Joyce Bryant: The Black Marilyn Monroe

February 1, 2011  |  

With the perfect hourglass figure, backless dresses and silver tinted hair, jazz singer Joyce Bryant became known as  “The Bronze Blonde Bombshell.” Although the Oakland, California native was raised in a strict Seventh Day Adventist home, she made her way to the stage in 1940. It was there she gained national and international acclaim for her earthy, sultry tone and figure flattering costumes. (It was rumored that Bryant’s dresses were so tight that she had to be carried off stage at the end of her performances.)

But Bryant’s sex appeal didn’t always work to her advantage; while the artist was called the “black Marilyn Monroe”  her records were often banned from radio waves for being too suggestive. Yet she maintained a significant following and the chocolate skinned diva was featured on several Jet covers throughout her career.

The signature silver hair came before she was to perform with famed dancer Josephine Baker. Bryant didn’t want to be outdone with one of Baker’s antics and dyed her hair with silver radiator paint. It wasn’t great for her hair but it worked wonders for her career.

In 1955, Bryant’s religious roots were tugging at her and she quit show business to attend Oakwood University, the historically black Seventh Day Adventist school in Huntsville Alabama.  In the 1960s Bryant returned to the stage with a foreign touring company, where she sang on cruise ships, sans the tight dresses and silver hair.

With the exception of musical historian Jim Byers, tracking her down for his documentary in 2000, we know very little about Bryant’s later years.

Check out one of her banned songs “Love for Sale” below:

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  • lois

    Never heard of Joyce Bryant before needed a bopic lead played by Fantasia

    • dc

      Fantasia sounds nothing like her, though. Besides, Joyce Bryant was known for her SEX APPEAL as well. A more sultry chocolate beauty would be a better choice.

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  • LadyJay

    She later became a vocal coach and has trained ladies like Phyllis Hyman and Jennifer Holiday among others…

  • Fleur

    Is there a CD or download available of her music?

  • Sunny

    What a gorgeous singing voice she had!!!!

  • i accept as true with that a hundred! motion makes things happen

  • Great article on a great woman. I will point people to this article so they can learn more about this amazing singer and personality.

  • MsHowardUEsq

    Great article. I can't wait to see the film.

  • Thank you for casting a light on this great artist, and for mentioning the website for my documentary, "Joyce Bryant: The Lost Diva". One slight correction: the documentary was begun in 2000 – 05, and is now being completed incorporating newly discovered footage of Ms. Bryant in her prime (brief clips of which may be viewed on the website)! This project has been a long journey since, as both you and your readers mentioned, there is little readily available in-depth information on Ms. Bryant. I hope your readers enjoy the preview clips on the website!

  • Mr. Game

    Here's an article and some vids including an Ed Sullivan performance.

  • Mr. Game

    She looks amazing. Sounds good too. Unfortunately there isn’t much on her. I’ve checked YouTube, Wikipedia and Amazon. Very little to nothing extra on her. It’s a shame. She would have made a great pin-up girl.