Inside her, there were two Lena Hornes: the one who fiercely asserted herself, and the one who belittled and berated herself. Viewed from the outside, there were two more: the one who had an impressive career and was a seemingly model freedom fighter; but also the one who could have done so much more, yet, capitalizing on light skin color and great looks, truckled to white society.
Miss Lena Horne, as she was usually billed, was a walking and singing self-contradiction. Though she was, as invariably stressed, beautiful — except in her somewhat scrawny legs — there wasn’t a part of her that she didn’t find fault with. Some American Indian blood on both sides of the family, as well as some white, contributed to her pale skin and exotic loveliness. She was a fascinatingly evolving singer; there wasn’t a vocal style she didn’t shed or at times revert to. Ambiguity could have been her middle name; sudden reversals characterized her attitudes toward business and romantic relations, friendships and residences, even marriages, although the second lasted 23 years, until her husband’s death.
Concerts and recordings came till late in life, the unanimous raves eliciting from her, “Too little, too late.” Now, as Gavin writes, her “final role” is “that of recluse.”