Josephine Baker was an American-born entertainer, civil rights activist, and French Resistance operative who reached the pinnacle of fame headlining the lavish and risqué revues of the 1920s’ Paris stage.
She’s featured in the Art with Watson series, Hidden Portraits. 15 artists teamed up with Watson to discover and illuminate the unknown essence of seven of history’s greatest thinkers using data.
What Watson thinks: Watson’s analysis suggests Baker’s personality in her writings differs from the extroverted self she presented to the world. In Baker’s writings, Watson discovered contradictions to her flamboyant persona. She ranked 9.6% in extroversion and 7.2% in hedonism and excitement-seeking traits, while ranking a much higher 97.5% in cautiousness—indicating that this seemingly uninhibited chanteuse was in fact an introvert.
About the artwork: In exploring the idea of glamour as a form of disguise, the artists chose to reference the key element of Baker’s iconic banana skirt—the banana. Strong on the outside, fragile on the inside. With Watson, the artists peeled away the exterior of “the world’s most sensational woman” and uncovered something the public never knew.
Known for her legendary “banana dance,” Josephine Baker performed for decades on stage and on the silver screen, though her risqué persona was far more accepted abroad than in the US. Between touring across Europe and aiding the French in WWII, she also visited America to battle racial segregation in her home country.