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Who’s Who in BurlyQ: Toni Elling

Toni EllingThe elegant and classy Toni Elling is a burlesque icon who broke down many barriers as an African-American woman performing in the 1960s and 1970s. Born in 1929 and raised in Detroit, Michigan, Elling worked as a telephone operator for nine years before her big career switch. Reportedly fed up with being passed over for promotions based on the color of her skin, the 32-year-old Elling decided to pursue burlesque at a time when many of her peers were retiring from the tassel twirl.

Toni Elling

Elling derived her stage name from her famed friendship with jazz great Duke Ellington, and is affectionately called “the Satin Doll” and “The Duke’s Delight”. She also hung out with Ella Fitzgerald, Sammy Davis Jr., Jackie Wilson, and boxer Joe Lewis, to name a few...

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