Does Betty Boop Have Roots In Black Entertainment?

September 4, 2014  |  

Esther “Baby Esther”Jones Source: Tumblr

Just yesterday, I wrote about cartoon characters that were particularly popular with all the around the way girls. And Betty Boop made the list.

Perhaps so many Black girls from neighborhoods from across the country were so attracted to her because the character was actually inspired by a Black woman.

By now, you may have seen the pictures on your social media networks of a real woman who looks just like a real life version of the cartoon character. Her name was Helen Kane. She’s undeniably the inspiration for Betty Boop.

But there is quite a bit of evidence showing that Kane stole her schtick from a Black woman named Esther Jones who went by the stage name Baby Esther.

Jones, an African American singer in the late ’20’s, worked regularly at the Cotton Club in Harlem.

Jones was known for singing in a distinctive baby voice. Her signature song was” I Wanna Be Loved By You” where she scatted the lines “Boop oop a doop.”

Helen Kane
Source: Tumblr

According to testimony from Jones’ manager, Helen Kane saw Esther Jones’ act in 1928.

At some point, Jones learned that Kane was using–or had stolen her style of singing and she took her to court.

A test sound film showed Jones performing which disproved Kane’s claims that she was the originator of the style.

A Supreme Court Judge ruled that Kane, the plaintiff had “failed to sustain either cause of action by proof of sufficient probative force.” In other words, he deduced that the baby technique did not start with Kane.

And Jones was awarded with a $250,000 infringement lawsuit. Sadly, Jones was presumed dead in 1934, just around the time the lawsuit was ending.

So now you know.

Scholar Robert G. O’Meally said that Betty Boop may have been inspired by a White woman but she had a Black grandmother.


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  • Black Boop a Doop

    I read about this several years ago. Very interesting.

  • revelationsbook

    When it comes to stealing ideas, inventions and whatever it takes to portray whites as greatness, white people will rob steal and kill to do so. The original Betty Boop was black and there are black & white cartoons of her and Popeye the sailor man but they were banned. I wished God would have given them more creative abilities so they wouldn’t have to go around stealing them from others. Jesus the Egyptians and most biblical characters were black, but they gradually changed to white with the white men paint brushes. No matter how much proof or common sense is put before them so many brain washed people will die and go to hell believing that lie. It’s sad situation that so many believe satan’s lies who is the father of lies the truth is not in him.


    This is a very interesting story. It shows how much cultural strength that we as black people have and it shows how much we are copied.

    • Janice T

      Oh shut the **** up, it doesn’t matter who copy’s who. Everyone copy’s everyone in this world, you are SO RACIST! STOP PLAYING THE VICTIM!

  • wyominggrizfan

    “…Helen Kane, undeniably the inspiration for Betty Boop?” Then, praytell, why is it that Mae Questel is, as the voice of Betty Boop as well as of Olive Oyl of the original Popeye series of animated features, billed on the Decca Record Label as not only “The Betty Boop Girl,” but, also billed as “Betty Boop?” Helen Kane may have recorded 28 Sept 1928 on Victor 21684 “I Wanna Be Loved by You,” but it wasn’t that far removed from Annette Hanshaw, under the name of Patsy Young, on Velvet Tone 1792-V, released also in 1928, and as she appeared as Dot Dare on both the Harmony Label (792-H) and the Diva Label (1792-G), all released in 1928, as well. Helen Kane billed as the “The Boop-Boop-a Doop Girl;” so, isn’t a composite necessarily ventured for the overall caricature? And not necessarily from whom Helen Kane was supposedly inspired by? Even Popeye can be said to be, in part , at least, a caricature of “The Heidleberg Man” as described by H.G.Wells in his 1926 release…”The Outline of History.”

    • Megan Phan

      Who the hell is Annette Hanshaw?

      You are all wrong neither Baby Esther or Helen Kane are Betty Boop, Mae Questel is Betty Boop she was chosen to voice her so she is Betty boop, you all lose!

  • Guest

    Interestingly, it was Mae Questel that was the voice of Betty Boop, appearing on the Decca Record Label, billed as either ‘The Betty Boop Girl,’ or, as but ‘Betty Boop;’ viz. Decca release Catalog Number 2974. Mea Questel was also the voice of Olive Oyl in the original Popeye presentations. Helen Kane may have appeared as she did, Annette Hanshaw did as well, under the name ‘Dot Dare,’ on various recordings, as well. But the animated ‘Betty Boop’ would be best considered a composite, at best. If not mistaken.

  • Milessa

    That is not Helen Kane in that picture at the bottom. That’s a white lady from Russia who was taking vintage type photos dressed as betty boop circa 2008. I hate the way incorrect information just spreads like wildfire online these days. People take stuff and run with it without even trying to verify its authenticity before posting it.

  • nm

    with the recent vote on the best candidate for the role in simon cowell’s upcoming film suggesting the likes of nikki minaj (who woulda guessed), it’d be nice 2 c well rounded thespians like regina hall behind the camera as well

  • InDaTruth

    Ethel Merman also stole her style of singing from a Black woman. Of course the Black woman wasn’t allowed the same theatrical exposure Merman was, so who ended up getting famous? Merman. Ask your Elders, learn your history.

  • FactuallyTruthful

    – Some of this article is factual , although there are parts that are not . That is not Helen Kane in the photo . It is a woman by the name of Olya , in 2008 by a photographer by the name of Retro Atelier . He specializes in Old Time Photography . Jones never learned of Helen Kane’s use of her “boop” style of singing . It came to light when Helen Kane tried to sue the creators of Betty Boop & was proven in court that she was not the originator of that sound . $250,000 is actually what Kane was attempting to sue Fleischer Studios and animator Grim Natwick for using her image . It was proven in court by testimonies from “Baby Esther” Jones’ manager , who remembered Helen Kane & her manager at the Cotton Club a couple of years prior to the lawsuit , listening in on a set Esther Jones was performing . He said a few weeks later Helen Kane started to “boop” as well . Betty Boop was indeed inspired , looks too , by a white woman named Helen Kane , but , the Original voice was grand-mothered by a Black woman named Esther Jones f.m.a “Baby Esther” . So , for anyone wondering , The “real” Betty Boop was not light-skinned or Mulatto .

    • FactuallyTruthful

      “It is a woman by the name of Olya who was photographed in 2008 by a photographer by the name o Retro Atelier” *sorry typos*

  • Josh Oakley

    That picture isn’t Kane. That was Olya, and it was taken in 2008.

  • Thank you for highlighting Betty Boop, the web can be the site of much confusion, and some sources of information may be inaccurate. The photo identified as Helen Kane in your piece is not her but a contemporary tribute to Betty Boop using a model named Olya. But Betty Boop was definitely a caricature of Esther Jones (Baby Esther). It’s a reasonable consideration that the cartoon character may have been lightened for a white audience. Various actresses including Helen Kane were voices for Betty Boop, but Kane was the only one who brought the unsuccessful lawsuit hoping to capitalize on popularity gained through using Esther’s style.

  • evonne97

    Betty Boop’s singing voice is based on a Black woman named Esther Jones who used to sing like that. A White woman named Helen Kane saw her sing and stole her style. A lawsuit even proved she stole it. But the cartoon character, is just a white character that is most likely based on Helen Kane. The only thing that came from someone Black, was her singing voice. The picture of the light skinned woman dressed up like Betty Boop that has been floating around here and being attributed to being that of Esther Jones is actually a picture that was taken in 2008 by a photography company called Retro Atelier. They specialize in retro looking photography. You can google a photo of the real Esther Jones and you will see, that she looked nothing like Betty Boop. You can google Helen Kane and see that the cartoonist was definitely inspired by her when he created Betty. You can also google Retro Atelier, and you will find one of the Betty Boop photos on their Photodom site. It’s very likely that the cartoonist (Max Fleischer), was not aware that Helen Kane had stolen her singing style from Esther Jones when he created the character. I looked up all of this in a matter of 5 – 10 minutes. Research is your friend, people. And this article is rather badly written with incomplete or incorrect details and that Betty Boop photo is not of Helen Kane.

  • LapuLapu1

    I had shared a post about this on my facebook page yesterday, but saw today that Suppressed Histories Archive, responding to info shared when they posted about it, found out that the photo is not of Helen Kane (and not of “Baby Esther” Jones, either, as it is sometimes mislabeled on the internet, but a Russian model named “Olya” in a series called “Retro Atelier” photographed in 2008). Please search the key terms yourself or check their page on facebook for more about this. One thing they do admit on the page which this info came from is that the basic info about “Baby Esther” getting her style ripped off by Helen Kane, and the fact that this was verified when Kane sued Betty Boop’s creators.

    • LapuLapu1

      meant ‘…that the basic info is true about “Baby Esther” getting her style ripped off by Helen Kane…’

  • Lady

    The Kane woman looks mulatto

  • Ricehead

    Lmao… i don’t remember Baby Esther singing I Wanna Be Loved By You, nobody has even heard her sound test. Scholar Robert G. O’Meally said that Betty Boop may have been inspired by a White woman but she had a Black grandmother.

    Who’s this white woman? Yup it’s Mae Questel!

    • “May have been inspired by a white woman”. Sistahs have their own style always have and always will. No white woman inspire them unless they tryin’ to get more record sales when they say that. Back then, Sistahs had their own style and it has been imitated by white females.

      • wyominggrizfan

        That’s probably why Ella Fitzgerald said she was inspired by the Boswell Sisters.

  • Shaena Richardson

    Lol not shocked that explains the curves…the hoop earrings.. and all that gel and baby hair; ) lol

    • ThaTruthful1

      You need to stop LOL! Betty’s my girl!

      • Shaena Richardson

        Mine too lol; )

  • Phoebe

    I knew Betty Boop was inspired by a black women. But I didn’t know there was a lawsuit over how she was created. It might be possible that she’s mixed.

  • Dee

    Google is your friend! This pic is not of Helen. matter of fact, that pic was taken in 2008! SMH

  • justme

    hello kitty is not a cat. betty boop is black. very interesting.


    Betty boop looks very much like her…. funny the elites like to take take take, and never give credit where its due.

  • CoCo2Grown4UDiva

    I’ve been a collector of all things Betty Boop since I was a kid, and just about all my Betty Boop’s that I have are’s just been by luck that my parents have found them and me to… I only 3 white ones.. and that’s my BP throw blanket, a Christmas ornament and some lip gloss.. I was told she was black many years ago by one of my grandparents.. I have no idea how they knew but I guess they would because they were in their 90’s when they passed..I love that’s she’s sista and hate that other get the accolades when they stole from her at the Cotton Club.. Baby Esther <3

  • LouLouB

    Damn they just stole everything! Smh

    • Milan mggf

      I don’t think black and white people will ever see eye to eye, as I can clearly see you referring to them as “they”. You know we ain’t in those times anymore.

      • It’s really no difference now. If there is any difference it is the 2014. The hatred towards black people is even more intense since President Obama took office in the the WHITE HOUSE that black people built. Truth about black people when they do great things, good deeds etc. have alway been suppressed so most of the majority of American would not know. It is part of fanning the flames of hatred towards black people. Then eventually they take those deeds and great things they have done and whitewash it. It’s a new year and it’s almost over but it’s not a new day really.

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  • Bob

    Yet another blatant exmple of appropriation by white people.

    “Scholar Robert G. O’Meally said that Betty Boop may have been inspired by a White woman but she had a Black grandmother.”

    A white woman with a Black grandmother wasa Negroe by law back in those days, I love how white people love to rewite history and claim anybody noteworthy has some white ancestry.

  • lee

    That picture is not of Helen Kane, rather a model named Olya taken in 2008. Helen Kane is a white lady.

    • You mean a white woman? She got to prove to me she’s a lady before I bestow that title.

  • moonluvah

    Hell, Kane doesn’t look white to me? Somebody look like a mulatto who was “passing”. What happened to Jones that she turned up dead? Suspicious.

    • Guest

      i was thinking the same thing. kane looks a little “ethnic” in that tumblr pic. maybe she was part chickasaw lol.

    • Bob

      This is not Kane, that picture was taken in 2008 bya photographers that does period pictures. Search google images and you’ll find the source.

      • moonluvah

        Thank you, that’s careless reporting to post the wrong pics with someone’s name attached. Smh

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  • sarah

    why when i read this i get redirected to some other site…these ads are rather aggravating when they redirect your whole website to a different one

  • LoveJoy02

    Culture Vultures… as usual…

  • NOPe

    So a caricature and objectification of a black woman is oka in this instance? Okay.

    • smdh

      But she was a mulatto, drawn to further…..never mind! #whyievenbotherattimes
      Cartoon Black History
      Contrary to popular belief, Ms. Boopington was biracial… she was black and white *cough. Whether or not they knew her true ethnicity, she was the object of affection for all men (and a lot of women).

      Bettina was a gorgeous, poor, mixed girl from the south with a funny name that dreamed of stardom. She knew her looks and fair skin could get her into any door. So she changed her name to something more palatable. In addition, she chose to speak in shorter and cuter nonsense sentences so to not pick up on her southern accent.

    • Angela

      What’s objectifying about Betty?

  • Jayne

    Betty Boop has no neck. Now why didn’t I notice that before?

  • Momma Dee Tha Q.U.E.E.N

    Who had the article 1st lipstickalley or y’all? Lol

    • Shanice

      Buzz Wrong! The Betty Boop Wikia was the first place to have the information on Baby Esther, it was never hidden that Baby had Booped first, everyone knew. But on Wikipedia people kept removing information from the trial part.

      • Momma Dee Tha Q.U.E.E.N

        Imma need you to chill. I was joking cause it was posted the day after LSA had it on their site.

  • clutchmypearls

    I love this!! Just like one person said in the hashtag ‘I love black women because we are the prototype’ and this right here proves that.

    • Megan Phan

      Neither Baby Esther or Helen Kane are Betty Boop, Mae Questel is Betty
      Boop she was chosen to voice her so she is Betty boop. If you ain’t chosen to do the voice or be Betty in person you AIN’T Betty Boop and Betty Boop is not black she is a white woman inspired by a white woman who stole from a black woman.

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  • IllyPhilly


    • very!

    • Sammy

      This article is inaccurate, Baby esther wasn’t awarded $250000, that is the price Helen Kane was suing the Fleischers for. SMH!