Gladys Bentley (1907-1960)



Gladys Bentley (1907-1960)
This woman was out and loud about.
Gladys Bentley was an imposing figure. She was a 250-pound, masculine, dark-skinned, deep-voiced jazz singer who performed all night long at Harlem's notorious gay speakeasies during the Harlem Renaissance while wearing a white tuxedo and top hat. Bentley was notorious for inventing obscene lyrics to popular songs, performing with a chorus line of drag queens behind her piano, and flirting with women in her audience from the stage. Unlike many in her day, she lived her life openly as a lesbian and claimed to have married a white woman in Atlantic City. An article in Ebony magazine quoted her as saying, "It seems I was born different. At least, I always thought so .... From the time I can remember anything, even as I was toddling, I never wanted a man to touch me."




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