life: So-Long to LOVELY LENA


Where do I begin?

On May 14th 2010, I was resurrected.

Something inside me was burning from the time I heard about Lena Hornes death. I don’t know what it was, but it felt like a little piece of myself died with her. Some may say I reacted too strongly for a woman I’ve never met… but I should explain.

I was exposed to Lena at a very young age. I can still see my elementary self singing along to Stormy Weather in my grandparents living room in Michigan.

Everyone I know says I was born far too late. A quick response they tend to give after hearing about my love for Rita Hayworth or quick knowledge of the Golden Age of Hollywood; or my ipod filled with songs from Ella Fitzgerald, Dinah Washington, Duke Ellington and at 167 songs… Lena Horne.

Lena’s death represented the end an era, an era I have vicariously lived through during my 23 years of life.

I dreamed up scenarios in my head of walking past the Apthorp Apartments (Lena’s building) and seeing the legend herself taking a stroll. Her body no longer that of the 25 year old starlet the world fell in love with, but a mature star who wears the years of fighting and entertaining proudly on a much smaller… and slower frame. She would catch me staring, and in that southern cadence we know so well, say “What? You gonna keep staring, or are you gonna help an old lady make her way to central park.” From that day forward I would become her companion, she would tell me stories of performing at the Cotton Club, or seeing Billie Holiday sing, or how many times Ava Gardner cussed in one night. Of course that was only a dream, but you can see where my mind wanders.

I think it was hard for me to let go; not only because with her, I lost one of the key pages in my book of life, but also because we never met. She never got the chance to see one of my movies on the big screen, or see me keeping all she worked for alive or even just sing-hum or whistle Stormy Weather one last time… I had to make piece with this idea.

It was a rainy, gloomy morning. I got up, put on my black dress, heels and blazer… and went to 83rd and Park Ave to make peace with Lena Horne. I signed my name in the guest book and took a seat behind Vanessa Williams. A little later Diahann Caroll showed up and sat beside her… I began filling up with emotion. Diahann’s presence is so grand, and her story is so rich that it just takes you aback… The woman worked with Dorothy Dandridge!

Suddenly in came Lena, covered in ivory, trimmed in gold and saluted by the Tuskegee Airmen. She made her way to the front of the room and watched as we remembered her life. After shedding several tears slowly but surely my soul was resurrected. My doubts and sadness became drive and anticipation.

Before she left I took one last look at her, inhaling deeply and taking Lena all back in.

As I walked down the stairs of the St. Ignatius Loyola; the sun was shining, the weather was warm and I felt rejuvenated. I put my headphones on and pressed play… Lena’s voice boomed in my ear saying “Believe in yourself as I believe in you.”

On May 14th 2010, I was a part of something far bigger than me, Part of history that can never be relieved… yet Lena Horne will forever live on. When someone asks why I will miss Lena Horne… Simply put I will say…She told me to “Believe.”

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4 Comments Add yours

  1. J says:

    Absolutly beautiful! I to have similiar memories, she will be missed.

  2. ryanjillian says:

    Thank you so much for reading. Out of every blog entry I have ever done, this is the one I wanted to be heard. 🙂

  3. RereIrrania says:

    Just want to say what a great blog you got here!
    I’ve been around for quite a lot of time, but finally decided to show my appreciation of your work!

    Thumbs up, and keep it going!

    Cheers
    Christian, Satellite Direct Tv

  4. Ryan Jillian says:

    Reblogged this on SOPHIERCELY STREISATIONAL and commented:

    I woke up today with a pain so strong that it left me literally only able to eat a piece of watermelon and get back in bed. It wasn’t until I became aware of the date that I realized 2 years ago today, Lena passed away.

    I have to say doing this one woman show on Lena has not only given me a greater appreciation for her life and legacy, it has given me this fiece appreication for myself.

    Damn it. It sucks that in this lifetime, I will never get to meet her, and thank her for all she has taught me, and all she has given me as an artist and as a black woman.

    Well my dear Lena, at least we have the stage. Thank you, thank you, thank you! Love always.

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