Eartha Kitt knows a thing or two about love –and a thing more about survival.
Her career is highlighted by success on Broadway, her long adored recordings of ‘C’set Si Bon’ and the holiday favorite ‘Santa Baby’, and her iconic run as Catwoman.
But what I, and many others, love most about Eartha is her spirit. Eartha’s tough upbringing manifested into a strong woman who valued and honored her unique self. Eartha was outspoken, blunt and stood by her beliefs. She attributes the early struggles of her life to the woman she became.
When asked about her family in a later interview she responds, “I have no family, I am an orphan.”
Conceived of rape, Earth was born on a cotton plantation in South Carolina. It’s been suggested her father was German and the son of the farm owner.
Eartha was given away many times to be used as “Cinderella”. It is through this movement from home to home, family to family, that Eartha eventually found herself in New York where she dropped out of high school, and was homeless until she was discovered for her singing and performed touring Europe.
After romances with the cosmetics magnate Charles Revson and banking heir John Barry Ryan III, she married John William McDonald, an associate of a real estate investment company, on June 6, 1960. She was 33. They had one child, a daughter named Kitt McDonald, born on November 26, 1961. They divorced in 1965.
Though Kitt never remarried, she had tons of loving, beautiful relationships throughout her life. One important one she recalls in her autobiography, “I’m Still Here”.
… still remembering all the things Jamie Dean had told me on the phone. ‘’I dont know what the feeling of love is really like. I dont know if I have ever been in love, but if I have, it must have been with you because I never felt that feeling before you and I have never felt that feeling after you.’’
When people speak of love, they often talk about the sacrifices that come along with it. Love is about compromise, they say. Eartha Kitt disagrees.
When we talk about relationships, we often talk about compromise. We often phrase compromise as being a necessity in a relationship, a positive trait. But when we compromise, are we muting a part of ourselves?
In this excerpt from the 1982 documentary All by Myself: The Eartha Kitt Story, we are left to question how we understand love, relationships and compromise.
“What is compromising? Compromise for what? Compromising for what reason? A man comes into my life and I have to compromise? For what? For what? A relationship is a relationship that has to be earned! Not to compromise for. And I love relationships, I think they are fantastic, I think they are great, I think there is nothing more beautiful in the world than falling in love. But falling in love for the right reasons, falling in love for the right purpose, falling in love… falling in love… When you fall in love what is there to compromise about? If you want to think about it in terms of analyzing, yes, I fall in love with myself, and I want someone to share it with me. I want someone to share me with me. [This has happened] many times, in many ways.”