My own image was largely created by gay boys. They were setting the style, and I was happy to go along. They pushed me to do the Cotton Club thing, to take advantage of my mulatto complexion by showing it off; they fixed me up as an outrageous blonde. But there was more to it than the old-fashioned picture of a privileged black girl; there was also a defiance to my look, and a sleazy edge as well. For example, even though the secret angels bleached my hair, they would not bleach my eyebrows. “Oh no, honey,” they’d say, “you leave the eyebrows dark. That’s how all the bad girls look.” The bad girls were the whores who had the look I liked, the look my aunt Cozie cultivated so well. I wanted to be rare, I wanted to be noticed, I wanted to be glamorous, I wanted to be exotic as a Cotton Club chorus girl, and I wanted to be obvious as the most flamboyant hooker on the street. I just wanted to be.
Etta James, Rage To Survive: The Etta James Story