The original. Before Nikki, before Cardi, before Kim. Long before Young M.A. was seducing women out of their Fashion Nova, and Meg made that congressman clutch his pearls over WAP, there was Gladys Bentley. An open lesbian, a cross-dressing performer whose raunchy act and lewd lyrics were both the talk of the town and the hottest ticket around. A darling of the Harlem Renaissance, Gladys Bentley was once the richest Black woman in America. A blues singer who got her start singing at rent parties, she was a woman brave enough to love and live as she wanted – until the politics of the time and a brutal system of oppression, that has denied so many of us the opportunity to live in our truth, forced her back into the margins.
Our stories are complex. Difficult. Not always redeemable to those who live in the black and white. Not always deemed worthy to be told if not pristine or above reproach. But not in this space. Here, amongst a tribe of women who come bearing our own scars, we make space for every story. And today we tell the story of Gladys, because it is spectacular and because it serves as inspiration for those who will come after her to plant their own flags in planets yet discovered. Can’t wait to walk with you today. Tune in live. This one will be worth it.
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