We are women. Phenomenally. And the women we are today, walking in our bold truths, being our authentic selves out loud, must give credit to the women before us that paved the way. The phenomenal black women who were doing what they saying, saying how the felt, and being who they were before it was socially acceptable to do so. We thank you! Here are some of the baddest black women that have walked this planet:
Move over Lady Gaga because Grace Jones was one of the first to rock quirky ensembles without giving a damn. You may know this Jamaican singer because she created the song “Pull Up to the Bumper”, a nightclub hit popular in 80’s and 90’s. Her androgynous features and ever changing style were the blueprint for an effortless slay! In 2015, Jones released her biography, I’ll Never Write My Memoirs, giving the world an inside look into the lives of one of the most unique women in the world.
We can not create a list of bad black women without noting the iconic singer, songwriter, composer, and activist, Nina Simone. Born into a religious home, her father was a preacher but she desired to expand her talents to more than just gospel. To ensure her strict family didn’t know her intentions, she changed her stage name to Nina Simone as she began making a name for herself. Eventually she ended up doing music in the jazz, classical, folk, r&b, and pop genres including her hits “Little Girl Blue” and “I Love You, Porgy”. Her interest in activism exponentially grew after giving a killer audition for a music school and not getting accepted due to the color of her skin. In 2015, Netflix released a captivating documentary, What Happened Miss Simone, about the life, the music, and the legend of Nina Simone.
Pam Grier was the original “Foxy Lady” in our book. Rising to fame in the 70’s–the era of the disco; when people wore bell bottoms and platform shoes, Grier’s iconic style, afro hair, and incredible acting skills made her an icon of the time. She often played the ever so sexy disco queen who touted a gun around in case she needed to teach someone a lesson. You can’t get much badder than that! You may know her from her roles in Foxy Brown and Coffy. She also starred in more modern roles in shows like “The L Word” and “Law & Order”.
At a time when America seemed to be most brutal for African Americans, Angela Davis brought hope. Davis was a master scholar who studied various topics including philosophy. As a young girl she would gather the teens in her neighborhood in order to bring change and as an adult became one of the most notable activists of her time. Today, with the resurgence of African American activists joining together and rising up for change, Davis’s messages ring clear serve as a reminder that it starts with us: “We have to talk about liberating minds as well as liberating society.”
The original care-free black girl, Josephine Baker was loved because of her raw talent but even more so; her carefree attitude. Although women aren’t exactly placed on the pedestal we deserve to be on today, we’ve come a long way from Ms. Baker’s time when we were expected to act extremely ladylike, reserved, and subdued. That didn’t deter Baker from claiming space for herself whether the people liked it or not. “I wasn’t really naked, I simply didn’t have any clothes on” is one of her famous quotes when asked about a nude photo/performance; as if people were overreacting. She was known for jazz and pop dance performances most notable were her roles in “Jazz Cleopatra” and “Black Pearl”.
In the comments, tell us some of your favorite phenomenal women that have paved the way!