14: Miss Lala - The Iron Jawed Acrobat
There is a common misconception about Europe and Black people; that basically, there are no black people there other than maybe in London. As a first-generation West Indian born in London myself, I too fall victim to this strange phenomenon. Occasionally, a reader from Russia or as happened this week from Estonia will contact me and I'll think to myself “How on earth did black people get there?” Yea I know it’s dumb, but if you catch me on a miserable Monday morning, I’m liable to think anything. So, more to remind me than to educate anyone else that we are a global people, this particular slice of history is from Poland via Germany. Let me introduce you to Miss Lala also know as, Olga Kaira, “Olga the Mulatto”, “Olga the Negress”, “The Venus of the Tropics”, “The Cannon Woman” and “The African Princess.”
Miss Lala was born Anna Olga Albertina Brown to Wilhelm Brown and Marie Christine Borchardt, on April 21, 1858, in the former German (but now Polish) city of Stettin (Szczecin).
Miss Lala though possessed incredible strength, an all-around circus performer she worked at various times as a wire walker, trapeze artist, hand balancer, strong woman and incredibly enough an iron jaw performer.
She first appeared in the circus aged 9 and found fame aged 21 in France. She toured around Europe eventually finding her way to London where she performed at the Royal Aquarium and Manchester's Gaiety Theatre.
Lala was part of the troupe called Folies Bergère and the Keziah Sisters. She partnered with another strength acrobat called Theophila Szterker/Kaira la Blanche. Together they were known as Les Deux Papillons (The two butterflies).
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