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

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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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Lupita Nyong’o Wore a Cowrie Shells Headpiece To The Berlinale International Jury Photocall. Here is Why This is Significant.

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Lupita Nyong'o at Berlinale

During the international jury photocall on Thursday, Lupita Nyong’o was photographed wearing a grey Boss suit and a gorgeous  Lafalaise Dion cowrie shell headpiece. This was an important fashion statement. Here is why.

The Oscar-winning actress was invited to serve as this year’s head of the Berlin International Film Festival jury. She became the first Black jury president to oversee the annual film showcase event in its 74-year history. Also known as the Berlinale, the festival is one of the five largest in the world, along with the Toronto, Cannes, Venice, and Sundance film festivals.

The ‘Black Panther’ star expressed her excitement to take on the role in an Instagram post, “Let the festivities begin!” she wrote, “I’m so honored to be this year’s @berlinale Jury President and look forward to celebrating one of the things I love most: cinema!”

As the jury president, Nyong’o is expected to lead the jury in selecting the films to award in the two main categories – Golden and Silver Bears.

Film festivals continue to face criticism for lacking diversity on their juries. The Berlinale directors are moving in the right direction by bringing someone like Nyong’o on board, who is a true champion for diversity and inclusion.

Lupita Nyong'o at Berlinale Jury photocall

Nyong’o opted for a minimalist and simple Boss suit for last week’s jury photocall. She completed the look with a beautiful cowrie shell headpiece created by Côte d’Ivoire designer Dion Dewand Marcia Lafalaise, the self-crowned ‘Queen of Cowries.’ These particular shells represent wealth, prosperity, and fertility. By wearing the unique piece, the Kenyan-born and Mexican-raised star paid homage to her African roots on one of the biggest stages in the world.

Dion, who crafted the headpiece, also expressed gratitude, as her creation is now officially a part of Berlin Film Festival history. She wrote in an Instagram post

“…At this pivotal occasion, Queen Lupita Nyong’o proudly embraces her heritage, gracing the world once again with the iconic crown crafted by Lafalaise Dion.
Her journey to this moment serves as a beacon of inspiration, resonating deeply within our hearts and souls. We are humbled and honored to stand alongside her as she etches her name in the annals of cinematic history
.”

The festival is scheduled to run until February 25, when the jury announces the winning films in the major categories.

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Usher Marries Jennifer Goicoechea in a Post-Super Bowl Surprise Wedding (photos)

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Usher Marries Jennifer Goicoechea

On February 11, 2024, the Super Bowl LVIII halftime show captivated the world, featuring a stunning performance by R&B legend Usher. Little did fans know that the excitement didn’t end there. In a romantic twist, the 45-year-old married his longtime girlfriend, Jennifer Goicoechea, in a secret ceremony that same weekend.

Usher Marries Jennifer Goicoechea

Born as Usher Raymond IV, the singer has been a prominent figure in the music industry for over three decades. Known for his smooth vocals and captivating stage presence, he has earned numerous accolades, including eight Grammy Awards. Goicoechea, a music executive, has constantly supported Usher throughout their relationship. The couple first met in 2019 and have been together since, raising two young children (Usher also has two older sons from a previous marriage).

The wedding took place in Las Vegas, just hours after Usher’s electrifying halftime show performance.

Close friends and family attended the wedding, including Usher’s mother, Jonetta Patton, who served as a witness. Jennifer wore an elegant white gown, while Usher donned a stylish black suit. The couple exchanged heartfelt vows, and the ceremony concluded with an exchange of rings.

In a statement to People magazine, which released the exclusive images from the ceremony, a representative for the couple confirmed the news, saying, “Usher and Jennifer Goicoechea took the next step in their relationship and did get married on Sunday night in Las Vegas surrounded by close friends and family. They both look forward to continuing to raise their children together surrounded by love and thank everyone for the well wishes.”

The wedding has been met with an outpouring of support and congratulations from fans and celebrities alike. Many fans praised the couple for their love and commitment, while others felt heartbroken by the news.

In a true performer fashion, Usher wrapped this year’s Super Bowl weekend with a bang! Not just because his historic halftime show drew a record-breaking 123.4 million viewers, but also because he made it about family and love.

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First Look at the Magical World of ‘Wicked’ Starring Ariana Grande and Cynthia Erivo (Trailer)

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The new trailer for the upcoming movie musical ‘Wicked’ has finally dropped, leaving fans buzzing with excitement. The film, which stars Ariana Grande as Glinda and Cynthia Erivo as Elphaba, is set to be released in two parts.

The trailer opens with a stunning shot of the Emerald City, the iconic location from the original ‘Wizard of Oz’ story. We then see a young Elphaba arriving at Shiz University, where she meets Glinda for the first time. The two characters couldn’t be more different – Elphaba is a shy, green-skinned girl whom her peers often ostracize, while Glinda is a bubbly, popular blonde who seems to have everything she could ever want.

As the trailer progresses, we see glimpses of the musical numbers that have made ‘Wicked’ such a beloved show on Broadway. The production design features vibrant colors and intricate costumes that bring the world of Oz to life.

The pairing of Ariana Grande and Cynthia Erivo, both vocal powerhouses, is beautiful and will yield beautiful musical numbers. In an interview with Jimmy Fallon, Erivo mentioned that she and Grande were surprised at how well their voices complemented each other.

The trailer also gives us a glimpse of the other characters in the film, including Jonathan Bailey as Fiyero, Michelle Yeoh as Madame Morrible, and Jeff Goldblum as the Wizard of Oz.

‘Wicked’ part one is set to premiere later this year, with the second installment scheduled for November 2025.

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