This intimate and unguarded moment between Earth Kitt and her daughter Kitt McDonald was captured during a promotional trip to Jamaica in 1967.

I discovered it and the one below whilst curating The Gleaner Archive Collection of photography for an international touring exhibition in 2012 and strategising the commercial development programme.


My most cherished literary vehicle is the Hidden Voices™ interview concept which I created and own.

In 2012 AFRICA: Seen & Heard licensed Hidden Voices™ to the GV Media Group.

Hidden Voices became a popular, illuminating and circulation boosting fortnightly column within The Voice newspaper and The Voice Online; Britain’s Favourite Black Newspaper.

Life After Death of an Iconic Mother was published on Thursday March 14th 2013 as a reflection on Mothering Sunday which had been celebrated in the United Kingdom on 10th March.

I wished to pay homage to Eartha and assist Kitt in promoting her Simply Eartha brand.

We now celebrate another Mothering Sunday today, so I am sharing the article in its uncut version which was edited to fit the constraints of the newspaper page and referred to Kitt by her surname Shapiro throughout the article as is the norm for The Voice.

Eartha and Kitt are more entwined as one in this article and a few revisions and additions bring the article up to date.

Softly play the songs to hear and feel the spirit of Eartha Kitt as you read and perhaps mix yourself an Uska Dara cocktail afterwards to quaff from your “good” glass whilst enjoying Further Illumination.

To the mothers reading this – every Sunday should be a Mothering Day in which you honour yourself and to those who have lost a mother, take heart in the wisdom that she is still here as a hidden voice you still hear when you recall her advice, wisdom and witticisms.

I have always admired Eartha Kitt: she showcased shantung and sable like a bronze Venus during a long career encompassing dancing, singing, acting and cabaret, breaking glass ceilings along the way: she was the first black actress cast to play the role of a white character as the quintessential Catwoman.

1971 unSEEN Peek™ – As well as enjoying the pleasure of Eartha Kitt’s company, Swaziland’s King Sobhuza II was blessed with the longest verifiable reign of any monarch in recorded history: 82 years.

Eartha Kitt was a Pan-Africanist who quietly bestowed wise words in the ears of African statesmen and monarchs, a global advocate for indigenous peoples and the staunchest supporter of American civil rights whose outspoken political honesty saw her prime years blacklisted in the USA.


On a sub-zero night on our respective sides of the Atlantic, Kitt Shapiro & I nestle comfortably at home whilst conversing via Skype.

Kitt sits at the desk which once belonged to her mother the indomitable Eartha.

I sit in my library, first edition Eartha Kitt autobiographies taking pride of place on the “Dame” shelf.

“When I was young and my mother used to introduce us she’d say ‘I’m Eartha and this is Kitt, as if I completed her & I think on some level I did complete her: I gave her roots.” 

Eartha Mae Kitt grew up as a motherless child, an orphan who followed her own path & carved an international niche as brilliant as the facets of a Girl’s Best Friend.

“I don’t think she ever really felt grounded until I was born. I truly believe that I was given to her, she birthed me because I was the perfect fit for her as a mother.”

Kitt confessed that despite their close and loving relationship, at times it was not easy being the only child of a star. “It’s definitely not easy when you’re given that person’s name – you can never escape being that person’s child.”

As a teenager, Kitt found Eartha’s unconditional love – the sort that the orphaned child Eartha Mae must have yearned for – overbearing and rebelled. “I don’t think my struggle with her was any different than most mother and daughter struggles. The difference was that my mother’s job was to stand on stage and be a sex symbol.”

Kitt is a beautiful, confident woman with a graceful disposition & exuberant repartee; her character in comparison with many celebrity offspring is a testament to Eartha’s exceptional parenting.

Kitt worked for her mother for twenty-five years; producing her albums, tours and projects as President of Earth Kitt Productions, Inc. “I was okay being the Kitt to her Eartha Kitt.”

On Christmas Day 2008, the legendary Eartha Kitt whose 1953 recording “Santa Baby” is the epitome of Yuletide lost a two year battle with colon cancer. Where most would take refuge in their work after the death of a parent, Kitt was unable to do so; her mother was her work.

“Our lives were very enmeshed. It was a very difficult loss.” Kitt counts being with Eartha at the time of her passing as “a blessing in so many ways.”

As Kitt recalled their witty exchanges during the final fortnight of Eartha’s life, I wondered why the one reality TV show that I would have watched was never produced.

Eartha would laugh despite her immense pain & remind the übertender Kitt who nursed her at home that she was dying and not deaf.

“As sad as it is to be in front of a parent who is dying, there is a tremendous gift at being able to hold that parent.”

Kitt confided that Eartha lost her speech the last two days of her life, yet did not go as easily and as quietly as predicted she “left this planet kicking & screaming & I mean screaming at the top of her lungs.”

Kitt whose vivacity is one of Eartha’s greatest legacies, recalled screaming back at her “You can go! You can go!” Kitt said that Eartha’s “survival instinct was not letting her give up even though there was no way for her to stay alive & that was an amazing thing.”

Kitt and I discussed the reversal of parent & child roles during terminal illness; the eternal circle of being there to assist the person out of the world who brought you into it and the unique grief and unexpected consolations of being a celebrity child.

“The first Mother’s Day that she was no longer there it was a very strange feeling no longer being somebody’s child.”

Kitt had grown used to hearing Eartha’s voice waft from boutique speakers at Christmas and sometimes spoke to the ether as if her mother were still alive. That morning she said to her mother “I’m never going to be able to hear you speak to me,” in the afternoon whilst surfing TV channels, Kitt encountered Eartha’s cameo role in the 2003 movie “Anything but Love”. She looked out of the screen giving personal advice to an ingénue character, “that’s when I really knew that she was not gone, that she could feel me somewhere.”

Kitt and I discussed spirituality and metaphysics in great detail and agreed that if energy cannot be extinguished, physical life must be a mere component of a great never-ending, perpetual cycle.

Ancient Egyptian Tehuti who the Greeks called Hermes Trismegisto and the Romans, Mercury asked “how can the corporeal understand the incorporeal?” Kitt pondered:

“When we look at that physicality as them, when that breath is gone & the body is there it’s hard.”

As both the daughter of “the most exciting woman in the world” and head of an icon’s production company, Kitt was now the custodian of an immense personal and professional legacy.


Prior to her death, Eartha and Kitt had discussed brand necessities: “My mother always said to me ‘I’m building all of this for you and for your children, don’t just let everything I have and everything I’ve done just sit there.'”

Eartha and Kitt wished to do something different from the celebrity norm of skincare or a clothing line.

You probably imagine Eartha Kitt reclining on a Louis XV chaise longue being hand-fed peeled grapes, white pearl caviar and gilded truffles.

Behind the extravagant facade, life was very different. “She was true to her name, true to her roots. She was really simple in many ways. She lived with her hands in the ground.”

Eartha was way ahead of her time extolling the virtues of organic, green living when it was unfashionable to do so.

“I was never allowed to eat processed foods, I could only eat out of the garden.”

In the 1960s Eartha was more likely to be found tilling the soil of her Beverly Hills vegetable patch than selecting Ceylon sapphires at Cartier.

Kitt recalled her mother’s eternal wisdom: “She said ‘if you give me a piece of dirt then I will never go hungry. As long as I can plant a seed I can always have something to eat.”


Eartha’s philosophical “Kittisms” were imprinted on Kitt’s consciousness and left behind on thousands of pieces of paper as timely thoughts, momentary ideas and resonant phrases that she had plucked from life and the ether during her 81 years on earth.

Eartha always told her daughter: “God may not be there when you want him but he’s always on time”. Kitt now has Eartha’s maxim ‘Don’t Panic’ tattooed on her right wrist.

“I started to realise that I had all of this knowledge, all of her philosophy.”

People responded well to the “Kittisms” Kitt posted on the Eartha Kitt Facebook page, so when she hired a branding team, the synergy of Eartha’s images and words came together organically.

Kitt channelled her mother’s memories of growing up on a South Carolina cotton plantation. “She was simply of the earth, from the earth, Eartha being her given name so I came up with Simply Eartha® because she was so simple.” Kitt said of her then recently launched tribute lifestyle brand, whose first offerings were tumbled stone coasters and canvas wall art featuring Eartha’s image and hand-written Kittisms®.

All of the products are proudly made in the USA; “I can’t put my mother’s face on a Made In China product: she’d come back and haunt me!” Kitt joked.

Kitt and I appraised the ease and disadvantages of sourcing materials and manufacturing the range in the US. “Apparently there are no silkworms in the US, I don’t understand why.” Kitt dead-panned.

She lamented the fact I shared: African-American Miss Ruth Lowery started a silk industry in mid-nineteenth century Alabama and won many international awards before her untimely death ended what would have been an empowering trade.

I enquired as to the whereabouts of the many portraits Eartha had been gifted of herself over the years: “Anything that had her signature or had personally touched her I have not given up.”


Kitt treasures all of Eartha’s possessions and keeps her chinchilla bedspreads and ashes close by. “I like having her essence around.”

Being a fragrance aficionado, I asked Kitt The Holy Grail question: What was Eartha Kitt’s signature scent? “Garlic.”

Kitt chuckled, Eartha loved to cook and remained true to her Southern roots: Collard greens, sweet potatoes and fried chicken were her favourites.

Whilst discussing Diaporean cultures and indigenous art – Aboriginal art was Eartha’s favourite – Kitt said “My mother felt that artists were the true diplomats of the world, they’re the ones who could really cross boundaries more than politicians ever could.”

I asked Kitt about the 1968 furore and career derailment resulting from Eartha speaking out against the Vietnam War to the face of the First Lady at a White House luncheon. “Now you have more and more people who are willing to take the risk because you tend to have a voice, the ability to be more open, but back in the ’60s and ’50s, especially as a black woman, no one was really going to listen to you.

She said her piece and made her mark and did so very quietly and in a regal way. She didn’t stand up on the soap box and scream and yell and insist that people change she made the changes on her own very quietly.”

Eartha’s unique enunciation rang in my ears when Kitt uttered the term “apartheid” when recalling her mother’s maverick 1974 performance before integrated audiences in South Africa which raised essential funds for the building of black schools.

Eartha Kitt can rest in peace and reign immortal in the assurance that Kitt Shapiro is the best earthbound ambassador she could ever have wished for. “I’m blessed having a famous parent. I get to hear her voice and see her in many ways…”

“My daughter

Mirrors cannot hold the image of you I hold in my eyes

I will bring the skies down to earth for you

The feelings I have for you are etched upon my heart and soul.”


© W. O. Adeyemi/ AFRICA: Seen & Heard Ltd and africaseenheard.wordpress.com, 2017. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to W. O. Adeyemi, AFRICA: Seen & Heard and africaseenheard.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.



RUMINATE on the wisdom of Tehuti aka Hermes Trismegistos in The Virgin of the World, by Anna Kingsford and Edward Maitland, [1884] http://www.sacred-texts.com/eso/vow/vow29.htm

SEE Eartha Kitt’s expression as she recalls the CIA branding her a “sadistic, nymphomaniac” and launching their career blacklisting campaign

HEAR more about Eartha’s courage and conviction to speak the Truth and use her power for the benefit of communities and society

LEARN how to make peace with your past and transcend adversity to be the best version of your Self

FEEL the spirit of a woman in full possession of her soul and her immortal message about Love 

EXPERIENCE the difference between Art and Artifice within the Entertainment Industry

APPRECIATE Eartha Kitt’s Honesty, Integrity and her Insightful and Empowering ruminations

CHERISH a piece of Simply Eartha merchandise and the maxims they capture. After the interview Kitt sent A:S&H a set of coasters in truly sisterly spirit. The gift was much appreciated and inspired a cocktail that made work pleasure: https://twitter.com/AFRICASeenHeard/status/312615443850465280 available from: http://www.simplyeartha.com

The original published article http://www.voice-online.co.uk/article/life-after-death-iconic-mother

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