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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