Josephine Baker: the first African-American to star in a major motion picture.
She was a dancer, an entertainer, and French resistance agent. While her career mostly took place in France, a costume consisting of only a girdle of artificial bananas became one of the most iconic images of the Jazz Age and 1920s.
Baker also refused to perform for segregated audiences in the United States. She was an unofficial leader in the Civil Rights Movement.
She married a man at 13, and divorced a short time later. Baker also married three other times. But despite her marriages, she also had several relationships with women.
Jean Michel Basquiat
Jean Michel Basquiat is one of the greatest artists of the 20th century.
He dated Madonna, then unknown, back in 1982. And from there, he had relationships with many people in the art world.
According to Jennifer Clement, author of Widow Basquiat, the artist was ‘attracted to people for all different reasons’.
She said: ‘They could be boys, girls, thin, fat, pretty, ugly. It was, I think, driven by intelligence.’
He died of a heroin overdose at just 27 years old.
George Washington Carver
Born a slave, George Washington Carver became one of the greatest scientists in history.
He was even nicknamed the ‘Black Leonardo’ by TIME magazine in 1941.
While doing this, he discovered 285 uses of the peanut (unfortunately not peanut butter, as the joke about him goes). He also developed 118 products derived from sweet potato, including shoe polish.
Carver never married. It was long rumored he had been castrated due to his high voice pitch.
At 40, he courted an elementary school teacher named Sarah Hunt. And at 70, he established a close relationship with a young black scientist Austin Curtis. When Carver died in 1943, he bequeathed his royalties to Curtis.
Leslie Cheung, one of the ‘founding fathers of Cantopop’, was an A-lister.
A teen heartthrob and pop icon of Hong Kong in the 70s and 80s, he won numerous music awards.
He announced he was in a relationship with a man during a concert in 1997.
And in 2001, he clarified his sexuality.
‘It’s more appropriate to say I’m bisexual. I’ve had girlfriends. When I was 22 or so, I asked my girlfriend Teresa Mo to marry me,’ he told Time magazine.
He added later: My mind is bisexual. It’s easy for me to love a woman. It’s also easy for me to love a man too.’
But his story has a sad end. He died by suicide in 2003 after suffering from depression.
If Brenda Fassie was born in America, it’s likely she would’ve been a superstar.
But she was born outside Cape Town in the 1960s. Her career began when she recorded her band’s hit song Weekend Special.
Known as ‘Madonna of the Townships’ and the Queen of African Pop, Brenda had hit after hit.
But she didn’t have great taste in men or women. Her girlfriend, in 1995, died of an overdose as Brenda laid next to her in a drug-induced haze.
The men she dated tried to con her out of her money. She died in 2004, a voice for disenfranchised blacks during apartheid, a legend.
Mahmud of Ghazni
Mahmud of Ghazni was the first ruler to hold the title Sultan. He ruled the Ghaznavid dynasty from 998 to 1030.
His empire, which extended from northwestern Iran to the Punjab in India, the capital Ghazni became the epicentre of the Islamic world.
He appointed his male lover Malik Ayaz, a slave from Georgia, as the Sultan of Lahore.
When Mahmud asked Malik who ruled the land, and Malik said it was him, Mahmud corrected him saying, ‘I am a slave to a slave.‘
For many R&B fans, Kenny Greene was a voice of a generation. He won Songwriter of the Year for his work with Mary J Blige, Will Smith and 98 Degrees.
He was also the lead singer of the group Intro.
In 2001, he came out as bisexual. He died at the age of 32 due to complications of AIDS.
Emile Griffith was one of the most famous boxers of his generation, becoming a world champion in three weight classes.
The contest he is best known for is in 1962. At the weigh-in with his opponent Benny Paret, Paret called Griffith homophobic slurs and touched his buttocks.
Griffith won the bout by knockout; Paret never recovered consciousness and died in 10 days later.
He was quoted in Sports Illustrated: ‘I like men and women both. But I don’t like that word: homosexual, gay or faggot.’
He added: ‘I don’t know what I am. I love men and women the same, but if you ask me which is better … I like women.’
Billie Holiday was one of the most iconic jazz singers of the 1930s.
Starting off in Harlem, her voice became recognized around the world.
She suffered many personal tragedies, a drug addiction. It is thought, in prison, she had many same-sex relationships with women.
But in her career, she was openly bisexual. She’s even rumored to have dated actresses, including Tallulah Bankhead.
Frida Kahlo is perhaps one of the most iconic painters ever. Born in Mexico City, she survived polio as a child and an accident that confined her to her bed for over a year.
She survived mentally by drawing on her full body cast. Frida is best known for her 55 self portraits.
The early 20th century bisexual artist had affairs with both men and women, including her husband’s mistresses. She was linked with American painter Georgia O’Keeffe and movie stars Dolores Del Rio and Paulette Goddard.
Her painting Two Nudes in a Forest is a tribute to her attraction and love of women.
Malcolm X is a liberation hero. Before his assassination in 1965, there were rumors he had same-sex relationships while in a marriage with a woman.
The political leader’s sexuality remained unknown, until an acclaimed biography was published.
Bruce Perry wrote Malcolm – The Life of a Man Who Changed Black America. He interviewed many people close to him during adult life. Several of them state he truly was bisexual.
Author: Joe Morgan
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