Monday, December 12, 2011

Inspirational Icon Monday: Eartha Kitt

Miss Eartha Kitt rose to fame when she recorded the Christmas smash hit "Santa Baby" in 1954. Yes, I'm one of those people this year that has been listening to Christmas music radio, and everytime I hear that song I can't help but think that the seemingly materialistic lyrics were actually remarkably bold for a woman with her heartrending background of poverty.

Conceived when her mother of Cherokee and African American descent was raped by a South Carolina cotton plantation owner's son,  Kitt was sent to be raised by her grandmother. When her grandma fell in-love and moved in with a man that wouldn't accept a girl of mixed race in his household, she was shipped around until finally her Harlem dwelling aunt took her in until kicking her out when she reached her teen years. Although she knew very little about her father, she did take his sir name, and when she had a daughter in 1961 she named her Kitt as a way to demonstrate her decision to not be shamed by her past.

New York gave Kitt the opportunity to explore her unique talents within the performing arts. She joined the Katherine Dunham Company (a traveling African American troupe that perfomed on a variety of stages around the world as well as in Broadway shows) as a singer, dancer and actress in 1943. Orson Welles, who called her "the most exciting woman in the world" gave her a huge break when he cast her as Helen of Troy in his 1950 stage production Dr. Faust. She went on to become a caberet star, a Grammy nominated recording artist, a Tony nominated stage actess, and a Golden Globe nominated film and television actress. Her career went strong until 1968 when she spoke out against the Vietnam War and was blacklisted in Hollywood and was forced to do her performing overseas.

Although she was the ultimate sex kitten with a hot little body that snagged her the role of Catwoman in the 1960's T.V. show Batman, it was her intellect and ability to rise above the mixed-race prejudism and abandonment of her childhood. She spoke four languages and sung in ten. She made herself alarmingly versatile and transformed her pain into ambition. On December 25th, 2008 Eartha Kitt breathed her last breath. I don't think there is a more beautiful day to be your last here on earth.

      Watch the seductive Eartha Kitt perform "Santa Baby" in 1957!


A dance class Kitt took with James Dean!

My version of the shiny brocade number Eartha Kitt wore during this 1960's performance. My skirt is by Odille and was purchased at Anthropologie; my gold top was bought at a vintage shop in Nashville, and my white vintage heels were bought at Jetrags. The "trying to be as sexy as Eartha Kitt but not succeeding" pose is all my own.

1 comment: