DID YOU KNOW? The Real Betty Boop Was A Black Harlem Jazz Singer!

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Have you ever heard of Esther Jones “Baby Esther”, born Gertrude Saunders? Not many people have, she has fallen into obscurity despite being the inspiration for the Betty Boop, an iconic character known the world over.

Cartoonist Max Fleisher unleashed Betty in 1930, she was a jazz age flapper caricature. The first animation to become a sex symbol.

Tracking back the inspiration, it’s now generally agreed that the birth of Betty’s baby style was created by a black Harlem jazz singer named Esther Jones. She performed under the name “Baby Esther” in the 1920s at Harlem Cotton Club.

Esther introduced the baby style, the boop noises and created an act that was amazingly original and edgy for the time.

realbettyboop

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However, her persona and style was somewhat stolen/adapted by actress Helen Kane who saw Esther perform in the late 20s. Helen introduced the baby style into her music and actually ended up suing cartoonist Fleischer and Paramount Publix Corporation for stealing her style for the Betty Boop character.

BUT in the court, recorded evidence of baby Esther performing came to light and proved that the style Betty Boop had taken predated Kane. Still, Esther never received recognition.

You can hear Esther below:

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PUBLIC NOTE: The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not reflect the view of the Urban Intellectuals, affiliates or partners.



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11 thoughts on “DID YOU KNOW? The Real Betty Boop Was A Black Harlem Jazz Singer!”

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    1. Helen Kane
      Although Clara Bow is often given as being the model for Boop, she actually began as a caricature of singer Helen Kane, who in turn gained fame by imitating the style of black singer Baby Esther Jones. The character was originally created as an anthropomorphic French poodle.

      Elvis Presley gained fame imitating Black singers and entertainers. Bo Derek’s braids were copied from African ancestors that had been doing it for more than 5,000 years. Today’s rap / hiphop industry worldwide was copied from Black entertainers and artists coming from south central LA and Harlem NY. Blues, jazz, even the White House – we built it all.

      That Kane should have been made famous for copying from a Black woman should come as no surprise to anyone. The story is accurate, for without Baby Esther there would be no Helen Kane.

      1. kirkland sewell

        …Hiphop/Rap genesis is from Jamaica in thd Caribbean. Early Jamaican immigrant(s)to NY city, brought over with them a DJ culture of “talking on the microphone” when changing vinyl records back in the days! #fact.

  5. This happened all the time to black artists – but in the ad depicted above, when they mention “Little Esther” performing with Johnny Otis, weren’t they talking about Esther Phillips?

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