Black History Month Spotlight: Esther Jones

Black History Month Spotlight: Esther Jones

(KFVS) - February is Black History Month, and in the spotlight for February 15, 2016 is Esther Jones, the inspiration for the iconic cartoon character Betty Boop.

Jones was a jazz singer in Harlem who performed regularly at the Cotton Club in the 1920s.

Her trademark vocal style using "boops" and other childlike sounds lead to her becoming known as "Baby Esther".

Jones met cartoonist Max Fleischer in 1930, who created the caricature a cartoon character who's voice sounded a lot like Baby Esther's and who's named obviously borrowed from Esther's signature, "Boop oop a doop."

Another singer, Helen Kane, sued Fleischer in 1932 claiming the cartoonist created Betty Boop in her likeness. Fleischer provided film of Jones performing, proving Kane had actually developed her style of singing after Baby Esther.  The courts decided that Kane did not have exclusive rights to the "booping" style, and ruled in Fleischer's favor.

Betty Boop's curvy figure, revealing clothing and signature vocals helped her become the first and most famous sex symbol in animation.

Esther's "baby style" did little to push her into the mainstream, and she died in relative obscurity.

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