WOTM: Lucille Bal

“I’m not funny. What I am is brave.”

This issue’s Woman Of The Month shares the same characteristics as the month of April; witty, creative, fun, brave, optimistic and loveable. She’s none other than the iconic Lucille Ball. The redhead actress, who is mostly well known for her starring role on I Love Lucy is often remembered as one of the most creative and influential actresses of her time. 

Born on August 6th 1911, Lucille Ball was the eldest out of two children. Lucille had a hardscrabble childhood shaped by tragedy and a lack of money. Ball’s father worked many jobs, hence why the family was relocated a number of times. Life came undone in 1915 when Ball’s father was struck with Typhoid fever and died not long after. For the 3 year old child,  her father’s death not only set in motion a series of difficult childhood hurdles, but also served as the young girl’s first real significant memory. “I do remember everything that happened”, she said. “Hanging out the window, begging to play with the kids next door, the doctor coming, my mother weeping. I remember a bird that flew in through the window, a picture that fell off the wall”

Her mother had moved them back to their hometown where she eventually found work and a new husband. With her blessing, he decided the two of them move to Detroit without her children. Ball was forced to make a new home with her stepfather’s folks which meant contending with her stern step-grandmother, who didn't have much money to lavish on her. Lucille would later recall that the family lacked money even for school pencils.

While she could at times downplay her hard work, Ball was a perfectionist. It was routine for the actress to spend hours to rehearse her antics and facial expressions. Ball worked hard and had always put in all her effort into whatever job or whichever character she was trying to play. Her dedication did not go unrecognised, for four of it’s seasons, ‘I Love Lucy’ was the No.1 show in the country. In 1971, Lucille Ball became the first woman to receive the International Radio and Television Society’s Gold Medal. In addition, Ball had also received four Emmy’s, induction into the Television Hall of Fame and recognition for her life’s work from the Kennedy Centre for the Performing Arts. 

Even back then, Ball had an itch to do something big. When she was 15, she convinced her mother to allow her to enrol in a New York City drama school. “I’d rather regret the things I’ve done than regret the things I haven't done”. But despite her longing to make it on the stage, Ball was too nervous to draw much notice. “I was a tongue-tied teenager spellbound by the school’s star pupil, Bette Davis”, said Ball. Though no longer in her school, Lucille Ball remained in New York City and by 1927, Ball found work as a model. Her modelling gig started off when she became one of the models for was for the fashion designer, Hattie Carnegie. “One of the things I learned the hard way was that  it doesn't pay to get discouraged. Keeping busy and making optimism a way of life can restore your faith in yourself".

Though she was kicked out of her school, Ball did not run away from her dreams. She moved to Hollywood in the early 1930’s to seek out more acting opportunities instead. Work soon followed and Ball managed to land jobs in movies starring famous actors and actresses, such as Katharine Hepburn and Ginger Rogers. Ball would appear in 72 movies over her long career. This garnered her the unofficial title “The Queen of B Movies”. One of her earliest jobs in this industry introduced her to a handsome Cuban bandleader named Desi Arnaz. Not long after, the pair fell madly in love and got married. They both had put together a TV series called ‘I Love Lucy’, which turned out to be one of the most popular TV series of all time.

Lucille Ball lived a great life. Despite the challenges she faced, it has always seemed to be braved by her uplifting spirit. She saw the little spark of light in all darkness. Her hard work, dedication and independence has inspired other female comedians to break into the industry. “Love yourself first and everything else falls into line. You really have to love yourself to get anything done in this world”. Thank you for all the laughs, We Love You, Lucy!


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