moms mabley

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Here are the three portraits I did for Black History Month last February: Jean-Michel Basquiat, Moms Mabley, Billie Holiday. I’m hoping to do a lot more this February. Who do you want to see portraits of? Add your suggestions in the notes <3 <3 <3 I’m going to try to do them in watercolor, and I want to start with Rosa Parks, Malcom X, Grace Jones…Ilhan Omar! Idk, this is the beginning of a very long list!

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Buzzfeed: “17 Black Women Who Deserve their own Biopics”

Not enough roles for black women in Hollywood? Let’s make some!

1. Thandie Newton/Alice Walker, 2. Amber Riley/Aretha Franklin, 3. Kerry Washington/Vonetta McGee, 4. Lupita Nyong'o/Grace Jones, 5. Mo'Nique/Hattie McDaniel, 6. Oprah Winfrey/Mary McLeod Bethune, 7. Regina Hall/Moms Mabley, 8. Teyonah Parris/Assata Shakur, 9. Viola Davis/Shirley Chisholm, 10. Jurnee Smollett/Eartha Kitt

Today’s Tribeca selection in honor of LGBT Pride Month is Whoopi Goldberg’s important and invigorating documentary portrait, Moms Mabley: I Got Somethin’ to Tell You (2014), in which one bold comic icon honors another.

Moms Mabley was an unparalleled comedy pioneer who submerged her own sexuality behind a broad and brittle character that mesmerized audiences who knew nothing of this side-splitting stand-up’s true queer identity. Goldberg’s film is a deeply fascinating study of the duality between performer and persona but also a heartfelt tribute to a trailblazer who redefined what it meant to be a “funny woman,” as well as what such a woman could potentially achieve.

Moms Mabley (1894-1975) was an African-American actor and standup comedian, one of the few and most visible women in the business at the time. Billed as “The Funniest Woman in the World”, she tackled many sensitive subjects, including sexuality and racism.

She started her career in comedy when she joined a travelling vaudeville show at age 14. She became known as ‘Moms’ because she acted as a mother figure towards many comedians during the 1950s and 60s. When she was 27, she came out as a lesbian, becoming one of the first openly gay comedians.

Jackie Mabley

Generally considered the first female stand-up comedy superstar, she overcame much to become billed as “The Funniest Woman in the World.” She was the first woman to be featured at the Apollo. In 2013, she also was the subject of an HBO documentary by Whoopi Goldberg. From most sources she was also known as openly lesbian (and during the early 20th century no less), making her a pioneer in that regard as well, considering the time period. So how funny was she? See for yourself.

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I watched Whoopi Goldberg’s Mom’s Mabley documentary today.  It was excellent!  I only knew Moms as a comedienne, not as a singer.  Specifically, the oldest singer in history with a Top 40 single, at age 75, with “Abraham, Martin and John)

Joan Rivers wasn’t the only female comedian to pave the way for female comedians.

There were others like Phyllis Diller

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Moms Mabley

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Jean Carroll

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and Betty White

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You know something else? None of these women made racist or rude remarks just for the sake of comedy. Because comedy is so much more than laughing at someone else’s appearance, ethnicity, or sexuality. 

Moms Mabley (1894-1975), Comedian

Moms Mabley, billed as ‘The Funniest Woman in the World” was a game-changer for comedy, enjoying a long career that started on the “Chitlin’ circut” and eventually lead her to making a record amounts of money and appearing on The Ed Sullivan Show and The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour. She was out as a lesbian from the age of 27 and recorded over 20 comedy albums, including early “lesbian stand-up” routines. Although she initially performed in androgynous clothing, she changed her stage persona as she got older and more famous, but maintained her more subversive style (and her girlfriends) offstage.