Josephine Baker: A Diva Who Embraced The World

Source: Jane Henderson / St. Louis Post-Dispatch 

Josephine Baker, the world’s first black superstar, was a master of image and reinvention.

In the 1920s, she twerked for Paris audiences before there was such word as “twerking.” Later, the mesmerizing woman who danced in a skirt of plastic bananas (breasts bare and bum jutting), would change into a beautiful couture gown and hobnob with the elite.

Film made Baker one of the first black actors to have a major role on the big screen. World War II gave her a new identity as an entertainer-informer, passing information to aid her beloved France.

Then, in the 1950s, Baker dressed for an entirely new role. In a more buttoned-up, prim wardrobe of dark dresses and flats, she became a mère of the world by adopting children of different races. She made headlines by gathering a “rainbow tribe” and using her own castle as the stage.

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