Fans saw Lena Horne as a heart-breakingly gorgeous movie star with an apple-pie smile and voice made of silk.
Behind-the-scenes, co-stars and friends saw Lena as cold, calculated, and broken.
The world saw her as black.
Struggling for success during a civil rights revolution, it's no wonder there were many sides to the troubled jazz singer from Brooklyn.
Lena was born in 1917 into a middle-class family, who taught her never to tolerate racism and always act like a dignified lady.
When she was 15, her stage ambitious mother got her a gig as dancer for the Cotton Club, a famous hot spot in Harlem. She was introduced to the fast-paced world of jazz, rubbing elbows with Billie Holiday and Duke Ellington. She began getting more prestigious gigs.
Her sultry vocals, sparkling smile, and pretty light-skinned face made her an instant sensation with white audiences. It wasn't long before she was whisked to Broadway and recording albums.
In 1941, the 24-year-old became the first African-American signed to a long-term contract to MGM.
Unfortunately, the movie studio was perplexed with what to do with a black leading lady. Roles that should have gone straight to Lena ended up going to her white counterparts. She watched in dismay as Ava Gardner was dusted with dark makeup to play a mulatto in Showboat. It broke her heart to see the Viennese glam queen Hedy Lamarr play Tondelayo, the Congo goddess in White Cargo. And the role of that light-skinned black girl passing as white in Pinky? Lena never stood a chance of earning that Oscar-nominated part.
Instead, Lena was placed in all-black films or given musical cameos in big-budget motion pictures.
Despite her success, reality always socked her in the gut. For example, she became seriously ill while headlining at the ritzy Savoy Plaza and wasn't even allowed to stay in one of the hotel's rooms to recover.
She became heavily involved with civil rights during this time period, participating in marches and speaking out at rallies. And she began to resent the upper-class white audiences who paid top dollars to see her perform. She developed a cool, distant exterior towards her fans.
In the 1950s, Lena was labeled a Communist by the government for her civil rights work. She was blacklisted from Hollywood and could not find work.
She passed away two years ago at the age of 92.
Here is Lena's most famous song, Stormy Weather:
What do you think of Lena?