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Eartha Mae Kitt-Fields was born January 17 1927 in Saint-Matthews South Carolina to a white dirt farmer and a black Cherokee mother At the age of eight she was sent away to live with her aunt in Harlem because a new suitor had a prejudice against the color of her skin Once there she attended the New York High School for the Performing Arts She never saw her mother again and when she was ten years old her mother died At the age of fifteen she quit high school to work in a Brooklyn factory As a teenager Kitt lived in friends homes and in the subways By the time the 1950s came around she had sung and danced her way out of poverty and into the spotlight with Katherine Durham Dance Troupe on a European tour While performing with the Durham Troupe in Paris Ms Kitt was spotted by a nightclub owner who signed her on as a cabaret singer She gained fame and admirers quickly including Orson Welles who called her the most exciting woman in the world and signed her to play Helen of Troy in his acclaimed production of Dr Faust Upon her return to the United States Ms Kitt played a twenty-week run at the Blue Angel - a still unbroken record for cabaret artists before moving on the Village Vanguard There she was seen by Leonard Stillman who included her in New Faces of 1952 Her legendary performance in Monotonous in which she appeared for a year on Broadway would lead to a national tour and Twentieth Century Fox film by the same name Broadway stardom led to a recording contract and a succession of best-selling records including Love For Sale and Folk Tales of the Tribes of Africa for which she received a Grammy nomination She also published her first autobiography Thursdays Child during this period and returned again to the cabaret scene with runs at The Persian
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