A controversial performer, a civil rights icon, a war spy, a sex symbol and a devoted mother: these are just some of the lenses through which one could view Josephine Baker, but trying to label her would do injustice to the multitudes she contained.
This legendary woman made her mark on the world, through performance, heroism in war time, and civil rights activism. Born Freda Josephine McDonald in St. Louis, Missouri, Baker dropped out of school at 12 years old. By the age of 15, she had already been married twice.
Baker worked as a domestic servant, but thrived as a performer, dancing her way to New York City and eventually Paris, France.
Dr. Monique Wells, owner of Entree to Black Paris, leads tours on Baker and the African American experience in France.
“She came when she was 19,” Wells told Inside Edition Digital’s TC Newman.
“So a teenager in a new country where she didn’t speak the language, but she’s got talent,” Newman said.
“Exactly. And she had more than talent. She had a charisma,” Wells replied. “But she had what the French would say, ‘that je ne sais quoi.’ I don’t know what that made her, just, you just had to pay attention to her. And she was literally catapulted into stardom overnight.”