The âRebirthâ of Lynn Whitfield<br />

The ‘Rebirth’ of Lynn Whitfield

Gearing up for the Atlanta debut of ‘Rebirth: The Musical,’ the legendary actress discusses the challenges for Black women in Hollywood

by Donovan X. Ramsey, May 15, 2013

The âRebirthâ of Lynn Whitfield<br />

steps forward, but we still need more stories.

Now, rather than dwell on what’s not there, I want to be a part of changing it. We can complain and be despondent, but it’s more important to keep oneself energized and do something about it. We have a Black woman in the lead of one of the most interesting shows on television. We’ve had Oscar wins. I can’t sit around and have a pity party. I’m excited! I’ve explored so many great characters since that time. So I keep it moving, as they say. And in doing so, I’m more enlivened and excited about theater. I’m like a kid that way when it comes to storytelling.

EBONY: The article brings me back to your breakout role in The Josephine Baker Story. You mentioned that portraying Baker and learning about her life taught you so much about being a Black women in entertainment. As you’ve continued in your career, do you find yourself still learning from Baker?

LW: Josephine Baker is such an iconic woman that once you’ve touched her and she has touched you, it never goes away. I’m stuck with her. I’m sure 50 years from now, when they write my obituary, they will mention that I played Josephine Baker. It’ll be on my epitaph. She’s that kind of woman; once you’ve entered her realm, it never goes away. She’s still one of those women that we can never forget. Any time a bronze Venus—and that’s what they called her—can take off her clothes, dance topless in bananas and become the queen of entertainment globally, she’s accomplished something. I don’t think there’s a woman that wants to perform that hasn’t learned from Josephine Baker.

They still play the film. They just put it on Blu-ray. What the film has given me is this: I feel honored that I was a vessel for something that is really important to our culture. You never know how God will use you, and I’m looking forward to a whole lot more. I’ll tell you, if anyone is trying to get rid of me, they’ll have a hard time. 

Donovan X. Ramsey is a multimedia journalist who writes about all things social, political, cultural, financial and whimsical. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter @iDXR, or

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