If today seemed a little darker than normal, despite the days getting longer, that’s because yesterday the universe lost one of its brightest stars. The legendary singer and actress Eartha Kitt died after a long battle with colon cancer at the age of 81.
Kitt’s story is straight out of a Hollywood hard-luck romance. Born on a farm in an obscure town in South Carolina, Kitt was abandoned by her father early in her life, and orphaned by her mother at the age of eight. As fate would have it, she came to live in New York with an aunt.
After being kicked out of the house as a teenager, Kitt worked part time as a seamstress to support herself as she attended a school for the performing arts. After dropping out of school altogether at the age of 16, Kitt had a chance encounter on the street with a dancer looking for directions. Through this meeting she learned about the Katherine Dunham Dance School, and shortly thereafter won a scholarship to attend the school. This twist of fate paved the way for Kitt’s long career in show business.
As a member of the dance troupe, Kitt toured Europe, Central America, South America and the US as a teenager, eventually staying on in Paris and working as a night club singer. Her phenomenal talent as a singer and actress led to recognition by Orson Welles, who gave her a break with her first role as a film actress. She would go on to perform in roles for dozens of movies, as well as on the stage, playing memorable characters on and off Broadway.
Kitt even briefly appeared as Catwoman in the 1960s Batman TV series. Even though she was only featured in three episodes, her distinctive purr made an indelible impression on viewers, and she is still remembered as one of the all-time best Catwomen.
Even more amazing than Kitt’s prodigious rise to super-stardom was the seemingly unstoppable momentum of her career. Kitt won many accolades over the years, and miraculously sustained the high quality of her work until the very end of her life. She delivered award-winning performances until the year of her death, when she won a Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Performer in an Animated Program for her work in "The Emperor’s New School."
As if to punctuate her enchanted life, Kitt died on Christmas Day, a fitting nod to her most famous song "Santa Baby."
Eartha Kitt was a one-of-a-kind talent who rose to prominence as an African-American actress well before the civil rights movement of the 60s. She spoke out against the war in Vietnam in 1968, causing a ten-year gap in her ability to perform in the US. She managed to crank out top-forty music into her 60s, and continued to tap into a seemingly endless reservoir of talent until she died.
We at What’s The Diff salute Eartha Kitt for being a shining example of one who follows their dreams with bravery, integrity and dignity, and lives a life of inspiration all the way to the end!