Mlle Bourgeoise Noire at JAM, 1980

Lorraine O’Grady
Mlle Bourgeoise Noire 1955
Just Above Midtown/Downtown
New York City, New York
June 5, 1980*

© Lorraine O’Grady, 1981

Her first submission to a performance art journal was a description of Mlle Bourgeoise Noire’s earliest appearance, a guerrilla action at Just Above Midtown, the country’s only black avant-garde art gallery.

Twenty-Fifth Anniversary of the international beauty pageant held in Cayenne, French Guiana, June 5, 1955. The crown of “Mlle Bourgeoise Noire 1955” awarded to Miss Black Bourgeoise of Boston, MA.

Cast:

LORRAINE O’GRADY — playing Mlle Bourgeoise Noire 1955 on the 25th Anniversary of her coronation. Ms. O’Grady is wearing her crown, her coronation gown and cape (together made of 180 pairs of white gloves),. and a white cat-o-nine-tails studded with white chrysanthemums as her bouquet.

DR. EDWARD B. ALLEN — playing the Master of Ceremonies. Dr. Allen, a dentist from Stamford, CT, and Ms. O’Grady’s brother-in-law, plays tennis with Bert Parks (“He can’t play worth shit.”)

Dr. Allen has borrowed a tuxedo jacket from Bert Parks especially for this occasion.*

PHOTOGRAPHERS, VIDEO CAMERAMEN, DISCO BAND, and GUESTS at the opening of the Just Above Midtown/Downtown gallery — playing the court and subjects attending Mlle Bourgeoise Noire’s Silver Jubilee.

Mlle Bourgeoise Noire and her Master of Ceremonies arrive for her 25th Anniversary celebration at precisely 9:00 p.m. They have difficulty entering (their names having been omitted from the guest list at the door). After a few peremptory commands by Mlle Bourgeoise Noire, they are let in, passing through the tight pink maze especially designed by artist David Hammons and featuring three salt fish hanging from hooks.

At last they can greet the crowds awaiting them. Oohs and aahs on all sides for Mlle Bourgeoise Noire’s gown. After all these years, it still fits. ( … )

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