Halle Berry

Throw Back Thursday - The Lena Horne Story

Welcome to my very first throwback Thursday post, which will now be devoted to sharing stories, lessons and inspiring thoughts from past photo shoots. Today we kick off throwback Thursday with a story about the late-great actress, Lena Horne.

In the late 90’s I began working on a project that would become my first book, Sepia Dreams.  I had big dreams for the book and made a wish list of people whom I wanted to include. The list included Sidney Poitier, Lena Horne, Quincy Jones, Denzel Washington and more. I sent each person on my list an invitation to be a part of the project and followed up often to schedule a time to speak. Being persistent was key, and it was an all-consuming task, but thanks to two good friends, Darlene Gillard and Nicole Friday, we were able to maintain our sanity and pull the project together.

I remember getting the chance to speak on the phone with Sidney Poitier. and he said, “I liked the idea of the project but my book has just been released and I just don’t have the time,” and graciously declined. I sent a package to Lena Horne and received a very nice rejection message from her manager as well, but she stayed on my mind as I continued to work on Sepia Dreams.

Throughout the project many of my subjects, like Halle Berry and Eriq La Salle, referred to Lena Horne and Sidney Poitier as inspirations during their childhood. Lena and Sidney were mentioned so many times I felt compelled to approach them again. I sent another package with segments from interviews in which people mentioned Lena and Sidney, and I included these segments in my package to them.

One day I was at home editing images and listening to interviews when my home phone rang. I picked up the received and a voice said, “Okay sugar, I’m ready for my interview.” It was Lena Horne and I was in a state of shock. She had received my package and in that moment decided to be a part of the book. The lesson I learned that day was to always be persistent and no matter what to believe in your dreams.

Lena Horne Photographed By Matthew Jordan Smith Copyright © 1996 All Rights Reserved

Lena Horne Photographed By Matthew Jordan Smith Copyright © 1996 All Rights Reserved


I will never forget Lena’s voice as I interviewed her on the phone that day or the photo shoot, which was shot originally for Essence magazine. Both days were magical and forever etched into my mind.


Believe in your dreams and never stop working to make them a reality.


Always Dream Big