The trailblazing Josephine Baker tops our list as the most beautiful Black woman of all time (AP Photo).
The 50 Most Beautiful Black Female Celebrities of All Time
By Kevin Hunter
The debates will never end, but our list is complete. Last week, we unveiled numbers 18-33 on our list of the most beautiful Black female celebrities of all time. This week, we unveil the most beautiful Black female celebrity of all time. Let the debates rage on!
1. Josephine Baker
Josephine Baker set the tone for beauty and celebrity for future Black female celebrities everywhere. Her exotic looks and beauty garnered her nicknames like “Black Venus,” “Black Pearl” and “Creole Goddess.” Baker was the first African American female to star in a major motion picture, La Sirene des Tropiques in 1927. She was also the first world famous African American entertainer male or female. Born in St. Louis in 1906, the dancer, singer and actress, who couldn’t make it in the United States due to racism, discrimination and segregation, took her talents and great looks to Europe and took it by storm. Baker became a legend in Paris with her comic wit, her barely-there dresses and no-holds-barred dance routines for 50 years. She was so beautiful and so famous that it is said that she received more than 1,500 marriage proposals making a great argument that she may be indeed one of the most beautiful women of all time. Baker was also a trailblazing civil rights activist and war hero. During her time in France, she assisted her adopted home in World War II and became the first American-born woman to be honored by the French military with the Croix de guerre (Cross of War). Sadly, Baker passed away in 1975 just two years after her talents were finally recognized in the U.S.
2. Lena Horne
Lena Horne was another great Hollywood legend that broke ground for others who came after her. As one of the most beautiful women of all time, Horne was so classy, graceful, elegant and had a great voice that could make metal melt. Born to parents of Native American, European and African American descents, Horne wasn’t just a multi-award winning singer, dancer and actress, but a civil rights activist as well. She was included in W.E.B. Du Bois’ “The Talented Tenth” as one of the most educated middle class African Americans in the country. She was so much of an activist that her views got her blacklisted for a time in Hollywood due to the country’s fear of communism infiltrating the country in the early part of the Cold War. Horne passed away on Mother’s Day in 2010 of heart failure. Among her many accomplishments, Horne will always be known for being a fabulous actress and singer, who’s signature hit “Stormy Weather” can still melt many a heart.
3. Dorothy Dandridge
While most of the country was swooning over such beautiful and legendary White actresses as Marilyn Monroe and Jane Mansfield, who are clearly some of the most beautiful women of all time, African Americans were blessed with one of our own in the great Dorothy Dandridge. With just as much legendary beauty and talent as any beautiful White female icon, Dandridge should be included in anyone’s list as one of the most beautiful women of all time. Among her many accomplishments, Dandridge was the first African American to be nominated for an Academy Award as Best Actress for her role in the 1954 musical Carmen Jones. She even played opposite John Wayne in a small role as Felice in the movie Lady From Louisiana. Halle Berry eloquently portrayed Dandridge in the HBO movie Introducing Dorothy Dandridge, which Berry produced and won an Emmy, Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild award. Tragically Dandridge died from a drug overdose in 1965 at the age of 42.
4. Halle Berry
The 46-year-old Academy Award winner has a body of work in movies, TV and modeling that spans more than three decades. Halle Berry is the daughter of parents of European and African American descents and has also graced the cover of hundreds of magazines. Berry has gone from being crowned Miss Teen All-American at the age of 17, to being an A-list actress who has starred in such blockbuster and highly acclaimed films as Spike Lee’s Jungle Fever, Boomerang with Eddie Murphy, Losing Isaiah, and Introducing Dorothy Dandridge, where she earned a Golden Globe Award. She also appeared in The X-Men trilogy movies and won an Oscar for Best Actress for Monster’s Ball. Berry was also the first African-American female to be a Bond Girl in the James Bond movie, Die Another Day. It is safe to say that Berry is not only one of the most beautiful Black women ever, but one of the most beautiful women of all time.
5. Thandie Newton
Thandie Newton may be one of the most underrated, classiest and most beautiful film stars in Hollywood. With a resume dating back to the early 1990s Newton has it all – beauty, elegance, hotness and a load of talent. That’s all part of what makes her one of the most beautiful women of all time. Since making her film debut in the 1991 movie Flirting with Nicole Kidman, this beauty of Rhodesian (now Zimbabwe) and British parents has starred in one hit movie after another. Some of those include Mission Impossible II with Tom Cruise, Jefferson in Paris with Nick Nolte, 2012 with John Cusack, The Pursuit of Happyness with Will Smith, and For Colored Girls. She should have been nominated for an Oscar for her excellent portrayal of former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in the movie W.
6. Tyra Banks
As far as models of any color are concerned, Tyra Banks helped put the “Super” in “Supermodel” and almost immediately established herself as one of the most beautiful women of all time. Banks broke ground for future generations of Black models by becoming the first African American female not only to grace the cover of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition, but GQ as well, both in 1997. She is also one of the original Victoria’s Secret Angels and the first African American to appear on its cover. She took her act and beauty to movies and TV and is the creator of “America’s Next Top Model” and co-creator of “True Beauty.” Since 2005 she has hosted her own talk show, “The Tyra Banks Show,” which has so far won three Daytime Emmy Awards. But Banks isn’t finished. Banks is scheduled to graduate later this year from Harvard University’s Owner/President Management Program.
7. Pam Grier
Pam Grier is not just sexy, hot, and beautiful, she was also a total bada** on the big screen in her heyday. Grier has the distinction of being not only one of the most beautiful women of all time, but one of the greatest female action heroines in film history. She made a name for herself in a string of 1970s Blaxploitation films and the guilty pleasure woman in prison films. Who could forget her in such classic roles as Coffey and Foxy Brown. She had her career revitalized by Quinton Tarantino as the lead in 1997’s Jackie Brown, in which she was nominated for a Golden Globe Award. That led to other roles in shows such as “The L Word,” “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,” and “Smallville.” Brown was the first African American woman to appear on the cover of Ms. Magazine in August 1975, and Ebony magazine named her as one of the “100 Most Fascinating Women of the 20th Century.”
8. Salli Richardson-Whitfield
Born to parents of African American/Native American and English/Italian descent, Salli Richardson-Whitfield is as beautiful as she is just plain elegant. She is not only one of the most beautiful women of all time, but one of the classiest women on this list. Richardson is a theater-trained actress, but since she made the transition to film, she has had big roles in movies such as I Am Legend with Will Smith, Antwone Fisher with Denzel Washington, and has appeared in numerous TV shows.
Aaliyah initially got her start on the talent show “Star Search” in 1983 at the age of four. It was pretty evident by her voice and talent that she was going to be something special. Born Aaliyah Dana Haughton, she went on to star in the hit films Romeo Must Die, and Queen of the Damned, and had four number one hit singles on the Billboard R&B charts. At the height of her career she was being regarded as one of the elite R&B artists of her time as well as one of the most beautiful women of all time. But sadly, we never got to see Aaliyah’s full potential come to fruition as she was taken away from us too soon. On Aug. 25, 2001 after shooting a music video for her latest single “Rock the Boat,” Aaliyah died in a plane crash in the Bahamas. She was just 22 years old.
10. Vanessa Williams
Vanessa Williams was the first ever African American Miss America in 1984, and maybe the most beautiful Miss America ever. Unfortunately, Williams lost the crown due to some unflattering photos that ended up in a men’s magazine. Being born of African American, Welch and Native American descent did not stop her from becoming one of the hottest and most successful actresses and singers in show business scoring numerous awards and hits as well as successful runs on Broadway, movies and TV. Williams won the 1995 Academy Award for Best Original Song for “Colors of the Wind” from the animated movie Pocahontas. She is still as hot as ever as she continues to act. Williams spent four seasons on the ABC-TV hit show “Ugly Betty” from 2006-2010 and was nominated for an Emmy Award. Even today, you just can’t look at Williams and not think that she’s one of the most beautiful women of all time. If you want proof, check her out each week as the sultry Renee Perry on another ABC-TV hit show, “Desperate Housewives.”
11. Beverly Johnson
Beverly Johnson was the first African American model to appear on the cover of Vogue magazine in 1974, as well as the French edition of Elle magazine in 1975. Johnson was known as one of the most beautiful models ever and early on established herself as one of the most beautiful women of all time. The New York Times lists her as one of the most influential people in fashion in the 20th century. Johnson has graced the cover of more than 500 magazines and is also known for numerous TV and movie rolls since 1976.
12. Eartha Kitt
Tragically Eartha Kitt was conceived by rape to an African American mother and a German-Irish father in a small plantation near Columbia, S.C. The actress, singer, author and former Catwoman in the 1960s “Batman” series was once called “the most exciting woman in the world,” by famed director Orson Wells. Kitt was also one of the most beautiful women of all time as well as one of the more outspoken. Her comments to former First Lady Lady Bird Johnson about the Vietnam War during a visit to the White House had Johnson in tears and caused a public outcry. It is said that Kitt told Johnson, “You send the best of this country off to be shot and maimed. No wonder the kids rebel and take pot.” Kitt passed away on Christmas Day 2008 at the age of 81.
13. Jennifer Jackson
When Playboy magazine decided to make history with the first African American woman as the Playmate of the Month, it could not have chosen a hotter and more beautiful woman than Jennifer Jackson. Born in 1945 in Chicago, the Miss March 1965 sported a jaw-dropping figure of 36-23-36 and was 5-foot-8 inches and 130 pounds. Jackson’s fame was short-lived and according to the Playboy website, she continued to work as a runway and advertising model, and was also an Ebony Fashion Fair model. She has since been working as a social worker in the Pacific Northwest and is a wife, mother of three and grandmother. Jackson will always be remembered as one of the most beautiful women of all time to grace the pages of Playboy.
14. Tina Turner
There’s only one way to describe Tina Turner – “Simply the Best!” Already a success as half of Ike and Tina Turner in the 1960s and 1970s, Turner revamped her life and career after years of severe spousal abuse and never looked back. Her 1984 album “Private Dancer” featured the number one hit single, “What’s Love Got to Do with It,” and it’s been all uphill ever since. Turner sold out venues all over the world and was known for her energetic performances as well as a hot body and those trademark legs. Angela Bassett did a great job of playing Turner in the biographical film, What’s Love Got to Do with It in 1993 where Turner sang all the vocals. Today, Turner still looks as hot as ever and fans and peers throughout the entertainment industry refer to her as one of rock’s legends as well as one of the most beautiful women of all time.
15. Stacy Dash
It’s hard to believe that it’s been since 1995 when Stacy Dash starred as Dionne Davenport in the hugely successful movie, and later the television series, Clueless with Alicia Silverstone and Brittany Murphy. It would set the pace for a career that would garner roles for Dash due to not just her talent and beauty, but her youthful looks as well. Dash played the 17-year-old Dionne Davenport while she was in her late twenties. What’s not hard to believe is that Dash still remains one of the most spectacularly beautiful, youthful and yes, hottest women in Hollywood. Well into her 40s now, Dash is still one of the most beautiful women of all time as she gets better with age. With a solid body of work in movies and television, Dash’s youthful looks even today continue to get her regular work. In the past few years she has starred in two successful TV series as Camille Rose in “The Game,” and as Val in “Single Ladies.” Dash left “Single Ladies” last summer due to personal and family reasons. She continues to expand her acting repertoire, just having completed production on the USA Network dramas “House Arrest” and “Dysfunctional Friends.”
Iman Mohamed Abdulmajid is another model that has been on hundreds of magazine covers and is one of the true Supermodels and one of the most beautiful women of all time. But the Mogadishu, Somalia-born Iman is also a brilliant and pioneering entrepreneur as well. She created Iman Cosmetics in 1994 and it earns $25 million a year in business. It is one of the top-selling brands in Walgreens. The statuesque fashion model is a global dynamo and has been honored numerous times for humanitarian and philanthropic work.
17. Kerry Washington
Washington is so smart that she was accepted into both Yale and Dartmouth universities, but turned both down. Instead, this beauty of African American and Native American ancestry went to and graduated from George Washington University’s theater school in 1998. She could be, and should be, considered among Hollywood’s A-List actresses and one of the most beautiful women of all time when you look at her body of work over the years. She may be best known for her roles as Ray Charles’ wife Della Bea Robinson opposite Jamie Foxx in Ray, Ida Amin’s wife opposite Forest Whitaker in The Last King of Scotland, and Jasmine in Mr. & Mrs. Smith, as Kelly in For Colored Girls and as Alicia Masters in the Fantastic Four movies. Her TV work includes roles in “NYPD Blue,” “Law & Order” and “Boston Legal.” Look for Washington as Olivia Pope in the upcoming ABC-TV series “Scandal” later this year.
Hunter is a contributing writer for Regal Magazine, a publication dedicated to the African American community.