Bonjour! My tag was inspired by Josephine Baker, the dancer, singer and civil rights activist who was at the height of her career in the 1920's and 30's. I'm sure during her performances, this exotic beauty heard someone in the French audience exclaim, "Oh là là!"
Born to a poor African-American family in St. Louis, Missouri, on June 3, 1906, she began an early artistic career across the United States by 1919. With the popularity of American Jazz, she made an immediate impression in Paris, where she started performing in 1925. She became one of the most popular and highest paid performers in Europe, when she started performing in the Folies Bergère the following year. Amongst her admirers, were iconic cultural figures of the time, such as Pablo Picasso, Ernest Hemingway, and E. E. Cummings.
Hoping to establish herself as a performer in her home country, she returned to the U. S. in 1936, to perform at the Ziegfield Follies. Unfortunately, due to the hostility and racism she experienced, she soon returned to France, where she obtained her citizenship. During World War II, she worked for the French Resistance. Her heroic efforts earned her the Croix de Guerre and the Legion of Honour with the Rosette of the Resistance, two of France's highest military honors.
In 1950, during her marriage to orchestra leader Jo Bouillon, she began adopting orphans from around the world. These orphans, which totaled 12 multicultural children, became her famous "rainbow tribe." During the 1950's, she frequently returned to the U.S. to support the Civil Rights Movement, alongside Martin Luther King Jr. In honor of her efforts, the NAACP named May 20th, "Josephine Baker Day." She finally had a successful performance in the United States, in 1973, when she received a stand ovation at Carnegie Hall in New York City.
She died on April 12, 1975, days after her last performance at Bobino Theater in Paris. More than 20,000 people lined the streets of Paris to witness the procession, which included one of her best friends, Princess Grace of Monaco. In addition, the French government made her the first American woman in history to be buried in France with military honors.