The Hollywood landscape is a lot more inclusive of women of color today, even though let’s face it: there’s plenty more work to be done.
That said, we salute these badass Black actresses who not only made history during their heydays, but also paved the way for future generations.
This daughter of slaves smashed a ceiling when she became the first Black actress to EVER win an Academy Award: She received an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for the role of Mammy in Gone With the Wind (1939), arguably one of the most famous films of all time and certainly one of the most iconic—if not problematic—roles in cinema herstory.
Perhaps no star exuded more sex appeal than Eartha, who could sing and act, starring in Hollywood musicals throughout the 1950s. But it was her role as Cat Woman in the insanely popular 60’s television show “Batman” that makes her a BEAUTY ICON for the ages. Obsessed.
Known as the Black Marilyn Monroe, Dorothy was babealicious in every way, and became a huge star after appearing in Carmen Jones (1954). She had two history-making firsts: She was the first Black actress to be nominated for a Best Actress Oscar (she lost to Grace Kelly), and was also the first Black woman to appear on a Life magazine cover, which was a huge deal at the time.
Fierce, fierce, FIERCE: Pam was a smokin’ hot caliray kind of girl in every way. Known for boldy rocking a natural afro during the 70s, when she was a star of the “blaxpoitation” genre, our generation may know her best for her comeback to the silver screen and Golden Globe-winning lead role in Quentin Tarantino’s seriously cool action movie Jackie Brown in 1997.
Halle has stood the test of time as one of the greatest beauty icons ever (and the megawatt campaigns to prove it). Does she ever age!? But she’s more than just stunningly gorge: This former Bond Girl made MAGE Hollywood history when in 2002, she became the first Black woman to win the Academy Award for Best Actress thanks to her powerful performance in Monster’s Ball. Rock on Halle, rock on.