Singer And Actress Eartha Kitt Dies

Kitt In Performance

Singer and actress Eartha Kitt has died of colon cancer. She was 81. Kitt, who was ostracized as a child in South Carolina because of her mixed-race heritage, got her start in show business as a dancer and vocalist, and earned early international notice as a featured singer in a Paris nightclub.

Eartha Kitt Still Sizzling

Eartha Kitt performs at Cafe Carlyle. i

Eartha Kitt performs at Cafe Carlyle on Sept. 19, 2007 in New York City. Amy Sussman/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Amy Sussman/Getty Images
Eartha Kitt performs at Cafe Carlyle.

Eartha Kitt performs at Cafe Carlyle on Sept. 19, 2007 in New York City.

Amy Sussman/Getty Images

Entertainment legend Eartha Kitt made it in Hollywood after a challenging childhood that included picking cotton in her native South Carolina.

Eartha Mae Kitt was ostracized at an early age because of her mixed-race heritage. At 8 years old, she was given away by her mother and sent from the South Carolina cotton fields to live with an aunt in Harlem. In New York the shy teen auditioned for the famed Katherine Dunham Dance Troupe. She won a spot as a featured dancer and vocalist and before the age of 20, toured worldwide with the company. During a performance in Paris, Kitt was spotted by a nightclub owner and booked as a featured singer at his club. Her unique persona earned her fans and fame quickly, including Orson Welles, who called her "the most exciting woman in the world."

At 80 she still enjoys performing and also goes to the gym regularly, but beyond that she's a homebody.

"I never have been fond of going out because I don't want to dress up unless you put me in Eartha Kitt paraphernalia and put me on stage — OK, I'm on duty now."

Kitt discusses her career with Renee Montagne.



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