When it comes to exuding class and lady-like charm, no one has ever been able to come close to the legendary Lena Horne.This incomparable quadruple threat, singer, dancer, actress and activist, broke barriers and set the standard for generations of female performers.
Born in Bed-Stuy on June 30, 1917, Lena Horne was destined for greatness-with an actress for a mother, a famous inventor for a grandfather, and an uncle who would go on to advise FDR how could she not be amazing at something. At 16 Horne joined the chorus line at the famous Cotton Club and a few years later she was touring with Noble Sissle’s Orchestra, recording her first album and replacing Dinah Shore as a featured vocalist on an NBC radio show. By the time she made her silver screen debut with MGM in Panama Hattie she already had two films under her belt and was established as a nightclub performer.
Just to back track a bit, when Horne signed with MGM in the 1940s she became the first African-American performer to sign a long term contract with a major studio. After appearing in Stormy Weather, Cabin in the Sky, Ziegfeld Follies, Meet Me in Las Vegas and a handful of other films, Horne was blacklisted from Hollywood for her left-leaning political views in the 1950s and returned to her first love, the stage. She briefly returned to film, girl was gorgeous as Glinda the good witch in The Wiz, and eventually went back to performing, squeezing in a few TV appearances here and there, until her death in May 9, 2010.
Before I move on to Lena Horne’s oh so lady like fashion sense which was typical for a woman of her era who made her name during Hollywood’s golden age, I have to comment on her role as an activist which may be reason number 1 that she was blacklisted. Coming from a middle-class, well-educated family, Horne was nothing like today’s starlets. She lent her star status to the Civil Rights movement, spoke and performed at the March on Washington and worked with Eleanor Roosevelt to pass anti-lynching laws. Most importantly, her work in films and on stage allowed little girls to dream that they could one day be in the movies no matter their skin color.
Sartorially speaking, Lena Horne was very much a woman of her times from her well coiffed do to her gorgeous gowns and manicured nails. As many of our grandparents can attest to, back in Lena Horne’s day women were ladies down to the way they entered a room. Horne’s amazing gowns worn on and off screen were so breathtakingly beautiful that they could still take best dressed at the Oscars over 50 years later. Although her style evolved with the changing times and her changing body -no woman looks the same at 65 as she did at 25- her classic sense of old Hollywood glamour never faded. One could say that as Lena Horne aged her grace and beauty only began to shine more.
If you only know Lena Horne from her appearance on The Cosby Show and a few videos on YouTube, I suggest you go out and rent Stormy Weather and Cabin in the Sky, in which Horne’s bubble bath performance of “Ain’t It the Truth” was cut due to the racial climate of the time. Until then check out these videos and die over Lena Horne’s voice and style.
Layout by SB.
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