1 Million Fans Still Google Josephine Baker's Biography, Facts, Accomplishments, Ethnicity, Hairstyle & Costumes

DESPITE HER DEATH in 1975, interest in Josephine Baker's biography remains strong, as a million fans Google the dancer's accomplishments, ethnicity, hairstyles and other facts. By Ben Arogundade. [Jul.10.2016]


SHE WAS KNOWN by many names, including the “Bronze Venus”, the “Black Pearl” and the “Creole Goddess”, but singer, actress and dance celebrity Josephine Baker was born Freda Josephine McDonald in St. Louis, Missouri, on June 3, 1906. Her mother, Carrie McDonald, was a washer-woman. The facts about her exact ethnicity are unknown, as she was adopted in 1886 by two former slaves of African American and Native American ancestry.

The man believed to be Baker’s father, Eddie Carson, was a vaudeville drummer. His true identity has been the subject of some debate. Baker’s foster son, Jean-Claude, claimed in his biography, Josephine: The Hungry Heart, that she was fathered, not by Carson, but by an unidentified white man — possibly someone who lived within the German household in which Baker’s mother worked around the time she became pregnant.

Baker had light brown skin, which came in handy when she moved to New York during the Harlem Renaissance, beginning her career by joining the popular all-black Broadway revue, Shuffle Along, in 1921. In order to appeal to its white patrons, the showgirls were required to be exclusively light-skinned with European features, and Baker fitted the bill. “The performers were ‘white’ blacks, in accordance with the vogue,” she recalled. During the course of her career she became obsessed with skin lightness — the result of discrimination she’d experienced during her days as a chorus girl. As a result of this fact she considered a pale complexion to be essential to her image and her success. Each morning she would rub her face and body with half a lemon to further lighten her skin.

Baker's hairstyle was the other crucial component within her constructed aesthetic. She wore it short, straightened and smoothed against her skull, with Medusa-like curls framing her face. She applied egg-white to give it its high sheen and stiffness. In October 1925, at her legendary debut at the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées in Paris, every jaw in the audience dropped at the sight of it.

“Her hairstyle had been done like a Greek boy’s,” recalled Harper’s Bazaar editor Diana Vreeland, “and pressed into her flat black curls were white silk butterflies. She had the chic of Gay Paree.”

Josephine Baker went on to become the first black star to create her own cosmetics line — for a hair pomade called Bakerfix, which came in a toothpaste-style tube adorned with dancer’s image. These were early moves within the culture of female African American celebrities extending their brands into hair and beauty businesses — something which is now fully evolved with today's black stars such as Rihanna and Beyoncé.

Despite her death in April 1975, Josephine Baker's biography and accomplishments have become the subject of intense curiosity from a whole legion of new fans. Their interest is played out online, where Google — who record and publish all monthly searches across their platform — reveal some interesting statistics on the dancer and entertainer. Firstly, the search giant records 91,000 global monthly searches for her name, with a further 1,200 who Google the terms, “Josephine Baker biography, facts, accomplishments”, and 900 who browse the terms, “Josephine Baker hairstyle, costumes” each month. All together these numbers amount to approximately one million searches per year. Not bad for someone who started out almost a century ago.

Ben Arogundade's book, Black Beauty', is out now.

THE DANCER: Theatre performer and entertainer Josephine Baker's biography and career facts make her one of the most compelling figures in black history. She remains a popular icon internationally, despite her death over 40 years ago.

The Creativity of Author, Designer & Publisher Ben Arogundade








The number of people worldwide who Google Josephine Baker's name each month.


The number of people worldwide who Google the terms, “Josephine Baker biography, facts, accomplishments” each month.


The number of people worldwide who Google the terms, “Josephine Baker hairstyle, costumes” each month.

*All figures for “Josephine Baker Facts & Accomplishments According to Google Search”, supplied by Google. Stats include global totals for laptop and desktop computers and mobile devices.

BAKER'S BIOGRAPHY: (From the top); Theatre performer and dance celebrity Josephine Baker as a child. The facts about her parents background and ethnicity are not fully known. Baker graces the cover of the July 1933 edition of 'Piccolo' magazine. Josephine Baker was renowned not only for her distinctive hairstyle, but also her collection of flamboyant costumes, including her famous 'banana' skirt.

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