Saturday, May 15, 2010

Diva Icon(Div'icon) of the Month: Lena Horne (R.I.P)

On mother's day, May 9th 2010, we lost an icon, the great Lena Horne. The shy girl from Brooklyn who battled years of racial discrimination to claim her rightful place as an icon will be sorely missed. Her class and style made her memorable to audiences black and white alike. Who can forget her signature renditions of Stormy Weather and the Lady is a Tramp or her Grammy and Tony award winning one woman show "The Lady and her Music"? From jazz to blues, Lena has sung and performed with the greats like Frank Sinatra, Bill "Bojangles" Johnson, and the list goes on. Unfortunately, because of the strong hold that blatant racism had in this country for many years, Lena's talent was not fully savored and enjoyed as it should have been. She  in the early years of her career was not allowed to socialize with the very white audience she had just entertained, the sheets were often burned after she stayed in certain hotels and the list of poor treatment goes on."I was unique in that I was a kind of black that white people could accept," she said in an interview. "I was their daydream. I had the worst kind of acceptance because it was never for how great I was or what I contributed." In the face of racism, Lena was fearless, when performing at an army base in 1945 and she saw German P.O.W's seated in front of African American soldiers she had had enough. From that point on she became very vocal in the fight against racism, a  stance that would blacklist her during the McCarthy era and sideline her career for many years, but she recovered and the entertainment world is the better for it.

Almost a week after her passing, Lena was laid to rest; among the mourners were Cicely Tyson, Chita Rivera, Diahann Carroll, and members of the Tuskegee Airmen. Broadway star Audra McDonald sung Amazing Grace in her honor. The true heart of who the fiercely private star  was can be summed up in what her daughter, Jenny Lumet said at her mother's funeral, "Her beauty was so deep you could swim in it." I think many of us would love to take that plunge.

Rest in peace Lena, and thank you; you left some big shoes to fill.