Born on a farm near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, of African-American and Filipino heritage, she worked as a laboratory technician in New York before migrating to Europe as a teenager. She began acting in England, with some minor TV roles. Then, in 1953, she relocated to France and while occasionally working as a governess also sang and danced in nightclubs, where she met director Marcel Camus. At the age of 24 she won the role of “Eurydice” in his film Black Orpheus. The film won the Palme d’Or at the 1959 Cannes Film Festival and the 1960 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. She married Camus, but divorced him soon after and married Belgian actor Eric Vander. Considered a great beauty, she was featured in November 1959 by Ebony and has been hailed as “one of Ebony magazine’s prettiest cover girls, along with the likes of Dandridge, Halle Berry, Vanessa Williams and Lena Horne”.
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