Rashida Jones on Lena Horne: “That’s what God must be like”

I’m still thinking about an outstanding, inspirational piece from last weekend’s NYTimes that asked women actresses, directors and writers among this fall’s cinematic bumper crop about the heroines they most admired and why: Movie Stars Have Heroines, Too.

Rashida Jones, who co-wrote and co-directed “Quincy”, the upcoming Netflix documentary about her father, cited Lena Horne, the multi-faceted and talented jazz singer, actress, and civil rights activist.

The choice is personal for Rashida, as her father was a longtime supporter of the late Brooklyn-born star. When Lena played the Good Witch in the 1978 musical film, “The Wiz,” Jones was the musical director and producer, and he also produced her Grammy-awarded Broadway CD.

Rashida shared the luminary aspects of Lena’s legacy that she holds most dear:

Even though she battled racism her whole career, Lena Horne was always a beacon of elegance and talent onscreen. My memory of her singing “Believe in Yourself,” sparkling like a galactic goddess as Glinda in the movie version of “The Wiz,” was a truly formative one for me as a kid. To see her perform with such formidable but benevolent force, I honestly just assumed, “That’s what God must be like.”

Offscreen, she also stood for what was right, which meant fighting for civil rights, not performing to segregated crowds on a U.S.O. tour, not a particularly popular move at the time.

From the Cotton Club to her legacy at MGM, I think she is far underappreciated as a performer and part of entertainment history.

Same, Rashida! When I was a kid, I listened to that soundtrack constantly, knew all the words by heart, and acted-out the songs for my whole family. I was always Dorothy, and The Wiz was my entire world. Lena was perfection.

Later in the piece, Regina Hall, who’s set to star in the upcoming film adaption of Angie Thomas’s book, “The Hate U Give,” also name-checked Lena among a list of other iconic black Hollywood heroines such as Josephine Baker, Dorothy Dandridge, and Fredi Washington.

Such a wonderful piece. If you haven’t read it yet…what are you waiting for?

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