back to top
LGBT

Jackie 'Moms' Mabley Is One Historical Badass You Should Know

She was a pioneering lesbian comedian, the first woman to perform at the Apollo theatre, and a general badass. And yet most people have no idea who she is.

Posted on

Whoopi Goldberg's latest project, a documentary that will air on HBO, chronicles the audacious career of black lesbian comic Jackie "Moms" Mabley.

The film, Moms Mabley: I Got Somethin' To Tell You, premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival earlier this week.

Whoopi said she was inspired to make the film when she realized that although Moms was a huge inspiration to her, very few people outside the comedy world knew about her legacy.

Donald Bowers / Getty Images

"Moms was just unusual, she didn’t look like anybody else."

Moms Mabley was a stand-up comic and Vaudeville performer who is widely regarded as one of the most important African-American entertainers who ever lived.

filmschoolrejects.com

She was the first bona fide female stand-up comedy superstar. She would be launched into national fame on The Ed Sullivan Show and The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour. All the while, she was an openly out lesbian.

She knew how to play the crowd:

blog.wfmu.org

Mabley would put on a harmless grandmother persona on stage, and then use it to touch on serious issues such as war, racism, and segregation. LIKE A BAMF.

She knew exactly how to deal with an ex-boyfriend:

en.wikipedia.org

Born Loretta Mary Aiken in 1894, she took her stage name "Jackie Mabley" from an early boyfriend. The "Moms" nickname stems from her compassion for other performers. Of the early boyfriend, she told Ebony:

She could hang with the boys, and even beat them at their own game:

my-retrospace.blogspot.com

She took her talents to New York City in the early '20s. She opened for the orchestras of Duke Ellington, Count Basie, and Cab Calloway at famous venues like The Cotton Club and The Savoy.

She gives new meaning to the "IDGAF" lifestyle:

oldshowbiz.tumblr.com

She came out as a lesbian at the age of 27, becoming one of the first triple-X-rated comedians on the comedy circuit. She was obviously a pioneer of the "IDGAF" attitude and lifestyle.

She wasn't afraid to go where no woman had gone before:

View this video on YouTube

In 1939 she became the first female comedian to perform at The Apollo. This landmark establishment, in operation for 35 years at the time, had opened its doors to Harlem's black population only four years earlier. Badass? Badass.

She hit a huge milestone in 1968 when she was booked for two shows at Carnegie Hall.

amazon.com

Billboard reported that she was her "pixie like self" and that her "song and dance were effective parts of the venerable performer's hilarious stint."

A year after staring in the feature film Amazing Grace (1974), she passed away in White Plains, New York, on May 23, 1975.

findagrave.com

In the middle of filming Amazing Grace, Moms Mabley had a heart attack. The shoot was put on hold for three weeks while she had emergency surgery. A pacemaker was installed. She returned to the set considerably weakened.

Listen to some of her badassery:

View this video on YouTube

youtube.com

And watch the last interview with Moms before her death:

View this video on YouTube

youtube.com

Every. Tasty. Video. EVER. The new Tasty app is here!

Dismiss