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My Superheroes Are Black, Burlesque Models

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My Superheroes Are Black, Burlesque Models

I found these dope pics of Nichelle Nichols who most know as the first black woman on Star Trek but many aren’t aware of the modeling she used to do. And yes, I even found a Cicely Tyson modeling photos. I didn’t search the internet for the most iconic black Hollywood stars in an attempt to shame them, but there is a lot of the vintage, black burlesque history and images we don’t know about. If we leave it up to mainstream media, we would only think blonde bombshells like Marilyn Monroe were the only standards of beauty and desire. I wanted to find some famous and not so famous black women that did alternative modeling when the odds stood against them.

First of all, these photos prove that black women have always been fine. These vintage photos are timeless but it also leaves a void in the lack of history we have available to explain them. We need to explore how black femmes navigated adult work post-slavery and how they used their power and agency to build their brands as we know today. I believe it’s important for us to understand and respect the journeys of black women including their adult work. Just for the sake of argument, adult work isn’t just a paid courtesan but it also includes adult modeling, burlesque, and adult dancing.

The beauty of these women is unmatched and it will do us all a great justice to not understand the history of black adult work in America especially post-slavery. For some, adult work is about survival and for others, it is a mere choice, either way, both should be respected.

Maya Angelou was an adult worker as well and she was never ashamed of it. I think we should allow black women to control their bodies as they see fit without the prude judgment and conservative scale of morality.

I wrote about my experiences because I thought too many people tell young folks, “I never did anything wrong. Who, Moi? – never I. I have any skeletons in my closet. In fact, I have no closet.” They lie like that and then young people find themselves in situations and they think, “Damn I must be a pretty bad guy. My mom or dad never did anything wrong.” They can’t forgive themselves and go on with their lives. So I wrote the book Gather Together in My Name. -Maya Angelou

I enjoy seeing burlesque images of black iconic heroes. It humanizes them, plus it opens up a brand new world of possibilities and critical thinking on how the black body is perceived. I noticed a lot of these images and their descriptions used the word ‘shapely’ which I read like ‘curvy’. I have no doubt that their biggest clients were white men and affluent black men. But then I remembered what Queen Eartha Kitt said about affluent black men in Hollywood…

Well damn…

Here are some photos I found of some of the most beautiful black women you may or may not have heard of. They lived in their sex work unapologetically and they looked amazing doing it. Live your life.

Olya , model and cosplayer dressed as Esther Jones [aka Baby Esther] who was an African American singer and entertainer of the late 1920s

For the full gallery, visit here.

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Domiana DeVoe

    September 30, 2018 at 2:58 PM

    I am so glad that I ran up on this website, and this article! It’s a shame that we are still tackling issues of women’s sexuality, and the conventional vs the unconventional. But I loved the way you broke down the fact that sex work isn’t just about prostitutes and pornos (I mean, God bless it all, but there is always more to a story than what is being told). I cannot wait to read more from you!

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