Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Jill Krementz remembers Lena Horne

Lena Horne photographed by Jill Krementz on May 24th, 1990: New York City.
You can't fake experience in a song. You've got to have lived through
some stormy weather before you can sing it.
— Lena Horne
Lena Horne

In 1990 I photographed Lena Horne. Ms. Horne was being honored by the Sara Lee Corporation and I was hired to shoot the campaign, which also included Elizabeth Dole, Donna Karan, and Marian Wright Edelman. These four women had been selected for The Frontrunner Awards, honoring women of achievement in the fields of government, business, the humanities and the arts.

The shoot with Lena Horne was set up at the Pierre Hotel, in the Cotillion Room. I arranged for a piano, some flowers, and for the sheet music of Stormy Weather.

Looking back, what I remember the most is Lena Horne's silky, yet sultry, voice, her huge white smile and perfect teeth, and probably most of all, her agility. At one point during the shoot, she climbed on top of the piano, lay down on her tummy, kicked her heels up in the air behind her with her ankles crossed, and belted out Stormy Weather.

I was so nervous I didn't even allow myself the pleasure of listening. All I could do was pray: Dear God, please don't let me screw this up.

What a woman! What a voice!
Lena Horne with her daughter, Gail Lumet Buckley.
My identity is very clear to me now. I am a black woman. I'm free. I no longer have to be a 'credit.' I don't have to be a symbol to anybody; I don't have to be first to anybody. I don't have to be an imitation of a white woman that Hollywood sort of hoped I'd become. I'm me, and I'm like
nobody else.

— Lena Horne, looking back, at age 80, as quoted in her New York Times obituary written by
Aljean Harmetz; May 10th, 2010
Text and photographs © by Jill Krementz
all rights reserved.