Shirley Bassey, one of the top Black female artists

Source: United Archives / Getty

There’s a reason the trope of the starving artist persists. Making a name for one’s self – and then making a living – as an artist is just shy of impossible. Only a tiny percentage of those who strike out to do so will make it. The odds are stacked against all creatives, and you can triple the size of that stack for Black female artists.

The incredible Black women who have pushed through in industries that were anything but welcoming to them show some of the greatest perseverance and faith a human can demonstrate. Lucky for us, some documentary makers have recognized the importance of these individuals and set out to tell the stories of these incredible women.

From comedians to writers to ballet dancers, a handful of Black women have truly exemplified greatness in the arts. For Black History Month, here are seven inspiring documentaries to watch about Black female artists and creatives.



What Happened Miss Simone?

Watch on Netflix.


Pulling in a strong 90 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, What Happened Miss Simone? tells the fascinating and often heartbreaking story of Eunice Kathleen Waymon, known by her stage name Nina Simone. Simone was a singer, songwriter and civil rights activist whose music spanned many genres including pop, gospel, jazz and R&B.

She took a deep dive into politics – and into what turned out to be turbulent waters – which the documentary explores, along with the trauma and abuse in her life that inspired her powerful music. The documentary features some never-before-seen footage of Miss Simone and paints an intimate portrait of a tortured soul and artistic genius.

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