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Josephine Baker (1906-1975) was an American expatriate entertainer and actress. She became a French citizen in 1937. Most noted as a singer, Baker also was a celebrated dancer in her early career. She was given the nicknames the "Bronze Venus" or the "Black Pearl", as well as the "Créole Goddess" in Anglophone nations. In France, she has always been known as "La Baker".
Baker was the first African American female to star in a major motion picture, to integrate an American concert hall, and to become a world-famous entertainer. She is also noted for her contributions to the Civil Rights Movement in the United States (she was offered the leadership of the movement by Coretta Scott King in 1968 following Martin Luther King, Jr.'s assassination, but turned it down), for assisting the French Resistance during the Second World War and being the first American-born woman to receive the highest French military honor, the Croix de Guerre, and for being an inspiration to generations of African American female entertainers and others.
Baker's iconic performance style has also been influential. Diana Ross, a long-time admirer of Baker, performed in Bob Mackie-designed outfits similar to Baker's and reenacted similar poses of the latter in many photo sessions. Whitney Houston pays tribute to Baker in her "I'm Your Baby Tonight" music video to represent the Harlem Renaissance. Baker's banana skirt, in particular, has made numerous media appearance. A dancer wore one in Sir-Mix-A-Lot's 1991 video for "Baby Got Back", and singer Beyoncé Knowles wore one when performing for CBS's 2006 Fashion Rocks. During her performance, images of Baker were projected on a large screen above the stage.
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