January 7th 1965
What?! You don’t know who Louise Vyent is?? The nerve! 😉 I needed to get a model in here somewhere… Actually I wasn’t going to even use lovely Dutch-African Louise, even tho she was my favorite thing in the world when I was 15 – it was a toss-up between Beverly Johnson or Iman, as they were both iconic and ceiling busters when it came to black models… so many women of color in the industry have those very two goddesses to thank for their careers. Figured I’d go with Beverly. I was actually searching for a pic of her to use, and came across an old Revlon ad that had the goddesses and guess who? Louise! Pretty impressive company Ms. Vyent! That’s quite the gig!
Well for a while there, without even knowing her name, Louise was all anybody could talk about, but she seemed to do her own thing. There was the supermodel justice league – Cindy, Naomi, Linda, Christy, Elle etc… even your 2nd tiers– Tatiana, Leticia, Veronica… all sort of clumped together, and then you had Louise, working hard and quietly garnering tons of Glamour covers [just pick up a random Glamour from say 1987 and I guarantee Louise will be on it] a few Vogues or Harpers Bazaars here & there… but as their stars rose & shone, hers leveled off, and she all but disappeared, especially in the American market. No, she’s not selling french melon skin care products at 3 am on VH1, she’s not flinging cellphones at her assistants or dating married losers, she’s not laying about in an opium den in Dusseldorf… Louise Vyent rode her career out as a model as long as she could, then got her life back, that’s why I adore her! she didn’t let the Industry dictate her existence. I suspect she witnessed the damage it does, said no before anything got out of hand, and walked away — that’s what I like to think anyway… In reality, perhaps Louise had a bad runway walk, or maybe a designer thought she had a limited look—sometimes it only takes one time for the right person to say ‘feh’… and that ‘feh’ may have saved her life.
Presently Louise Vyent runs a communications firm on the East Coast, and still models from time to time – when SHE decides. Here is an older, wiser, current Louise– my first girl crush. Bone structure still ridic!
“Photography remains the most powerful medium, specifically when it comes to tragic events.”