Last month, I wrote a piece for EBONY.com titled, “Dorothy Forever,” in which I reflected on the late Dorothy Dandridge and why she deserves more credit than she gets. I admire Dorothy, but I’m also aware that plenty of other black actresses and singers paved the way for women of color today. So, I thought it would be fun to start a series of posts dedicated to ALL the black female icons who played in a significant role not only in black America but in American culture as well.
Before Beyoncé and Rihanna, we had:
Diana Ross March 26, 1944 – still alive and showing everyone who the “real” diva is
- Ross was the first diva. Yes, before Whitney and before Mariah, there was Diana. She redefined what a Black woman could in this country-beautiful and glamorous.
- She is also praised for acting abilities. In 1972, she was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress making one of the first Black women to nominated since Dorothy Dandridge in 1954.
Ella Fitzgerald April 25, 1917 – June 15, 1996
- Fitzgerald was the first Black woman to win a Grammy Award in 1959. She won two that night for Best Jazz Performance and Best Female Pop Vocal Performance.
- She was also known as the “First Lady of Song” or “Queen of Jazz” and for her improvisational abilities particularly in her scat singing.
Lena Horne June 30, 1917 – May 9, 2010
- In 1942, Horne moved to Hollywood and signed a 7-year contract with MGM studios making her the highest paid Black actor at the time.
- She was the first Black person to appear on the cover of Motion Picture Magazine in 1944.
Stay tuned next week for part 3 of the “Bow Down … Dedicated to ALL Those Who Came Before Us ” series.