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Style Icon: A Look At The Undeniably Fabulous Josephine Baker

 Josephine Baker 1920's Paris

Josephine Baker rose from the poverty stricken streets of St. Louis, Missouri to become the first black world-famous entertainer.  She was a dancer and singer extraordinaire, stage performer and movie actress, mother, chateau owner, activist, entrepreneur and 20th century icon.  Josephine Baker knew how to use what she had to get what she wanted.

Josephine Baker’s life, style and originality has inspired generations.  Her style has been imitated by current day admirers from Beyonce to Tyra Banks.

"Since I personified the savage on the stage, I tried to be as civilized as possible in daily life." Josephine BakerJune 3, 1906 – April 12, 1975

Josephine baker baby picJosephine Baker was born Freda Josephine McDonald

A brief bio …

Josephine Baker was born on June 3, 1906 in Saint Louis, Missouri to parents Carrie McDonald and Eddie Carson.  By age 15, she was a dancer living in Harlem, NY working in the touring show of Shuffle Along.

In 1925, she was plucked from the show’s chorus line to become the headliner of a new musical and the first all black show opening in Paris, “La Revue Negre”.   The moment Josephine danced “La Danse de Sauvage” in “La Revue Negre” she took Paris by storm.  Then Josephine Baker made the world her oyster.

Josephine was initially rejected in America as being “too skinny and too dark”, but those attributes became her assets in Paris.  They named her the “Bronzed Venus”, the “Black Pearl”, and the “Creole Goddess”.  Baker personified an image the french coined exotic and erotic but in the process she introduced Europeans to the beauty and style of African American women and she celebrated her own authenticity.

Josephine Baker in Baden-Baden

Josephine Baker in banan skirt 1925“Since I personified the savage on the stage, I tried to be as civilized as possible in daily life.” Josephine Baker

Here are some interesting facts about Josephine Baker’s life.


  • Was mother to 12 adopted children
  • Was married 4 times
  • Traveled the world with her pet cheetah “Chiquita”
  • Was the 1st African American to star in a movie, Zou Zou in 1934
  • Worked for the French Revolution in WWII transporting messages in her sheet music
  • Was awarded the Legion of Honor for her work with the French military
  • Was a speaker at the 1963 March on Washington
  • Was named a top 100 all time fashion icon by Time magazine
  • Was so loved 20,000 people flooded the streets of Paris during her funeral

When Josephine Baker died in 1975, she had become one of France’s best loved citizens.  What I love most was how she leaped over the limitations she faced to become the woman she wanted to be.

Now that’s an original diva!

I hope you enjoy this look back at the style of the Undeniably Fabulous Original Diva – Madame Josephine Baker.


Baker in costume Paris 1920's

Baker faceshot - curls


Josephine Baker with Her Cheetah, c.1930-32

Josephine Baker in Paris 1930's


Josephine in gown - VBG

Josephine Bakers 1920's


Josephine Baker pearls 1920's

Josephine Bakeron ship  in Channel 1929Josephine on ship in Channel 1929

Josephine Baker 1927 fashionJosephine Baker in 1927 in chevron fashion

Josephine Baker from movie Zou-ZouJosephine Baker from movie Zou-Zou

Josephine Baker fashionJosephine styling flapper style in the 1920’s in Paris

Josephine Baker Getting Married to Joe Buillion1947 Josephine Baker getting married to Joe Bullion

Josephine with kids Rainbow TribeJosephine Baker with family the media called her “Rainbow Tribe”

Josephine with Lena 1963 March on WashingtonJosephine and Lena Horne at the March on Washington in 1963.

Josephine Baker 1951Josephine Baker in 1951

Josephine in gold lame gownJosephine performed until her untimely death in 1975.  This photo is from a performance later in her career.

Baker's castle Chateau des Milandes, Dordogne, FranceBaker’s castle Chateau des Milandes, Dordogne, France

I plan to do a review of it soon so keep coming back.


There have been 7 biographies written, movies and documentaries created about Josephine Baker.  If you want to learn more about her I suggest reading The Hungry Heart” written by her son, Jean Claude Baker.  It’s a juicy read and comprehensive account of her life.

The Hungry Heart bio Josephine BakerThe Hungry Heart by Jean Claude Baker

It’s a juicy read and comprehensive account of her life.

Baker-with-Pearls flapper style

Did you learn something new about Madame Josephine Baker? 

I hope you are inspired by her spirit and enjoyed this post.

Until next time …

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  • Adanna

    This is such an informative article, I really don’t know much about Jospehine Baker besides how fabulous she was. It’s interesting to hear her role in WWII. Her castle is beautiful, I would love to see the interior.

    • Elle

      Thanks Adanna.

      Josepine Baker was an awesome woman with a vision far beyond her years. I’m happy you learned so much about her life, and I hope it inspired you.