Esther Jones: The Original Betty Boop

With Black History Month coming to an end, I’m sure we all see posts on social media or even facts talked about in school relating to prominent black figures in history and how they impacted the world. In 1930, cartoonist Max Fleischer introduced the character Betty Boop to the world. Betty Boop became a cultural icon and took the world by storm as the first and most known animated sex symbol.

 

While this was not widely known during the 1930’s, Betty Boop’s character was based off of Esther Jones, a real black Jazz singer and entertainer from Harlem, New York. Her stage name was “Baby Esther,” and she was known for her unique style of singing and scat sounds that included “boop-boop-a-doop,” which is very similar to the scat sounds the character Betty Boop made. Betty Boop started off as being portrayed as a black woman, and then when she started to become popular, she was whitewashed and was then portrayed as a white woman until the character was retired from her show after 9 years.

 

While the character of Betty Boop was originated from Esther Jones, she was never compensated or recognized for it. Her career as a jazz singer and entertainer did not take off from the character either unfortunately, because Esther was never recognized for her role as being a muse for the first widely known  animated sex symbol.

Black people have endured a lot of trials and tribulations for centuries on end, and while it is currently Black History Month, make every month Black History Month and study everything about your past. You cannot know your future until you know your past.