It is almost universally agreed upon that Lena Horne was one of the greatest performing artist ever to grace the American stage, screen, and television. Lena was a heaven sent multifaceted talent who mastered the crafts of song, dance and acting. To add to this, she was a great conversationalist. She was one of those rare spiritual types who understood and possessed the ability to articulate her journey. She put you there, making you feel a part of what she lived. The work, the days, ties, hopes, disappointments, challenges, and triumphs. Lena lived high and at the same time broad and low, close to the ground.
Her legend on stage and in show business is widely known: at 16, she was in the chorus line at the famed Cotton Club.
She was the first Black person to sign a long term contract with a major Hollywood studio. She endured some of the everyday snubs, slights and insults that great Black performers routinely put up with during the hey day of mad dog racism. Through it all, Lena Horne survived, and indeed, thrived as one of the great lights, bar none, in the history of American entertainment. In a word, Lena was the bomb, for all of her 92 years. The mention of her name brings great joy, pride, courage, hope with optimism, to people across generations and across the world.
There is also a side of Lena Horne's life that is less generally known, and for which she was less appreciated. It is the side of her human generosity and deep love for Black people. At the onset of her career in Hollywood, she was given the option of "passing" because of her mostly "non negroid" features. It was requested by the movers and shakers of that day that she change her name so that she could pass, not as white--but as Mexican or some other exotic type, that was "non negro". It was suggested that she change her name to perhaps Sanchez, Gomez or Rodriguez.