Going Bananas 🍌 It started with JosephinePosted: October 14, 2021
Fleur du Mal may have us Going Bananas with their Limited Edition lingerie, but it may have started with the lovely and talented Josephine Baker.
On June 3, 1906, Josephine Baker was born Freda Josephine McDonald in the slums of St. Louis. Growing up, she cleaned houses and babysat for the wealthy. At the age of 15, Baker was recruited for the St. Louis Chorus vaudeville show; from there, she went to Harlem where she performed in musicals. Eventually, she landed a gig in France as part of an all-black revue, at a salary of $1,000 a month; she emigrated in 1925.
It was the summer of 1926 at the Folies Bergère in Paris. Hordes of white Parisians flocked to the famed theater to see La Revue Nègre, a musical show that emerged from France due to the country’s fascination with jazz culture. And there, wearing little more than strings of pearls, wrist cuffs, and a skirt made of 16 rubber bananas, Josephine Baker descended from a palm tree onstage, and began to dance. This dance—the danse sauvage—is what established her as the biggest black female star in the world.
During World War II, Baker aided the French Resistance by smuggling secret messages in invisible ink on her musical sheets. She hid Jewish refugees and weapons in her château that Bakerskin (her line of skin darkening and hair slicking products) had helped pay for. In 1963, she was, notably, the only official female speaker to give an address at the March on Washington. She received the Croix de Guerre, the Médaille de la Résistance, and Légion d’Honneur. After she died on April 12, 1975, more than 20,000 people crowded the streets of Paris to watch the funeral procession on its way to L’Église de la Madeleine. The French government honored her with a 21-gun salute, making Josephine Baker the first American woman buried in France with full military honors.
In August 2021, it was announced that Josephine Baker is set to become the first Black woman to have her remains reburied in the Panthéon monument in Paris — one of the highest honors in France. French president Emmanuel Macron made the announcement writing that Baker “held high the motto of the French Republic.”
Fashion-wise – offstage, Josephine’s style was developed by Paul Poiret and Madeleine Vionnet, two of the leading couturiers in the ’20s. Her alluring choices have been seen more recent when Beyoncé paid homage to Baker by wearing a banana skirt in her 2006 Fashion Rocks performance. Miley Cyrus following in 2014.
At the 2014 CFDA Fashion Awards, when Rihanna wore a sheer Baker-inspired dress. The Spring 2011 Prada collection and the 2016 Marc Jacobs’s Fall runway notably referenced Baker’s signature gelled hair.
Or, perhaps, Charlotte Olympia’s Banana Pumps are enough quirk to honor Josephine!