Believe in yourself, just as I believe in you.
I spent many Saturday afternoons in a little house in Corona, sitting with my granduncle over platters of cheese and crackers, listening to Count Basie and Duke Ellington records. Uncle Moe would tell me first hand stories about the Cotton Club, where musicians came together in a bustling Harlem, including his Lady Day, Billie Holiday. Adoration and praise were reserved for Lena Horne, the pinup sweetheart for my three granduncles. She performed at the Cotton Club during the 1930s, and they snuck in as young boys just to catch a glimpse.
Throughout her life, especially in the 1930s, Lena Horne was considered one of the most beautiful women on earth. But there was much strength in her beauty. At that time in history, the most beautiful women were anything but meek and submissive. In order to thrive, there was no other option but change. They were fierce, strong, and sassy, holding strong to their values in the face of bigotry, dogs, and fire hoses. Lena Horne is a legend of class, grace, and elegance. She is proof that roses grow in Brooklyn, NY, where she was born.
As an actress, she was encouraged to play a Latina in order to further her career. But she stood firm and would never deny her Black heritage she treasured. She is the first African American woman to hold a long-term studio contract. She was a civil rights activist, walking on the March on Washington, openly supported Malcolm X and JFK, and endured blacklisting because of her beliefs. She has inspired legions of actress and young women of all races to achieve excellence, including the young woman writing these words.
My favorite memory is her guest appearance on The Cosby Show, in which she serenaded a smitten Cliff Huxtable for his birthday. She sent even little boys’ hearts aflutter as they remember her today. It’s just proof that her legacy spans generations.
Beauty doesn’t come for a designer dress. It’s not a special formula bottled up in a store. It can’t be purchased at the MAC counter. Beauty is that fire in someone’s eyes. It’s reflected in the eyes of the people they help. Its mannerisms are effortless and easy.
Lena Horne was beauty in its purest form.
Lena Horne was 92 years old. She was living in Manhattan. In tribute, let’s stand taller, and share our inner beauty proudly with a gentle knowing smile. Remember the Lena Hornes, the Dorothy Dandridges, Katherine Hepburns, and Audrey Hepburns who all masterfully designed the blueprint of a lady.
There are three gentlemen eagerly waiting at heaven’s gate to take her hand for a dance at last.
Dedicated to Maurice Clarke, Moody Sims, and Cleveland Marshall. I love you always. Thanks for the history and your love. Love, Jada