Women’s Empowerment 1940’s Photo Shoot

The success of those that come before us often serves as a stepping stone to lift us higher or to remove some of the hurdles on the path to success.

We are like dwarfs sitting on the shoulders of giants. We see more, and things that are more distant, than they did, not because our sight is superior or because we are taller than they, but because they raise us up, and by their great stature add to ours.”  – John of Salisbury 1159

With a desire to to pay homage to a few giants from the last generation for a Women’s Empowerment Photo ShootSaint Entertainment and Big Mike Mic W.H.O.A. pulled together a team of models, photographers, creatives and make up artists.  The photo shoot would use icons from the past to empower women today.  Lena Horne, Dorothy Dandridge, Joyce Bryant and Eartha Kit are icons from the 40’s and beyond that broke through racial barriers and many other challenges to perform on stage, the silver screen and television.

Each model was asked to embody the spirit of one of these icons as they prepared for the photo shoot.  This preparation was not with the goal to become an impersonator but instead channel the energy, style, grace, intelligence and beauty of the icon and make it their own.  One desired outcome of the photo shoot was to a look at the accomplishments of these women, so that everyone involved would be better for the experience and through sharing the experience empower other women to achieve greatness.

Special thanks to Saint Entertainment and Big Mike Mic W.H.O.A.  for having Libro Musica on hand to participate.  W.H.O.A. is a movement that desired to empower people to inspire others through the maintenance of personal integrity and responsibility.  Big Mike WHOA believes that living a purposeful life focused on personal investment, innovation and love for self one can achieve all of their goals.  Saint Entertainment is an Atlanta based brand development, advertising and talent development agency that works to bring together  the most creative and innovative talents for each of their projects.

The creative and innovative talent supporting the models today were stylist Chrea Mashel and make up artist Mara.  The men behind the camera were J.M. of Addictive Magazine and Big Mike Mic.  Today’s models were Rachel Green, Coy Malone, Sonya T and Ayanna Ward.

Throughout the photo shoot the energy within the studio at Saint Entertainment was positive.  As everyone took last minute glimpses at black and white photos of the featured women classic 1940’s music filled the air.  Despite the positive and fun filled atmosphere everyone was all about the business of their craft to ensure that the weeks of preparation brought the desired end results.

Rachel Green Channeling Dorothy Dandridge

Singer, actress and dancer Dorothy Dandridge was born in 1922 in Cleveland, Ohio.  Her career started at a young age in the 30’s with her touring with her sister as part of a song and dance act called The Wonder Children.  Her singing career continued as part of The Dandridge Sisters (Vivian and Dorothy Dandrige and Etta James) as she appeared in legendary clubs like the Cotton Club and the Apollo Theater.  Dandringe’s on screen career began in 1935 and continued into the 1960’s.   Dorothy Dandridge is perhaps best known for being the first Black actress to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance in the 1954 film Carmen Jones.

It [prejudice] is such a waste. It makes you logy and half-alive. It gives you nothing. It takes away.” – Dorothy Dandridge

In 1999, actress Halle Berry won and Emmy Award and Golden Globe Award for her portrayal of Dorothy Dandridge in the HBO movie, Introducing Dorothy Dandridge.  A few years later, in 2002, Halle Berry would win an Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance in Monster’s Ball.  This is one of those moments that seem like a Hollywood script as Halle Berry wins the award after portraying the first Black actress to be nominated for the award.

Dorothy Dandridge was represented at the Women’s Empowerment Photo Shoot by Rachel Green.  Rachel was born in 1993 in Detroit, MI. She spent many of her teen years designing clothes, writing poetry and music. Rachel’s musical talents budded at an early age as she started playing violin.  Since moving to Atlanta in 2014 she has been actively involved in modelling and performing as an extra in several movie and TV productions.

What attracted you to participate in the photo shoot?
This photo shoot was something very unique to me, I was honored to participate because I got to represent the history of African American talent.

What was the most challenging part of Sunday’s photo shoot?
The most challenging part was learning to be the 1940’s character. Everything ended up coming together and I took the challenge and used it as a way to improve myself.

What part of the photo shoot did you find most enjoyable?
The most enjoyable part was getting dressed up in the “1940s” look. From the accessorizing to the hair and makeup, It was all very pleasant.

You were representing Dorothy Dandridge during the photo shoot, when you did your research about her, what things about her history and music impacted you the most?
What impacted me the most about her was that she was the first African American actress to be nominated for an Academy Award for best actress.

Have you had a chance to listen to any of her music? If so, which of her songs would you add to your music library?
A song called “That Old Feeling” because the song gave me a soulful feeling. I could hear all the instruments clearly as if I was there for her performance.

Are there any other artists from this era that you admire?
Vivian Dandridge, sister of Dorothy. I admired her style and her beautiful voice.

Coy Malone Channelling Eartha Kitt

Singer, actress, dancer and comedian Eartha Kitt was born in 1927.  Her career started in the 1940’s as a Broadway performer.  Some highlights of her career include the timeless Christmas song “Santa Baby”, starring as Catwoman in the 1960’s Batman TV series, starring as the voice of the villain Yzma in the Disney movies The Emperor’s New Groove and Kronk’s New Groove, and starring as a sexy vixen beside Eddie Murphy in the movie Boomerang.

Just because you are different does not mean that you have to be rejected. ” – Eartha Kitt

Throughout the 50’s and 60’s Eartha Kitt was active in many social causes.  She gave support to underprivileged youth, protested against the Vietnam War and served as an advocate for same-sex marriage and LGBT rights.

Originally from San Bernardino California, Coy Malone adds an eclectic dynamic to anything she’s around. She has lived all over the US and moved to Atlanta from the Middle East.  Ms. Malone has been working in the radio industry since 2007 and actively works in the areas of TV, film, modeling, choreography, music, comedy and fitness.



Sonya T Channelling Lena Horne

Four time Grammy Award winner Lena Mary Calhoun Horne was born in New York in 1917.  Lena Horne’s career was one that evolved over six decades: from the chorus line at the Cotton Club in Harlem in the 30s, to Hollywood star in the 40s and 50s, to touring the world after World War II, to being a staple on TV during the 50’s and 60’s; and even still in the studio making music in the 90’s.

Active in the civil rights movement beginning in the 1940’s she used her talents and influence to help change opinions about race in America.

“I was lucky, as many of my generation was, in having a man like Dr. King in our lives. He came at a time that we needed to take a long look at each other and see how similar we were.” – Lena Horne

Sonya Thomas took her inspiration from Lena Horne.  Sonya Thomas, known as a faith leader, serves as a life coach, public speaker and writer.  She is originally from Baltimore, MD and now calls Atlanta home. Sonya focuses on creating platforms that promote self-development, unity and love. To learn more about Sonya T,’s journey visit her website www.iamsonyat.com

What attracted you to participate in the photo shoot?
Big Mike Mic of WHOA invited me to be a part of the photo shoot. What caught my interest is when he mentioned that it was a 1940’s theme. I did a little research to refresh my memory and that’s when I realized that the 40’s had a retro style, that I’m in love with. At that point, I was all in!

What was the most challenging part of Sunday’s photo shoot?
I wanted to embody Ms. Horne the best way possible which was my challenge. She was so graceful and elegant in all of her photos and I wanted my shots to have that same type of energy. The only problem was, I was so nervous that I wasn’t sure if I was doing her justice.

What part of the photo shoot did you find most enjoyable?
The energy of the team and how comfortable the photographers and creative directors made me feel. Even though I was nervous, they made me feel as if I was in front of my bathroom mirror practicing. Everyone there was a pleasure to be around!

You were representing Lena Horne during the photo shoot, when you did your research about her, what things about her history and music impacted you the most?
When Big Mike Mic of WHOA told me I’ll be representing Ms. Lena Horne, I was in awe! I remember studying her in my music classes but this research was totally difference because I had to be her! Just looking at her pictures, I adored her elegance and poise. Every picture demanded respect! She just simply a beautiful woman. I also read about her works as a social activist for the African American community, She used her platform as an actress and jazz singer to promote a different image for Black women. The irony is that as a child and probably in her later years, she was taunted by other blacks who said she was white because of her fair skin. That stood out to me, because I can relate in a sense. I’m an advocate for lack power and some people of my community automatically dislike me because of the stereotype with my complexion. Nevertheless, Ms. Horne pushed forward with her mission. In fact, her career extended for almost 70 years! That fun fact motivated me because if she can keep pushing and pursuing her dreams for a bigger cause, I can and will do the same.

“Anybody who was not madly in love with Lena Horne should report to his undertaker immediately and turn himself in,” actor and friend Ossie Davis.

Have you had a chance to listen to any of her music? If so, which of her songs would you add to your music library?
I did listen to “Stormy Weather” and few clips from others songs. I liked Ms. Horne’s voice and her use of vibratos but I wouldn’t add any of her songs to my library at this time.

Are there any other artists from this era that you admire? Who are they and why do you admire most about them?
During the photo shoot, there were other beautiful women that impersonated other women from this era such as Dorothy Dandridge and Eartha Kitt. When I did my research, I came across Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald. These two stood out because again, we studied them in music class and they’re legacy made a positive impact on the black community as well. Especially, Ms. Holiday’s song Strange Fruit. All of these women weren’t afraid to express themselves about what was happening during their times and they all paved lanes for not only Black entertainers but the community as a whole.

Ayanna Ward Channelling Joyce Bryant

Theater and nightclub performer Joyce Bryant was born in 1928 in California.  Joyce Bryant’s legacy as a Black sex symbol resulted in several nicknames such as “the Black Marilyn Monroe” and “The Bronze Blond Bombshell.”

In 1953 Joyce Bryant, Lena Horne, Hilda Simms, Eartha Kitt, and Dorothy Dandridge were named in an issue of Ebony one of the five most beautiful black women in the world