Tag Archives: Josephine Baker

CW14

Black Glamour Power: The Stars Who Blazed a Trail for Beyoncé and Lupita Nyong’o

A 1960s promo shot of The Supremes, featuring Diana Ross, Florence Ballard, and Mary Wilson.

By Guest Contributor Lisa Hix, adapted from Collectors Weekly

Nichelle Gainer knows a thing or two about glamour: She spent most of her career working for magazines like Woman’s Day, GQ, Us Weekly, and InStyle, with a focus on celebrity, fashion, and grooming. But her true passion is fiction, so she decided to write a novel about black beauty pageants in the 1950s, partially inspired by one of her two glamorous aunts, who was a model in the 1950s—the other was an opera singer who rubbed shoulders with the biggest celebrities of her day.

Looking for newspaper articles on her aunt, she discovered a whole world of history that hardly ever bubbles to the surface: stunning, well-dressed African American stars celebrated in the black community, and sometimes even in the mainstream. Gainer put her fiction work aside to focus on these real-life stories.

Eventually, Gainer started a Tumblr and Facebook fan page, both called Vintage Black Glamour, full of gorgeous images that rarely make it into the public consciousness. While her novel went onto the back burner, her web sites drew the attention of a London publisher, Rocket 88. Gainer’s first book, a nonfiction coffee-table tome about women celebrities, Vintage Black Glamour, which will come out this September, can be preordered now.

We spoke with Gainer over the phone, and she explained to us the stories behind the photos she’s found, why glamour is important, and why Vintage Black Glamour will be more than just a collection of pretty pictures.

Continue reading

Women of Color in Burlesque: The Not-So-Hidden-History

By Guest Contributor Sydney F. Lewis

I have been up all night looking at vintage Jet Magazines on Google Books. A friend and fellow Black burlesque performer, Chicava HoneyChild of Brown Girls Burlesque, introduced me to this impressive online archive of Black politics, society, and entertainment. Founded in 1951, by John H. Johnson, Jet magazine was initially billed as “The Weekly Negro News Magazine.” I like to think of it as Ebony magazine’s tawdry little sister. After about eight hours of being glued to the screen, flipping virtually through captivating documentation of Black strippers from the 1940s-1970s, I have come to the conclusion that, just as I suspected, the omission of Black Women and other Women of Color from the realm of burlesque picture and history books is just willed ignorance– ignorance, lazy scholarship, and yup I’ll say it, racist brands of white feminism.

Continue reading