When I originally conceived of this tribute to aging Afrobellas, I envisioned highlighting five brilliant women and ending with a big interview. But so many other afrobellas who have influenced me kept coming to the forefront. It became stressful to choose just one more. Then I realized I don’t have to choose one, I can shine a light on the women who inspired me, who paved the way for all of us to express ourselves artistically and sartorially, who are still out there doing great things. One of the first women who came to mind was Ruby Dee, who appears to be having a fabulous time with Angela Bassett and Oprah here.

I love seeing powerful black women standing together, basking in each other’s glow. This photo warmed my heart, to see Ruby laughing and happy. I remember crying in my parked car, listening to a compelling interview with her on NPR in which she spoke so eloquently on love and loss following Ossie Davis’s death.

I am happy to report that at age 82 (her birthday was October 27. Happy belated, Ruby!) she is still acting, and has two projects scheduled for release in 2007. She is living proof that you are only as old as you feel, or as limited as you allow yourself to be. Her 50-year-long marriage to the late Mr. Davis offers hope to so many couples who struggle in this era of disposable relationships.

Longevity is possible, and can truly be a beautiful and inspiring thing. Hats off to you, Ruby Dee!

I was never allowed to watch Dynasty and I was born long after Julia had come and gone, but Diahann Carroll has always been an influence for me. She is a rare talent, a beautiful woman who is a truly undeniable stage presence, who can also sing her butt off. I can’t think of a single contemporary actress who can pull that off. Talk about breaking down doors, the divine Miss Carroll was the first African-American woman to star in her own weekly TV series, and she showed the world how absolutely fabulous an African American woman could be as she held her ground against Joan Collins and Linda Evans. This site offers a wonderful timeline of her evolving look, for those seeking beauty inspiration. I was so happy and proud to see her recently on Grey’s Anatomy.

I sincerely hope that this is the beginning of a trend, that Hollywood will recognize how many incredibly talented black actors and actresses are still out there, ready and able to work. Thank you Shonda Rimes for bringing Diahann back into the spotlight!

If you’re talking bellas with big, fabulous hair, forget the weaved-in contemporaries. For big-haired bombast, Ain’t Nobody can beat Chaka Khan. I absolutely adore Chaka! “Tell Me Something Good” is one of my favorite songs of the Seventies funk era. Back in the day Chaka was sexy and deadly on the mike – Check her out in this retro-cool video clip, proving her musical versatility.

Her staying power is amazing! When I was little, “I Feel For You” was the jam. Think of how many of Chaka Khan’s hits live on today in the form of samples and loving remakes by contemporary artists. “Through the Fire, “Sweet Thing”, and of course, the perennial women’s anthem. I love Whitney’s version, but this is still Chaka’s song in my opinion. Go on and sing along – you know you want to!

Enjoy, ladies! FYI, Chaka is still singing, still sexy, and her hair is just as big and fabulous as ever!

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Coffy says:
October 30, 2006, 12:07 pm
love this post, what a way to kick off the work week reading it has set the tone for my day.
diamond says:
October 30, 2006, 12:23 pm
i think chaka is so freggin pretty. i hate the fact that she wears so much material to cover her body now. i wish she can show it off in a flattering way (unlike aretha today) cuz honey got curves FOR DAYS!
Kristen says:
October 30, 2006, 1:14 pm
I love Diahann Carroll and, like you, was so happy to see her on Grey's Anatomy. She looks AMAZING and I love how honestly and unapologetically she speaks about the cosmetic work she's had done. In an age where lying about your plastic surgery is the norm and "deny, deny, deny" is the motto, Diahann is so refreshing and just gorgeous! I can't believe she's 70.
T.R.B says:
October 31, 2006, 12:23 am
i just have to say that i've been reading your blog for some time now, and i can't express enough how refreshing each post is. i am twenty one and it is just so nice to see the musings of someone who respects the parts of our culture that are timeless. so often, people are caught up in things that are quick and fast, that they forget that, in my opinion, the key to modernity is a perfect mix of remembrance of the past while keeping innovation in mind for the future. you cater to the "woman" in all those willing to see herself in that light, and constantly remind me of one of my favorite songs, Betty Wright's "you can't do what the guys do and still be a lady." your posts are all great, and even though i am not natural, i love that you incorporate new ideas for everyone who reads. sorry if the post is long, i was just moved so much so, that i had to write. TTFN!
jerseybred says:
October 31, 2006, 2:22 pm
I admire all the ladies mentioned above, my mom still has Chaka and Rufus records.
70ssoulchild says:
October 31, 2006, 2:38 pm
As evidenced by my screenname I remember Julia and Ms. Chaka vividly. I had a crush on Julia's son Cory..LOL As I can remember sneaking in my brother's room to "borrow" Rufus' Tell Me Something Good album..yes album, on vinyl..Absolutely love Chaka singing especially "At Midnight" and "Night in Tunisia"! Still pouting cause my brother got to see Chaka in concert for his 19th birthday..he's gonna be 47 this year!! Thanks afrobella for sharing the wonderful gems you find. Blessings!
Julia_Claudine_Deveraux says:
November 1, 2006, 5:22 pm
LOVE all the ladies. Diahann is the source of my screen name....she is beauty and class personified. Chaka is the truth..I don't care how much hair she wears or how big she gets...the lady is absolutely gorgeous and can sing CIRCLES around most of these so-called "R&B" sangas today. Ruby Dee is a great example of the power of black love in Hollywood, she and Ozzie are true icons.