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Black History Captured on Film: Josephine Baker – The Original Celebrity Reality Star

Josephine Baker used her life to build a brand, “her life was her stage.”

American-born dancer Josephine Baker redefined beauty as a Black entertainer in France during the roaring twenties, she created a brand around her persona and possessed control over her image. The Black Venus captured the essence of the French nightlife, with her famous banana skirt hypnotizing viewers across Europe.

She received 40,000 love letters and 2,000 marriage proposals, Baker was in high demand. Although her body was how she gathered the crowd, Baker captured their attention by her vivacious lifestyle up until her life ended on April 12, 1975. Baker made Black culture attractive, during a time where the collective community was considered unfavorable.

Born in June 1906 in St. Louis, Missori, Freda Josephine McDonald grew up in humble beginnings. She began touring with a dance group when she was 16, Baker eventually moved to New York in 1923, making her mark as one of Broadway’s Chocolate Dandies. There she became aware of her personal image and its charm on her viewers.

 A couple of years passed, Baker found herself performing at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées in France. In the La Revue Nègre, she introduced her Danse Sauvage and stole the hearts of all French men in the room, in her time of fame, her legacy went viral, spreading across the world.

Besides her curves, dance moves, and “dark skin,” the banana skirt Baker wore during her performance was provocative and brought attention to a new fetish–the rear end. The skirt would see many different renditions over a 10-year span.

Baker was fully aware of the viewer’s desire of her, she intentionally played into the “exotic” fantasy that was growing around Black culture. Her consciousness was described as having a “third eye,” by seeing herself as a brand.

She sold ‘Bakerskin;’ a skin darkening lotion and ‘Bakerfix,’ a pomade that made a lot of her wealth besides her music-hall performances. Baker played up her “exotic” role, dancing with carefully placed necklaces and pearls, causing a scene wherever she went. When reflecting on her life, one of Bakers’ sons, Jean-Paul Baker said, ” Her Life was her Stage.”

French critics would define her style as “priminitive,” Baker responded in her autobiography. She acknowledged that she was tickled by the reports about her show, “Primitive instinct? Madness of the flesh? Tumult of the senses? ‘The white imagination sure is something,’ Baker continued, “when it comes to Blacks.” Baker was painted to be seen as coming from the jungle, but the American dancer knew she was from Missouri. (Rose, Jazz Cleopatra, 81.)

The St. Louis native didn’t hide from the injustices happening domestically and internationally, she refused to perform in states that had segregated audiences, carried out espionage activity for the French resistance, and hid Jewish refugees when they were under siege. Baker received French merit, which included the Medaille de la Resistance and the Legion d’Honneur.

Baker created her own life, living in a 24-room mansion with a pet cheetah named Chiquita. She adopted 12 children, each having a different ethnic background, Baker called them her ‘Rainbow tribe.’ She created a life of her own, her legacy and political influence continue to echo in fashion and the freedom to portray sensual personas in present-day; for example, she was the inspiration behind Rihanna’s 2014 “naked dress” Riri wore during the CFDA Fashion Awards. Baker showed the real power behind female celebrities taking hold of their image and narrating their own intimate stories.

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Film & Television

‘Bruised’: Watch Trailer For Halle Berry’s Directorial Debut

Academy Award-winning actress Halle Berry directs and stars in a new Netflix mixed martial arts drama, Bruised.

The story follows Jackie Justice (Berry), a mixed martial arts fighter who leaves the sport in disgrace. Down on her luck and simmering with rage and regret years after her last fight, she’s coaxed into a brutal underground fight by her manager and boyfriend Desi (Adan Canto) and grabs the attention of a fight league promoter (Shamier Anderson) who promises Jackie a life back in the octagon. But the road to redemption becomes unexpectedly personal when Manny (Danny Boyd, Jr.) — the son she gave up as an infant — shows up at her doorstep.

Bruised also stars Adriane Lenox, Sheila Atim, Valentina Shevchenko, and Stephen McKinley Henderson.

The film is slated to release in theaters on Nov. 17 before dropping on Netflix on Nov. 24. Watch the trailer above.

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Film & Television

Angela Bassett’s Wax Figure Unveiled

Seeing double?

The world-renowned wax museum Madame Tussauds unveiled Angela Bassett‘s new wax figure and we are at a total loss of words! Seriously, how can you tell them apart?!?

The Black Panther star took to Instagram to share the big reveal of her flawless replica. “Oh, lord! I’m a twin,” Bassett said in a video as she admired the stunning model. “Oh, my God, it’s so lifelike. It’s like it’s gonna jump alive and give me a hug.”

This is arguably one of the best work the museum has done. See the photos below and let us know if you agree.

Angela Bassett's wax figure
Angela Bassett's wax figure

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Film & Television

Robin Givens Joins ‘Head of The Class’ reboot as grown-up Darlene Merriman

Robin Givens is reprising her role as Darlene Merriman in HBO Max’s Head of the Class reboot 35 years after the original sitcom aired.

The new Head of the Class is inspired by ABC’s 1980s sitcom of the same title. It will revolve around a group of overachieving high school students who meet their greatest challenge — a teacher, who wants them to focus less on grades and more on experiencing life. Givens’ character, whose last name has changed to Hayward, was a member of the original Individualized Honors Program (IHP) and is now a parent to one of the kids and a lawyer with a degree from Stanford.

Head of the Class CR: HBO Max

In an interview with EW, Givens shared her excitement about reprising her role on the show, “I can’t begin to put it into words,” she said. “It was so much more emotional for me than I could possibly say. It was like a flood of emotions that stuck with me. I grew up on Stage 5. I was younger than my youngest son. Just even talking about it, thinking about it now, it’s just really emotional for me. I didn’t realize that was going to happen. It’s hard to really process. I certainly didn’t think about coming back and being a parent [on the show].”

All ten episodes of the family comedy debut November 4 on HBO Max.

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