Dorothy Dandridge Jewel of the West


Dororthy Dandridge

Dorothy Dandridge was a true jewel of the West, a lady of glamour and robust ability. Her talent reigned all over the land and as she made a remarkable achievement, being among the first most successful black actresses in Hollywood. Back in the day, the Whites did not appreciate Black talent. Racism was spread like a plague in the entertainment industry until Dorothy Dandridge shone a light into the matter. But how did she make it? How did she become so successful? In this article, we’ll take a closer look at her life, what she went through and how she finally succeeded. We will focus on her success, to inspire you and prove to you that Blacks can also make it in this life. Yes, we too can make great things. It’s only a matter of patience and perseverance as well as determination. Never give up!

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Dorothy Jean Dandridge was an African American of Mexican, Jamaican and Native American descent. She was born in Ohio in the year 1922. Since childhood, Dorothy’s life was not easy. First, she never knew her father because her parents parted ways shortly before she was born. Dorothy had a sister named Vivian. Their mother created “The Wonder Children” act for her two children, which kept them occupied over time. They missed school but this did not stop them from being successful. To add salt to the wound, America was facing its greatest economic disaster yet, The Great Depression. This made it very difficult for the Dandridge family to source employment. Therefore, they relocated to Hollywood, California to start a new life.



Life in Hollywood seemed promising for the family. Dorothy Dandridge was enrolled in McKinley Junior High School where she continued nurturing her talent. The wonder sisters were recommended for performances at elegant nightclubs such as The Cotton Club. Here, Dorothy gained fame as she slowly made her way up the charts for her performances. This paved way for her new career as an actress.

Soon afterward, she was featured in minor roles in plays. Her first film role came in 1940 when she was cast as a murderer in “Four Shall Die”. Indeed things had taken a new turn but this did not prove any easier. At times, Dorothy could not access certain facilities, thanks to racism. Yes, she was allowed on stage, but completely restrained from taking her meals in some restaurants. But, this did not have any negative impact on her career, for she still pursued her dreams. Furthermore, she was a master of patience because, with her determination, obstacles became her stepping stones towards achieving total victory.


The 1940’s were nothing compared to what Dorothy was to achieve in the coming years. She did not stop performing in the nightclubs as this was her area of expertise. For quite some time, she worked at Macambo Club together with Desi Arnaz’s band and also at La Vie en Rose. This jumped her talent to a whole new level. She finally became what she wanted to be, an international star. With this attribute, Dorothy was among the first African American stars to perform at London, Rio de Janeiro, New York and San Francisco. She had finally made it to her prime time, proving that this prestigious success was not limited to White people.

 Unfortunately, this was not the end of the struggle. Dorothy’s love life was very complicated. She was married to Harold Nicholas, a man who later turned out to be promiscuous. He had the urge of chasing after other women and of course, this did not please his wife. To make thing worse, they had a daughter, Carolyn, who was diagnosed with brain damage and had to be given expensive private care. Later, Dorothy divorced Harold and went on to get married to another man. However, this marriage did not last long due to domestic violence and embezzlement of her funds.



Despite all these and many more challenges, Dorothy still pushed forward to become one of the greatest actresses the world has ever known. Sadly, her time came and she plunged to her demise. On September 8, 1965, Dorothy Jean Dandridge passed away. She had suffered a nervous breakdown before taking an overdose of an antidepressant. Hers was truly a life well lived for she was the true definition of success. Her legacy will never be forgotten, as the lady who played a great part in the role of Blacks in the entertainment industry. She was a source of inspiration for all aspiring African American actors and actresses.

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