My identity is very clear to me now, I am a black woman. ~ Lena Horne
On a recent 60 Minutes commentary Andy Rooney lamented how he looked at the top artists on Billboard and realized he didn’t know any of them. He mused maybe that made him no longer an average American because he didn’t know who Justin Bieber, Usher or Lady Gaga were.
But Rooney said it also meant kids who like Justin Bieber, Usher and Lady Gaga were missing out because they didn’t know who Ella Fitzgerald was either.
I guess there’s no reason in our dumbed-down, pseudo-celebrity society where people who haven’t really done anything except be famous for being famous (I’m looking at you, Kim Kardashian, Heidi Montag and the Jersey Shore crew) shouldn’t be more popular than a 92-year-old Black singer and actress who broke the color line and was an iconic beauty.
Lena Horne didn’t do reality TV (an oxymoron if ever there was) and she didn’t play mammies and maids at a time when that was all Hollywood wanted to see Black women as. “I don’t have to be an imitation of a white woman that Hollywood sort of hoped I’d become. I’m me, and I’m like nobody else,” she said. All too true.
She had too much dignity and far too much class to shuffle or roll her eyes for anyone. You can’t fake style. Lena towers over the artificial “beauty” of today because her’s was so natural, so effortless. She was sexy without being crude. Chic without being forced. Though she made it look easy that hardly means she didn’t work, and hard, for everything she got. Racism may have slowed Lena down, but she never allowed it to beat her down.
Long live Lena Horne.