Chances are, you’ve heard of the names Eartha Kitt, Lena Horne and Sarah Vaughan. How about Joyce Bryant? …Nothing? Would it surprise you to know that she was quite an enigmatic nightclub sensation during the 1950’s? Deemed “the Bronze Blonde Bombshell,” “the Belter,” and “the Voice You’ll Always Remember,” Bryant was certainly a force to be reckoned with!
Bryant, a popular and well-paid nightclub personality in the 1950’s, was principally recognized for her forthright owning of her sexuality. Her aesthetic signature was her bleached blonde hair (a signature that is believed to have inspired Etta James to bleach her own locks). Funnily enough, Bryant never intended on going blonde – the look came about in an attempt to differentiate herself from the dark-haired Josephine Baker while they were performing at the same nightclub on the same night.
Bryant certainly did not receive her most popular nickname, “the Black Marilyn Monroe” in vein; her act was outrageously sexy! Her signature attire was tight, backless, cleavage-bearing mermaid dresses that left little to the imagination. Coupled with her bleached blonde hair, she was a poignantly sexualized fixture in Black nightclubs during the 50’s. She was just as, if not more, sexualized than her more famous contemporary, Monroe. She was so sought after that she earned as much as $3,500 per gig and up to $150,000/year.
Unfortunately, her career faded when she rediscovered Christianity and decided to tone down her recognized sexuality. Since then, her name has gotten shrouded in history in favor of the likes of Horne, Monroe, Vaughan, Baker, and Kitt. However, Bryant was an artist who marched to the beat of her own drum and helped set the precedent that “Black women can be and ARE sexy!”
If you are interested in uncovering more about this enigmatic diva, check out the site below! It details an upcoming documentary about the performer (a documentary that features over 50 minutes of never-before-seen archive footage of her performing).