5 Famous Burlesque Dancers of Color From Yesterday

Let us introduce you to burlesque in a different shade.

It’s not what you do. It’s the way you do it-stripping, or writing, or talking . . . or just breathing. Do it with an air, and never admit you’re scared.” – Gypsy Rose Lee

When we think of the pin up and burlesque era, we think about the famous burlesque dancers such as Bettie Page, Tempest Storm and Marilyn Monroe of the Golden Era. They are all stunning women who earned their title. This is not to dismiss the white women of pin up, we love our Caucasian ladies. But black famous burlesque dancers were frequently overlooked due to racism. Let’s bring their brown booties to the spot light with some black burlesque!

Toni Elling aka Satin Doll

Lottie the Body

Miss Topsy

Jean Idelle

Madeleine Sahji Jackson

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Toni Elling aka Satin Doll

Toni is from Detroit. She worked for a phone company for many years before considering Burlesque. She was soooo tired of being overlooked for promotions because of the color of her skin. Her good friend Rita Revere, a stripper, gave her the idea of getting into stripping!

Toni entered the industry pretty late at age 32. She was known for never taking off her panties. She had famous friends such as Sammy Davis Jr. She is still alive at age 94 and makes frequent appearances at burlesque events.

Update: Toni Elling passed away April 2, 2023. She was blessed to have lived that long. Toni is proof that a joyful life is one of the fountains of youth and longevity. She is a reminder to chase your passions.

Lottie the Body

What a name! Born in Syracuse, New York, Lottie the Body was a trained dancer since she was a teen. Because of her extensive dancing experience, she stood out from many Burlesque dancers. She lived in her own world and was daring enough to dance at white only clubs. She also was paid the same amount as the white dancers!

Lottie was tall and STACKED hence her stage name. Before dying in February 2020 at the age of 90 in Detroit, she expressed that she truly lived her life to the fullest, no regrets. Maybe that’s why she lived so long!

Miss Topsy

Miss Topsy is from Missouri. In her early 20s, she decided to move to Hollywood where she worked as a hospital worker. (I always felt nurses are very naughty).

Topsy met a booking agent named Cora Lee Jr who got her into show business. She started out with modeling then was hired as a shake dancer. As she grew as a performer, her routines became more and more exotic. She traveled the world and loved her art.

She worked as a dancer for almost three decades. Topsy made so much money that she was able to invest in real estate and take care of her whole family proving her warm heart.

Jean Idelle

Jean is from Brooklyn, NY. She was discovered at the age of 20 and became the first black exotic fan dancer.

Jean was active in the 50s and 60s. She danced in white clubs and her performance were so loved that it helped break racial barriers! She even said: “After I was finished dancing they forgot all about my race and just appreciated a good performance by an elegant and skillful burlesque dancer. Talent is the greatest equalizer. If you got it, you got it.”

I agree with her.

She was well paid and was featured in many magazines. At age 82, after many years of being absent from the scene, Jean Idelle performed a routine at Titans of Tease showcase. You go lady!!

Madeleine Sahji Jackson

There’s not much information about when and where Madeleine was born but she had to be included in this list.

Madeleine was one of the top sexy dancers in her time. She performed at the famous Cotton Club in NYC in the 1930. She appeared on cover of the well known black magazine Jet in the 1950s.

Maddy was thin but she shook and moved every part of her body. They described her as “poetry in motion.” She made her own clothes which were super revealing.

Learn more about our naughty icons back then with these dirty songs.

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famous burlesque dancers

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