Just recently I was perusing my bookshelf and came across What You Owe Me, by the late Bebe Moore Campbell. She is one of my favorite authors and this book was a great read. What You Owe Me, is about a woman who starts a line of cosmetics for black women in 1948, only to be betrayed by her business partner. She dies bitter and defeated. Fifty years later her daughter, using her business savvy and ambition, vindicates her mother. This is a beautiful novel, not only about cosmetics, but how to stay beautiful inside even when life, shady business partners, your family, and possibly even your upbringing place you at a disadvantage.
Just remembering the story, even though fictitious, made me think of all of the people who have contributed to the beauty industry and its evolution over the years. So much has influenced our perception, celebration of, and quest for beauty: stars, trends, cultures, inventors and industry pioneers. So this summer I plan to hop into the time machine and feature a person, trend or culture from the past that had an impact on beauty in their own time and possibly ours.
This week, I’ll start with a personal favorite: Eartha Kitt.
Eartha Kitt has often spoken of her difficult childhood, but she is known and loved for her for her talents and beauty. Ms. Kitt sang in different languages and was even encouraged to deny her southern African-American heritage and claim a more exotic country instead–Burma. Ms. Kitt refused to deny any part of herself. She brought a different kind of sex appeal to audiences of the time, with her intriguing features and unique voice. Eartha was classy and demure. She was a good girl and a bad girl rolled all into one. Who can forget her as Catwoman in the television version of Batman?! Wow!Today in her early eighties she still performs. Her book, Rejuvenate! (It’s Never Too Late), details how she keeps herself in such good shape.
Eartha stepped out of the box and surpassed people’s expectations of what a black woman could do. And we are grateful that she did.