She Overcame These Racist Barriers On The Road To Stardom

picture of ella fitzgerald
Briona Lamback
December 13, 2021

Growing up wasn’t easy for Ella Fitzgerald. As a homeless teen, she performed on the streets of New York City to make ends meet. But even street life couldn’t prepare her for the hurdles she faced in the music industry.

Fitzgerald didn’t meet white beauty standards – they were racist AND fatphobic! For years, she shyly suffered in silence, being denied one opportunity after the next. Despite this discrimination, she kept scatting in jazz clubs across the country. But would her golden voice be enough?

Not for a racist industry. By the 1950s, Fitzgerald was a star, but venue owners still kept trying to play her. They’d book her for shows, then force her to enter through the venue’s side door!

Eventually she’d had enough – and they weren’t ready for the trick she had up her sleeve.

She tapped her friend, Marilyn Monroe, to use her white privilege. And as true allies should, Monroe obliged, and made a deal with a club owner that she’d sit front row every night Fitzgerald performed – if they gave her the respect she deserved.

So Fitzgerald walked right through the front doors, and tore the house down!

We live in a white supremacist society that continues to try to tear us down. But like Ella Fitzgerald, we have to be willing to persevere through the racist hurdles to keep being Black and excellent!

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