Reel Icons | Josephine Baker


In this world of pop divas and their outrageous styles, many forget the originator and America’s First Black Superstar, Josephine Baker, who was born 108 years ago yesterday.

The beautiful and irrepressible icon, Baker was known as the Black Pearl, Bronze Venus and the Creole Goddess, Born Freda Josephine McDonald in St. Louis, Missouri, Baker would later became a citizen of France in 1937.

She was the first African-American woman to star in a major motion picture, Zou Zou (1934) or to become a world-famous entertainer and made headlines worldwide with her famous “banana dance.” Baker, who refused to perform for segregated audiences in America, is also noted for her contributions to the Civil Rights Movement. She was once offered unofficial leadership in the movement in the United States by Coretta Scott King in 1968, following Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination. Baker, however, turned down the offer.

She was also known for assisting the French Resistance during World War II, and received the French military honor, the Croix de guerre. Unlike many of today’s entertainers, Baker may have been risque, but she was ALWAYS classy!

Check some pictures of Baker as well as the documentary on America’s First Black Superstar, below: