Lena Horne, "Hollywood's first black beauty, sex symbol, singing star," as Vogue aptly described her, is dead at 92. For a serious look back on the life of a legend, check out obituaries from the L.A. Times, Boston Globe, Telegraph.and New York Times. Really, a good read.
Known best for her bluesy tunes about love lost, denied and unrequited, the singer certainly had her fair share real-life inspiration.
A product of the "usual unusual childhood," Lena was booted from her family home at a young age when her father stepped out on the marriage. From Brooklyn to Harlem she went, and began performing at the infamous speakeasy the Cotton Club. How To Break Up With Parental Baggage
There, she attracted the attention of many a young man and was soon whisked away to a life of "middle-class domesticity" in Pittsburgh.
Lena, like many women at that time, married young, at 19, and to the first man she ever dated, to the 28-year-old Louis Jones. Perhaps jealous of her talent, the marriage soon dissolved and ended in divorce. While Lena was able to retain custody of her daughter Gail, her estranged husband refused to give up their son Teddy. And so Lena left, but on to bigger and better things. Do Successful Women Intimidate Men?
It was World War II that brought Lena her real fame. Performing for the troops overseas, the beautiful Lena provided many a serviceman with the first concrete example of black beauty. A black GI was quoted as saying: "Now we can have someone we can pin on our lockers."
Despite her talent and the adoration of the mass male mind, Lena remained a single, black woman looking to "make it" in a time when both her gender and the color of her skin made it near impossible to do so on her own.
Enter the second husband.
Upon returning home, Lena "fell for" Lennie Hayton, who was *gasp* a white man. Although the relationship ultimately evolved into something more, Lena has admitted that the relationship was initially a career-minded move.
While under contract to MGM in the '40s, Horne met Lennie Hayton, a white staff composer and arranger at the studio who became her second husband.
Fearing public reaction when they married in Paris in 1947, they did not announce their marriage until three years later.
Horne later said she initially became involved with Hayton because she thought he could be useful to her career.