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Fierce, Black, and Fabulous: Lena Horne

"It's not the load that breaks you down; it's the way you carry it." - Lena Horne

Photo credit: The Everett Collection

June 30, 1917 - May 9 2010

Lena Horne was fierce and fabulous because when so many people were afraid to challenge the status quo of society, she was unafraid to refuse to compromise her own dignity.

From being courageous enough to start making a living at a young age and follow in her mother's footsteps into entertainment, Lena became a staple figure for advancing the Civil Rights Movement.

Heavily influenced by both Malcolm X and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Lena Horne used her performances to bring awareness to the work of the NAACP and other organizations to help even the playing field for those not born in this country with white skin.

Her films Cabin in the Sky and Stormy Weather opened doors for audiences in the North to experience a woman of color on the big screen and grow her audience.

Additional bio summary below:

*Married twice with two children. Her son passed in the early 70's

*Exposed to the performing arts because her mother was a traveling performer

* High school drop out at 16

* Cotton Club performer

* Debuted on Broadway in 1934 (Dance with your Gods)

* Became the highest paid Black entertainer in 1943, which led to a 7 year contract with MGM studios

*Credited with refusing acting roles that would make her the domestic help as well as defending her own honor against discrimination in clubs

* In the 1950s, her show Lena Horne At the Waldorf Astoria became the best selling album by a woman for RCA Records

Lesson from Lena: Don't allow being one of the first to forge into unwelcome territory in pursuit of your own humanity make you not forge ahead at all.

*Sources: and

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