Josephine Baker is the subject of today’s Google Doodle. June 3rd, 2017, would have been her 111th birthday. Josephine is best known for being the first African American to become an internationally recognized performer, and the first to headline her own film, Zouzou, in 1934. Today, she remains a defining cultural figure of the period. Jospehine Baker was an activist as well an an entertainer. She was a pivotal figure in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 60s.
Baker’s hair also played a major in her brand. Her hairstyle was a 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 African American celebrity to their own cosmetics line.
A hair pomade called Bakerfix, which came in a toothpaste-style tube adorned her image. Josephine Baker marketed hair pomade so that women could copy her famous style. These were early moves within the culture of female African American celebrities extending their brands into hair and beauty businesses.
Today this has fully evolved with celebrities such as Rihanna and Beyoncé.