Updated: Jun 1
Studying dance from a young age, Lola Falana was first discovered in the 1960s while dancing in a chorus line in Atlanta by Sammy Davis Jr. He quickly cast her as the lead dancer in his Broadway musical Golden Boy.
During the 1960s, Falana released a single, appeared in the film A Man Called Baby, and eventually rose to international fame by starring in multiple Italian films. This resulted in the Italians bestowing her the nickname ”Black Venus.”
Falana ended her partnership with Davis Jr. in 1969 in order to focus on her artistic endeavors. Shortly following the dissolution Falana broke into the American entertainment industry, starring in “blaxploitation films” such as The Liberation of L.B. Jones and Lady Cocoa. By 1975 her album was #67 on the Billboard R&B charts and she got her own variety show, Lola!, the following year. Due to her rising fame, Falana was the first Black woman to be a spokesperson for a major perfume line as the face of Tigress by Faberge.
Her success continued to grow and she began selling out shows on the Las Vegas Strip, becoming the highest paid female entertainer in Las Vegas at the time and she was subsequently named the “Queen of Las Vegas.” She was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 1987, shortly after her last project, a soap opera called The Capital was canceled. The left side of her body was paralyzed and she was unable to hear or speak clearly. She was able to recover from the severe symptoms after about a year and a half and returned to her career in Vegas. She performed for a couple more years before officially leaving the industry in the early 1990’s to devote her time to the Catholic Ministry. Her film Lady Cocoa can be viewed in our Black History Month Film Collection on iWoman.tv