Josephine Baker

Dancer / Singer
Date Of Birth:
3 June 1906
Date Of Death:
12 April 1975
Place Of Birth:
St. Louis, Missouri
Best Known As:
The African-American singer and dancer who embraced Paris

Name at birth: Freda Josephine Baker

A force of nature who sometimes performed au naturel, Josephine Baker was a star dancer, singer, and burlesque entertainer in Paris for most of her adult life. Born in St. Louis, Josephine Baker left home in her early teens and began her performing career, helped along by her charisma and good looks. Baker appeared in the chorus lines of all-black revues on New York vaudeville stages, then traveled to Paris in 1925 as part of La Revue Negre. Her lithe body and frank sensuality, combined with her jovial cross-eyed clowning on stage, caused a sensation. She was so successful in Paris that she stayed and opened her own nightclub there, Chez Josephine. Josephine Baker was famous for her exotic outfits, her trademarks being a cheetah on a leash, a skirt made of feathers, and a dance in which she wore a string of bananas and not much else. She became a citizen of France in 1937, and during World War II she worked with the Resistance against the Nazis. After the war she fought for civil rights in the United States, returned to France and retired in 1956 to look after her 12 adopted children. Josephine Baker fell on hard times in the 1960s but was rescued from destitution by Princess Grace of Monaco, who helped Baker put on another stage show, Josephine, in 1975. Baker died the same year and was given a state funeral in Paris.
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