Women of Color Alternatives to Marilyn Monroe

Posted on July 27, 2012 by

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Everyone loves Marilyn Monroe. A 26 foot tall statue of her was created to honor her famous scene from The Seven-Year Itch. It is complete with gigantic, lacy, white panties. Countless tourists have had photographs taken of them nuzzling her enormous foot. This is questionable behavior. How many of those people have even seen The Seven-Year Itch? Why are they worshiping some woman from Hollywood’s Golden Age who would not have retained postmortem popularity were it not for Mr. Andy Warhol? Why would some waste time creating a behemoth version of a mediocre actress/singer?

Look. I’m not saying that Marilyn Monroe is the worst. I’m just saying that there were so many who were more talented, more beautiful and WOC. Some of these mid-century triple threats have gained long lasting notoriety (Eartha Kitt, Dorothy Dandridge, Rita Morena, Lena Horne, Diahann Carroll) but here is a list of a few more who you might not have heard of.

  • Delores del Rio was a star in both the silent film era and Hollywood’s Golden Age. Though she was born in Mexico, del Rio enjoyed fame all of the world. After become famous in Hollywood, she decided to move back to Mexico and star in movies there while hanging out with people such as Frida Kahlo. Eventually returning to the USA, del Rio became a Broadway star and, later, a television star. She dated Orson Welles and dumped him through telegram.
  • Abbey Lincoln starred alongside Sidney Poitier in a movie called For Love of Ivy in which everyone wanted her. However she was mainly a singer/songwriter and only acted in a few films. Her lyrics inspired many during the Civil Rights Movement (check out “Triptych: Prayer/Protest/Peace” ) and her jazz albums in the 1990s-2000s won awards.
  • Hazel Scott, a jazz singer born in Trinidad, was the first WOC to host her own television show. She was then accused of being a communist and her show was cancelled. Before all of the Red Scare nonsense, she was known as immensely talented singer and pianist and received scholarships to train at the Julliard School from the age of 8. Scott appeared in multiple movies and performed jazz, blues, showtunes and classical music on the radio and in nightclubs. She even performed at Carnegie Hall. Due to McCarthyism and segregation, Scott moved to Europe and expanded her career there before movie back to the USA in 1967.
  • Anna May Wong was born to Chinese American parents. She was a fashion icon, a star of both silent and sound films and dabbled in television and stage work. Because white-washing characters is one of Hollywood’s favorite things to do, Wong was passed up for the lead role in the film version of The Good Earth (the role went to a white woman, of course). This setback was a catalyst for her decision to play non-stereotypical roles. These roles usually did not give her as much critical praise as she was used to receiving. A notable exception was her role in Lady From Chungking, a movie in which all of the Chinese characters were actually played by actors of Chinese descent.
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Posted in: Entertainment