Jeni LeGon — who began her musical-theater career at age 13, was known for wearing pants when all the other female dancers wore skirts and battled what she called “frank racism” as one of the first African-American women to develop a career as a tap soloist — died Friday at age 96, the Vancouver Sun reports.
LeGon was born in Chicago and landed her first job in musical theatre at age 13, the start of a career that brought her to Los Angeles, London and New York.
She played several leading roles in films, toured with the U.S. Army and performed in clubs and theatres internationally, performing with stars like dancer Bill Robinson and jazz pianist Fats Waller.
LeGon was described by People magazine in 2005 as a pioneer of Black Hollywood, who “battled frank racism, stereotype-constrained casting and on-set segregation to achieve memorable art and pave the way to put us where we are today. She also told the magazine that Fred Astaire, with whom she had danced a decade before, snubbed her in 1947 after she was cast as a maid in Easter Parade.
Read more at the Vancouver Sun.