Josephine Baker was an internationally acclaimed performer known for her erotic dances and risque costumes. She was a pioneer in the performing arts and was known as the Black Pearl and the Bronze Venus.
She was also a hero of the French Resistance during World War II.
When the war broke out, Baker was living in France with her French Jewish husband. Thanks to her fame, she was able to tour around Europe and visit neutral countries with messages and refugees. She smuggled messages written with invisible ink on her sheet music. Baker also housed Belgian refugees in her home in the south of France. When the need arose, she would organize concerts to provide a cover for Free French gatherings.
After the war, Charles de Gaulle awarded Baker with the Croix de Guerre. Baker not only continued to perform but she also became a leader of the American Civil Rights movement, active in protests and campaigns until her death in 1975.
The banana skirt is pretty fantastic, too.