Blog Post 2: Eartha Kitt
Eartha Kitt is an icon of legendary proportions. Whenever the world gets enamored with Beyoncé’s goddess like image or Whitney Houston’s phenomenal performances or even listen to a drag queen gush about Lady Gaga’s unique methodology, I’m reminded of one of the world’s original “Divas”. They’re a popular brand. Strong independent women who don’t need men and who live their lives like a Spanish novella. But only one woman has had so much poise and class, that she’s irreplaceable. I can always imagine a new Madonna or a new Mariah Carey but Eartha Mae Kitt isn’t just unique. She’s incomparable.
Born a child out of wedlock on a cotton plantation, passed around by relatives and disregarded unfairly, she rose to prominence with her hit songs and distinctive and alluring voice. She could roll her “r”s with an intensity every latin soap opera actor would be jealous of and her voice and style charmed everyone in the room. She is probably most remembered for “Santa Baby” a tongue in cheek Christmas staple about a woman who apparently has Santa Clause under sugar daddy status. Said song also makes her death rather apposite as she died on Christmas day.
Coupled with plenty more hits like “C’est si bon”, Just an Old Fashioned Girl” and my personal favorite “I Want to be Evil” she rose into stardom not just through her tremendous singing talent but her near fluent language skills that led her to sing in seven tongues. Her 1965 album Eartha Kitt Live at The Plaza features her multilingual talents. She was given her first starring role as Helen of Troy (appropriate casting) by Orson Welles who once referred to her as “the most exciting woman in the world”. She became infamously connected to the 1960’s Batman Series as the second Catwoman (who oddly turned from caucasian to black), her distinct voice becoming synonymous with the character, and to the current generation is most remembered as Madame Zeroni in Holes and Yzma in The Emperors New Groove.
When she was invited to a White House luncheon she made headlines with her infamous anti war comments about Lyndon B. Johnson’s involving America in the Vietnam War. Now keep in mind this was during 1968, a huge uprising in youth activism now charitably referred to as “Hippies”. Eartha Kitt didn’t disregard the youth of their generation, she knew they were angry and rebelling for a reason and, when questioned by Ladybird Johnson herself, she rather plainly told the First Lady herself that
“we raise children and send them to war”
This made the First Lady break out in tears(also appropriate) and nearly ended Kitt’s career in America. The CIA themselves referred to her as “a sadistic nymphomaniac”, which may be the most badass thing to ever have tied to your name by a government intelligence agency.
Eartha Kitt made her career internationally instead, earning critical acclaim from her performances and gaining a substantial gay male following(see divas/drag queens) which was helped with her prominent gay rights and HIV/AIDS activism. On a more personal note, she was quoted as finding the gay community very relatable as she felt they were “unfairly rejected” and she appealed to that. She was born likely a product of rape, to a woman who was never able to seek justice, being a black woman in the American South. And her mother abandoned her when her new husband refused to take care of the lighter skinned Eartha, and moved into her aunt’s house, picking cotton to earn her keep. Kitt was never able to find the identity of her father, believing the American South’s police force to cover up his identity, long after the mans death even. The reports that allegedly held his name had it redacted in black ink and Miss Kitt was never able to receive closure over this. This may explain her adoration towards social justice. Her statement about the youth rebelling for a just cause still rings through today when most people like to disregard us pretentious and idealistic, Eartha Kitt was someone who would give everyone the respect they deserved, so long as she received the same.
From her international success, she bumped around, singing one day, acting another. She was a fighter till the end, both in her advocacy for civil and social rights and literally before her death. Her daughter was quoted as saying
“Up until the last two days, she was still moving around. The doctor told us she will leave very quickly and her body will just start to shut down. But when she left, she left the world with a bang, she left it how she lived it.”
And that’s honestly why I adore this women. I adore everything about her and I feel it is difficult to see one who doesn’t. Her attitude about how to live life was to grip the bull by the horns and to love yourself more than anyone else. Men or lovers were inconsequential to her, aging made her stronger, fame was inevitable but not unearned. She was honest with her politics and her sexuality and never felt tied down to anybody besides herself. She was a woman who demanded all from the world but wasn’t malicious or spoiled. She was a diva but not prone to petty fights or cheap grabs for notoriety. She worked hard all her life for respect and she knew it. She knew her importance, she knew how to love and respect everyone and she carried herself as a Queen who believed we were all royalty ourselves. A Diva is a recurrent, there will always be a new Madonna, Cher, Britney, or whatever. There was, and will only ever be, one Eartha Kitt.
“I fall in love with myself, and I want someone to share it with me. And I want someone to share me, with me.”
“My recipe for life is not being afraid of myself, afraid of what I think or of my opinions.”
“I am learning all the time. My tombstone will be my diploma.”