Best Known For
Mae West started in Vaudeville and on the stage in New York, and later moved to Hollywood to star in films known for their blunt sexuality and steamy settings.
Think you know about Biography?
Answer questions and see how you rank against other players.Play Now
Born on August 17, 1893, in Brooklyn, New York, Mae West hit her Hollywood stride in her late 30s, when she might have been considered in her "advanced years" for playing sexy harlots, but her persona and physical beauty overcame any doubt. The blunt sexuality of her films aroused the wrath and moral indignation of several groups, but this sexuality is what she is remembered for today.
"It is better to be looked over than overlooked."
"Between two evils, I always pick the one I never tried before."
"There are no good girls gone wrong—just bad girls found out."
Born Mary Jane West on August 17, 1893, in Brooklyn, New York, to Matilda and John West. Family members called her Mae (spelled May at the time) from an early age. Matilda, also known as "Tillie," was a German immigrant and aspiring actress. But her parents' disapproval in career choices brought her dreams down to a more realistic profession as a garment worker. However, she clandestinely abandoned her seamstress work for the less respectable, though somewhat more glamorous work, as a fashion model and never totally gave up the prospect of having some career in show business.
Mae's father was a prizefighter known around the Brooklyn area as "Battlin' Jack" West, not so much for this success in the ring as for his reputation for street brawling. When he wasn't fighting in authorized boxing matches, he was fighting in underground street fights or exhibiting his boxing prowess in pick up fights at Coney Island Amusement Park. Later, after he met Tillie, he worked as a "special policeman" (most likely as muscle for local business and crime bosses) and then as a private detective.
Mae West was the oldest of three children, but Mae was her mother's favorite from the beginning. With Mae, Tillie's childrearing was out of step with more the traditional Victorian methods of "children should be seen and not heard." Instead, she preferred to humor and coax Mae, rather than harshly discipline her. Mae quickly obliged with precocious and, at times, obstinate behavior.
West started to show signs of talent at the age of 3, mimicking family members and friends, much to the delight of her father and mother. While she was too young to understand the art of impersonation, she learned quickly about the power of commanding an audience. Tillie soon took Mae to plays and vaudeville performances where she was enthralled with the make-believe world of characters, dance, and musical acts. Throughout Mae's life, she would reminisce about the many legendary performers she saw in her youth, but one artist always stood out for her: African-American entertainer Bert Williams, whom she credits as her earliest influence. It was from Williams' performances that she learned the art of innuendo and double entendre, which he used in his act to mask his satire on race relations.
She made her first stage appearance at the age of 5 at a church social. While her home performances made her father proud, he wasn't too keen on her performing for the public. Tillie blithely ignored his concerns, and enrolled her in dance school at the age of 7. Soon she was appearing at amature night at the local burlesque theaters under the stage name "Baby May." After winning First Place and a $10 prize, her father became an ardent supporter, dragging her costume case to performances and sitting in the audience as her No.
profile name: Mae West profile occupation:
Sign in with Facebook to see how you and your friends are connected to famous icons.
Your Friends' Connections
Included In These Groups
Hair Dos and Don'ts 29 people in this group
What is it with celebrities and sex scandals? Like love and marriage, famous people and sex scandals just seem to go hand in hand. They're some of society's most powerful people, but these actors, politicians, athletes and musicians just can't seem to control their desires. These days it seems like if you open the closet of nearly any celebrity, some kind of (sexy) skeleton is sure to fall out. Here are the famous people who have had their naughty indiscretions—often plastered all over the front page of the newspaper.
Famous People Involved in Sex Scandals 105 people in this group
Despite their fame and fortune, celebrities aren't immune to all the problems that afflict ordinary people. The problems of drug and alcohol addiction plagues many stars, particularly those who enjoy hard-partying lifestyles. Fortunately, many talented individuals have been able to kick their addictions and lead healthy lives. Here are some celebs who have sobered up.
Sober Celebs 55 people in this group