To continue our Black History celebration we wanted to highlight ten of the most influential black style icons that graced the earth. During their time they were trendsetters. They set the pace not only in style but were leaders in the arts, activist, and often voices of the black community. We celebrate 10 stylish African American women that redefined the fashion world!
1. Josephine Baker
Josephine Baker. Born June 3, 1906. GEMINI. (born Freda Josephine McDonald). An entertainer, activist, and French Resistance agent. Her career was centered primarily in Europe, mostly in her adopted home of France. During her early career, she was renowned as a dancer and was among the most celebrated performers to headline the revues of the Folies Bergère in Paris. Her performance in the revue Un Vent de Folie in 1927 caused a sensation in Paris. Her costume, consisting of only a girdle of bananas, became her most iconic image and a symbol of the Jazz Age and the 1920s.
2. Nina Simone
Nina Simone. Born February 21, 1933. PISCES. An American singer, songwriter, pianist, arranger, and activist in the Civil Rights Movement. Simone employed a broad range of musical styles including classical, jazz, blues, folk, R&B, gospel, and pop.
3. Dorothy Dandridge
Dorthy Dandridge. Born November 9, 1922. SCORPIO.an African American film and theatre actress, singer, and dancer. She is perhaps best known for being the first African-American actress to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance in the 1954 film Carmen Jones. Dandridge performed as a vocalist in venues such as the Cotton Club and the Apollo Theater. During her early career, she performed as a part of The Wonder Children, later The Dandridge Sisters, and appeared in a succession of films, usually in uncredited roles.
4. Katherine Dunham
Katherine Dunham. Born June 22, 1909. CANCER.an American dancer, choreographer, author, educator, and social activist. Dunham had one of the most successful dance careers in American and European theater of the 20th century and directed her own dance company for many years. She has been called the “matriarch and queen mother of black dance.”
5. Grace Jones
Grace Jones. Born May 19, 1948. Taurus. A Jamaican singer, songwriter, supermodel, record producer, and actress. Born in Jamaica, she moved when she was 13, along with her siblings, to live with her parents in Syracuse, New York. Jones began her modeling career in New York state, then in Paris, working for fashion houses such as Yves St. Laurent and Kenzo, and appearing on the covers of Elle and Vogue. She worked with photographers such as Jean-Paul Goude, Helmut Newton, Guy Bourdin, and Hans Feurer, and became known for her distinctive androgynous appearance and bold features.
6. Ertha Kitt
Ertha Kitt. Born January 19, 1927. CAPRICORN. An American singer, actress, dancer, activist and comedian, known for her highly distinctive singing style and her 1953 recordings of “C’est si bon” and the enduring Christmas novelty smash “Santa Baby”, which were both US Top 10 hits. Orson Welles once called her the “most exciting woman in the world”. Kitt began her career in 1942 and appeared in the 1945 original Broadway theatre production of the musical Carib Song.
7. Donna Summer
Donna Summer. Born December 31, 1948. CAPRICORN. In American singer, songwriter, and painter. She gained prominence during the disco era of the late 1970s. A five-time Grammy Award winner, Summer was the first artist to have three consecutive double albums reach No. 1 on the United States Billboard 200 chart and charted four number-one singles in the U.S. within a 12-month period. Summer has reportedly sold over 140 million records worldwide, making her one of the world’s best-selling artists of all time. She also charted two number-one singles on the R&B charts in the U.S. and a number-one in the U.K.
8. Lena Horne
Lena Horne. Born June 30, 1917. CANCER.an African American singer, dancer, actress, and civil rights activist. Horne’s career spanned over 70 years appearing in film, television, and theater. Horne joined the chorus of the Cotton Club at the age of 16 and became a nightclub performer before moving to Hollywood, where she had small parts in numerous movies, and more substantial parts in the 1943 films Cabin in the Sky and Stormy Weather.
9. Billie Holiday
Billie Holiday. Born April 7, 1915. ARIES. An American jazz musician and singer-songwriter with a career spanning nearly thirty years. Nicknamed “Lady Day” by her friend and music partner Lester Young, Holiday had a seminal influence on jazz music and pop singing. Her vocal style, strongly inspired by jazz instrumentalists, pioneered a new way of manipulating phrasing and tempo. She was known for her vocal delivery and improvisational skills, which made up for her limited range and lack of formal music education.
10. Diana Ross
Diana Ross. Born March 26, 1944. ARIES. An American singer, songwriter, actress, and record producer. Born and raised in Detroit, Michigan, Ross rose to fame as the lead singer of the vocal group the Supremes, which, during the 1960s, became Motown’s most successful act, and are the best charting girl group in US history, as well as one of the world’s best-selling girl groups of all time. The group released a record-setting twelve number-one hit singles on the US Billboard Hot 100, including “Where Did Our Love Go”, “Baby Love”, “Come See About Me”, “Stop! In the Name of Love”, “You Can’t Hurry Love”, “You Keep Me Hangin’ On”, “Love Child”, and “Someday We’ll Be Together”.