The Life of Eartha Kitt

                                                                  By: Alyssia Santiago 

Abstract

Eartha Kitt was a monumental woman in the music arena, while in her prime, Kitt’s fame and popularity paved the way for many Black women around the world; through her fame and popularity was like a rollercoaster. Kitt’s Promiscuous demeanor shifted the way women expressed themselves without the worries of how they were being perceived. Kitt’s impact in the music and movie industry is everlasting.

Artist Background

Eartha Kitt was born in 1927 in South Carolina, though she was born in the United States, Kitt thrived while traveling abroad. Soon after birth her mother abandoned her and she was raised by her close relatives. Kitt’s childhood was difficult due to the fact that her relatives were physically abusive towards her. Kitt’s life in South Carolina came to a close when she was around the age of 8, she moved to New York City to live with her aunt. During childhood, Kitt was often made fun of for being bi-racial, her father was white and her mother was black and cherokee. While Kitt was living in NYC, she enrolled in the New York School of Performing Arts which is where her passion for music, film, and dance blossomed. At 16, Kitt got the opportunity to study under Katherine Dunham who was a well known dancer and choreographer. After studying under Dunham, Kitt joined Dunham’s dance troupe and toured with the group for several years. Joining the dance troupe exposed Kitt to the lifestyle she always wanted and eventually would have.

Artist on the Rise

While on tour abroad, in Paris she began to perform at nightclubs and became a popular nightclub singer. While performing at a nightclub, she was discovered by an actor-director Orson Welles. He took interest in her performance and casted her in his production of Sr. Faustus. Soon after her first role, she started to rise as a celebrity with her role in the Broadway review of New Faces of 1952. In this production she unleashed her voice which jump started her singing career. Her first album That Bad Eartha housed some of her most famous songs such as: “I Want to Be Evil”, “C’est Si Bon”, and the holiday classic known as “Santa Baby”. After her debut in music, Kitt ventured back to the film industry where she also thrived. She starred in a biopic called St. Louis Blues in 1958. Furthermore, in the late 60s Kitt played one of her most famous roles of her stardom, the villainous “Catwoman”. In 1978, Kitt starred in a Broadway performance called Timbuktu!. For her role in this Broadway production, she received a Tony Award nomination. Over the course of her musical career Kitt released 22 albums which indicates how successful her career was in the music industry. During the height of her career, Kitt returned to music and released a popular song called “Where Is My Man” which led her to receive a Grammy Award nomination for her 1994’s Back in Business.

Personal Life and Legacy

Kitt’s Fame came to a decline after her blunt temperament offended many people at a luncheon with many powerful and wealthy people. Kitt made her thoughts known about the Vietnam war. After this luncheon, Kitt lost most of her popularity in the United States and this led her to  primarily perform abroad for several years. In 1960, Kitt got married to her first spouse John William Mcdonald and then had one child named Kitt Mcdonald. In Kitt’s later years she continued her film career in television series such as The Emperor’s New School, she earned an Emmy Award for this series. Kitt also performed a cabaret act at New York’s Cafe Carlyle where she caught the eye of the audience due to her sex appeal and charm. Kitt was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2006 and this was ultimately the cause of her death on December 25, 2006. Eartha Kitt had a long and successful career in the film and music industry and her work ethic helped pave the way for many Black women to come. She not only paved the way for women in the music industry but in the film industry as well.

Powerpoint Presentation

Eartha Kitt
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Works Cited

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Willhelm, Sidney, and Gideon Sjoberg. “The Social Characteristics of Entertainers.” Social Forces, vol. 37, no. 1, 1958, pp. 71–76. JSTOR, JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/2573783.

 

Willhelm, Sidney, and Gideon Sjoberg. “The Social Characteristics of Entertainers.” Social Forces, vol. 37, no. 1, 1958, pp. 71–76. JSTOR, JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/2573783.

 

“Festivals.” The Musical Times, vol. 112, no. 1544, 1971, pp. 985–992. JSTOR, JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/955072.

 

Jefferson, Miles. “The Negro on Broadway, 1956-1957.” The Phylon Quarterly, vol. 18, no. 3, 1957, pp. 286–295. JSTOR, JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/272983.

 

Harris, Laura Alexandra. “Queer Black Feminism: The Pleasure Principle.” Feminist Review, no. 54, 1996, pp. 3–30. JSTOR, JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/1395608.

 

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