7 Things You Didn't Know About Josephine Baker's Love Life

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This triple-threat performer was more than just a pretty face and a banana skirt.

In light of the news that Rihanna will be portraying the late, great singer-dancer-actress Josephine Baker in a big-screen adaptation of her career, we got to thinking about her life and loves. The diva, who rose to fame in the late 1920s and became known as 'The Black Pearl', was much more than a pretty face. She was a triple threat, a WWII spy for France, and an all-around icon. And her marriages and affairs were the stuff of legends. Here are just seven things that you didn't know about Josephine Baker's love life.

1. Baker's first marriage took place when she was just 13 years old. She was (unhappily) married to pullman porter Willie Wells. The marriage lasted less than two years.

 

2. At the age of fifteen, she married Willie Baker. Though the marriage was as short-lived as her first, her star had begun to rise, and so she kept the name Baker.

3. Baker's sexuality is still a topic of debate. But her son Jean-Claude Baker (one of her biographers) had this to say on the matter: "She was what today you would call bisexual, and I will tell you why. Forget that I am her son, I am also a historian. You have to put her back into the context of the time in which she lived. In those days, Chorus Girls were abused by the white or black producers and by the leading men if he liked girls. But they could not sleep together because there were not enough hotels to accommodate black people. So they would all stay together, and the girls would develop lady lover friendships." Her earlier affairs also included performers she met on the circuit, such as Clara Smith, Evelyn Sheppard, Bessie Allison, Ada Smith, and Mildred Smallwood.

4. In 1928 in Budapest, a fight broke out over her. When Baker's manager, Count Pepito di Albertini became fed up with the fawning attention she received from Hungarian Cavalry Captain Andrew Czlovoydi, he challenged the Captain to a duel. But not just any kind of duel. These two met in a cemetery with swords, while Baker cheered for the Count from atop a tombstone. She eventually put a stop to the fight and convinced them to move on. Fun fact: Albertini wasn't actually a Count. He was a former stonemason passing himself as aristocracy.

5. In 1937, she married Jean Lion. Yet another divorce followed.

theguardian.com

6. 1939 brought Frida Kahlo to Paris, and to Baker’s bed. They shared an affair while the artist was traveling in Europe with her husband, muralist Diego Rivera.

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7. Eight years after her fling with Frida Kahlo, in 1947, Baker married composer Jo Bouillon…whom she would also come to divorce.

stltoday.com

Josephine Baker was a lover of many things; men, women, France, and life itself. As she said, "The things we truly love stay with us always, locked in our hearts as long as life remains."

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