“I have never been a great artist, I have been a person who loved art, which is not the same thing.” -Josephine Baker
Born in St. Louis, Missouri in 1906, entertainer and activist Josephine Baker started her journey on changing the world. Growing up poor, Josephine found happiness in singing, dancing, and making other laugh in New York. Looking for a new audience and a new dream, she traveled to Paris and quickly became the say of La Folie du Jour at the famous Follie-Bergere Theater, which appealed and mesmerized her audiences with her exotic dance moves and spontaneous personality. Her signature dances like the iconic “banana dance” made her the biggest star in Europe at the time. (Singer Beyonce paid tribute to Baker by wearing a banana skirt in 2006 during a Fashion Rocks performance.) On stage, Baker danced around in feathers and jewelry, while off the stage she walked around in diamonds, silk gowns, and dramatic headwear.
During WWII, the Nazis were spreading their hatred around France and Baker decided to join the Auxiliary Air Force. Additionally, she worked for the Resistance Movement by transferring news in secret messages hidden in her sheet music. Josephine even worked with Martin Luther King Jr. in the civil rights movement. In 1951, the NAACP named her most outstanding woman of the year. Although Baker was more popular in France due to racism in America, she is still one of the most important artists of the twentieth century and her cultural legacy is still alive today. It still exists in fashion, dance, art, photography, film, literature, and more. Baker’s independence, exotic looks, and spontaneous attitude will forever mesmerize people and change the way the world looked at strong women.