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Josephine Premice, 1954
*Josephine Premice was born on this date in 1926. She was a Black actress and singer known for her work on the Broadway stage.
Born in Port a Prince, Haiti, Premice grew up in Brooklyn, New York, and Haiti and studied dance with Martha Graham and Katherine Dunham. After graduating from Columbia University with a degree in Anthropology, she began her theatrical career in the 1945 production of ''Blue Holiday'' at the Belasco Theater alongside Ethel Waters and Josh White, the folk singer.
She starred in numerous Broadway productions, including Tony Award-nominated roles in the 1957 musical Jamaica (with Lena Horne) and A Hand Is on the Gate in 1966, where she performed African American poetry works alongside James Earl Jones, Cicely Tyson, and Gloria Foster. Her final Broadway appearance came in 1976 with the musical Bubbling Brown Sugar. Reviewing the production in The New York Times, Clive Barnes wrote that "Ms. Premice could almost make a feather boa come alive."
Premice was supporting in the television movie The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman as Ms. Gautier. She guest-starred on The Cosby Show, The Jeffersons (playing Louise Jefferson's sister), and a several-episode stint on A Different World. Josephine Premice was the definition of chic.
An accomplished singer, dancer, actress, and New York City socialite, she had an impeccable sense of style. “She was the ultimate stickler for sartorial protocol,” recalled her daughter, television producer Susan Fales-Hill, highlighted in this issue’s best-dressed list. “No velvet in the summer, no chiffon in the winter, and, for heaven’s sake, no beading in the daytime.” Premice was so glamorous that French designers Jacques Fath and Hubert de Givenchy once considered her their muse. She was also known for her Calypso music and fashion sense.
Josephine Premice died in her Manhattan apartment on April 13, 2001, at the age of 74 from complications of Emphysema. Her estranged husband, Timothy Fales, and her two children, Enrico Fales and Susan Fales-Hill, survived her. Her daughter Susan has written a biography of her mother called Always Wear Joy. She is remembered most for her fashionable ﬂair and spirit. “Whether she was going to a black-tie [event] or the supermarket,” Fales-Hill said, “her style proclaimed to the world, ‘I’m an artist, a lady, and every day is a gift.’ ”