The Definition of Diva: The Legacy of Lena Horne

A look at one of Black Hollywood’s biggest legends.

By: Amanda Anderson

Lena Horne was a legend and the true definition of sheer talent. Her recent death has shocked the world, and made most us realize that we don’t have the same quality of black entertainers anymore. One of the things that stuck out to me when discussing her death among peers was the fact that they felt that Horne was one of the last role models left for young black girls. She was classy, graceful, beautiful, and amazingly talented. Horne had the type of star power that placed her in a league of her own. And for that reason alone, we at Urban Belle Magazine choose to celebrate her life, her legacy, and her ability to make us all want to create our own legacies.

So we won’t do the usual bio and repeat of her life’s story, but instead we choose to highlight some of the greatest gifts that she has left us with.

Here’s a glimpse into the legacy of Lena Horne.

Most people remember Horne from her stand out performance in Cabin In The Sky. Horne wasn’t able to get a leading role since she was a black woman, but her performance was memorable and a staple of her career:


Horne also appeared in the musical film Ziegfeld Follies.

Lena Horne’s career didn’t stop at film musicals, she also had a very successful television career. She made many guest appearances on many television shows, and then eventually starred in her own show. In 1970, she co-starred with acting legend Harry Belafonte in Harry & Lena.


Who can forget her stellar performance on The Cosby Show?


In 1978, she played in the African American version of The Wizard of Oz entitled The Wiz. She starred as Glenda The Witch, and I am sure we call agree that no one could play this role as exsqusite as Lena Horne. Her performance of “If You Believe” will always stay in our hearts when we think about some of our favorite performances from Horne.


She eventually received a special Tony Award (and two Grammys) in 1981 for her one woman show Lena Horne: The Lady And Her Music.


She remained a figure even in the future generations, and the beauty even made appearances in dozens of commercials, most notably, The Gap.


One of the things that people loved most about Lena Horne was to be such a beautiful woman, she was one of the most charming and down to earth women in the business. She was never above cracking a few jokes and had natural charisma that made her so intriguing. Here’s an appearance she made on The Tonight Show in 1982.


The legend was more than just an entertainer, she was also a Civil Rights activist. When asked to perform for the Troops during World War II, she refused to sing for segregated audiences. She has worked with the NAACP, The National Council of Negro Women, SNCC, and Eleanor Roosevelt to pass anti-lynching laws.

She was also a member of the largest black sorority and largest African American organizations (and my beloved sorority) Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.

Lena Horne will greatly be missed. She emulated true class, grace, and her incredible talent made her one of the most significant African American entertainers of all time. I just hope we will be lucky enough to have another star that impacts our culture and leaves such a distinguished legacy.

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