Bad Girls Throughout History: 100 Remarkable Women Who Changed the World - Ann Shen (2016)
Dorothy Dandridge (1922-1965) was a Hollywood actress and singer who became the first African-American to be nominated for a best actress Oscar. She broke into show business performing and touring around the United States with her sister and a friend as the Dandridge Sisters before becoming a solo act, singing in clubs that she wasn’t even permitted to eat in due to segregation. Refusing to be pigeonholed into supporting maid roles, Dandridge got her first break in 1953 with MGM’s Bright Road. She played a teacher struggling with a problem student—and, miraculously, the story didn’t even revolve around race. In 1954, she became a megastar in Carmen Jones, the film adaptation of the opera Carmen, playing the brazen and sexy lead role, which earned her a historic first Oscar nomination and the cover of Life magazine. The starring lead and nomination changed America’s perception of African-American actresses, and the shift was permanent. Unfortunately, Hollywood is slow to evolve, so while her films were a breakthrough, leading roles for African-Americans remained few. Dandridge never found another role that matched the success of Carmen Jones, and her personal challenges took a toll. She died of an overdose at the age of forty-two.