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Nina Simone’s look and voice were truly one-of-a-kind–we’re still mesmerized by her effortlessly cool style and melodic delivery today.
Born Eunice Kathleen Waymon in Tryon, North Carolina in 1933, Nina began playing the piano at the young age of three, moving to the Big Apple at age 21 to study at Julliard. She took on her stage name that year by combining her boyfriend’s nickname for her, “Nina”, and the first name of French actress Simone Signoret. Though her only Billboard Top 40 hit was her rendition of George Gershwin’s “I Loves You Porgy”, you might recognize her distinctive voice on tunes including “Feeling Good”, “Misunderstood”, and “I Put A Spell On You”.
Nina was always so naturally stylish, with her signature headwraps and African-inspired accessories.
June Ambrose and India Arie are modern incarnations of Nina’s style with their predilection for printed turbans and statement jewelry.
Nina’s songs have provided the soundtrack for many fashion shows and editorial videos, including Latisha Daring’s Spring 2013 collection and Diane von Furstenberg’s Spring 2012 offerings. Watch Chanel Iman, Jourdan Dunn, and Melodie Monrose move to the sounds of “I Put A Spell on You” for Vogue Italia’s February 2011 issue below:
Nina Simone was truly ahead of her time and almost a decade after her death, the long-lasting effects of her innovative style and music are still rippling through the popular culture today. With a whole new interest in her life and sound this year, I predict that a whole new set of fans will emerge, continuing Nina’s permanent mark on black and musical history.
See her perform here: