Josephine Baker (June 3, 1906 – April 12, 1975) was an American dancer, singer, and actress who found fame in her adopted homeland of France. She was given such nicknames as the "Bronze Venus", the "Black Pearl", and the "Créole Goddess".
Ernest Hemingway called her "… the most sensational woman anyone ever saw."
But did you know she was bisexual and had an affair with Ada Smith AKA 'Bricktop' as well as Frida Kahlo?
A little about Bricktop from the Paris Review:
Whenever she was asked about her start in the world, the legendary saloonkeeper Bricktop—born Ada Smith—replied:
On the fourteenth day of August 1894, in the little town of Alderson, West-by-God-Virginia, the doctor said, “Another little split-tail,” and on that day Bricktop was born.
T. S. Eliot later added, “…and on that day Bricktop was born. And to her thorn, she gave a rose.”
Bricktop is a not a familiar name to most people today, though the crumbs of her extraordinary life are indispensable to the telling of a certain moment in the history of Americans in Paris and café society everywhere. Woody Allen’s latest movie, Midnight in Paris, could hardly recall the days of Gertrude Stein, Ernest Hemingway, or the Fitzgeralds without Zelda crying, “Let’s go to Bricktop’s!”
About Josephine Baker's personal life according to Wikipedia:
There is evidence to suggest that she was bisexual. Her son Jean-Claude Baker and co-author Chris Chase state in Josephine: The Hungry Heart that Baker was involved in numerous lesbianaffairs, both while she was single and married, and mention six of her female lovers by name. Clara Smith, Evelyn Sheppard, Bessie Allison, Ada "Bricktop" Smith, and Mildred Smallwood were all African-American women she met while touring on the black performing circuit early in her career. She was also involved with the writer Colette, and possibly with Caroline Dudley Reagan, who ran the Paris extravaganza La Revue Nègre.Not mentioned, but confirmed since, was her affair with Mexican artist Frida Kahlo. Baker wrote that affairs with women were not uncommon with Josephine throughout her lifetime.
Jean-Claude Baker interviewed over 2,000 people while writing his book. He was quoted in one interview as saying,
"She was what today you would call bisexual, and I will tell you why. Forget that I am her son, I am also a historian. You have to put her back into the context of the time in which she lived. In those days, Chorus Girls were abused by the white or black producers and by the leading men if he liked girls. But they could not sleep together because there were not enough hotels to accommodate black people. So they would all stay together, and the girls would develop lady lover friendships, do you understand my English? But wait wait...If one of the girls by preference was gay, she'd be called a bull dyke by the whole cast. So you see, discrimination is everywhere."
|Josephine Baker's Banana Dress|
|Ada "Bricktop" Smith|