Ethel Waterswas an American blues, jazz and gospel singer and actress...
It has been an ache and a joy both to look over this big shoulder of mine at all my yesterdays.
We are all gifted. That is our inheritance.
Asking what I considered an impossible salary when I didn't want to work for someone has boosted my pay again and again.
When you dominate other people's emotions, the time has to come when you will have to pay, and heavily, for that privilege.
The big compliment came from the beer drinkers who didn't know me. They wouldn't drink or move when I sang. If they had their glasses in mid-air, the glasses wouldn't come down.
Nothing can beat the smell of dew and flowers and the odor that comes out of the earth when the sun goes down.
Today or any day that phone may ring and bring good news.
Mom never quit on me. My only regret is that she didn't live long enough to share some of the money and comforts my work in show business has brought me.
I have reason to be shy. I've been hurt plenty.
The white audiences thought I was white, my features being what they are, and at every performance I'd have to take off my gloves to prove I was a spade.
I wanted to be with the kind of people I'd grown up with, but you can't go back to them and be one of them again, no matter how hard you try.
I want affection and tenderness desperately, but there's something in me that prevents me from handing it out.
We never had a bathtub. Mom would bathe me in the wooden or tin washtub in the kitchen, or in a big lard can.
You are a person of the greatest importance when you are a mother of a family. Just do your job right and your kids will love you.
Negroes are human beings with exactly the same faults and virtues as members of the other races.
All the men in my life have been two things: an epic and an epidemic.
Basically there is no difference between whites and blacks, browns and yellows. I decided to think no more of people as Northerners and Southerners.
Elia Kazan understood my problems. He was able to bring out the very best in me. He gave me credit for my intelligence.
I've never been able to feel that there is anything undignified about making your living by the sweat of your brow.
I had always loved John Ford's pictures. And I came to love him, too, but I was frightened to death working for him. He used the shock treatment while directing me.
No one in the world can beat Ella Fitzgerald as a riff singer.
I cannot help feeling I would have been happier with a husband and chidren of my own.
I never felt I belonged. I was always an outsider.
There was one emotional outlet my people always had when they had the blues. That was singing.
I never accepted the idea that I was all through. I guess no person who has once been a star can do that, ever.
After years in white theaters I dreaded working in colored houses. The noise, the stomping, whistling, and cheering that hadn't annoyed me when I was young was now something I dreaded.
Mom was the greatest influence of my childhood. She wanted to save me from the vice, lust, and drinking that was all about me.
Whenever I played Columbus, Ohio, I dropped in to see my close friend, a medium who had mysterious powers. Her Indian guide was Mohawk.
I have no acting technique I act instinctively. That's why I can't play any role that isn't based on something in my life.
My whole family could sing. My family harmonized without any instruments to accompany them.
Somehow, the things my mother wanted to do, the release in evangelism she sought with such frenzy, were transferred to me.
I never was coddled, or liked, or understood by my family.
All my life I've been prejudiced against wealthy people.
New York is only 97 miles from Philadelphia but was the Big Time as no other American city has ever been.
There is a great supply of amateur undertakers in show business.
In her whole life Mom never earned more than five or six dollars a week. Being without a husband, it was hard for her to find any place at all for us to live.
Though I was excited about the Sojourner Truth play, it was not reassuring to think that my entire future might depend on the success of that one show.
If I wanted pity, I got it because I'm illegitimate. And when I didn't want it I was mean and nasty.
I have always been psychic. The walls of any room I walk into talk to me.
My father came back one day and forced my mother to submit to him. He raped her, holding a knife.
If whites bored me, it was because they bored themselves. They seemed to get little fun out of life and were desperately lonely.
I am an isolationist.
I never posed as a saint. I would have slept with a man for nothing if I liked him well enough.
There had been lots of crises in my life. And there was plenty of spunk and battle cry still left in me.
Though I was a Catholic, I recognized that Protestant churches had something.
I could depend a lot on my shaking, though I never shimmied vulgarly and only to express myself.
Today I blame only certain agents for my long eclipse as a public entertainer.
There's no hypocrisy in Hell's Kitchen.
I'm not afraid to die. I'm looking forward to it. I know the Lord has His arms wrapped around this big sparrow.
I wondered what I would do if I didn't have my God to turn to and be able to read the Book He had divinely inspired.
I was born out of wedlock. Nobody brought me up.
I know the most terrible thing that can happen to a woman. That is the gang-up. Men put you to sleep with their drops and one man after another goes in and takes you.
I had a probing mind and an elephant memory.
Twenty-five years is a long time for a girl to live out of a trunk, and after looking over a few houses, I fell in love with one in Southwest Los Angeles.
We show girls were forced to live in whorehouses in each town, no other accommodations being available.
What broke Mom's heart was realizing that her children knew nothing and cared nothing about the better side of life.
I don't care to dress up except when it is necessary or good for my business.
I could always open shows, perform through the middle, and close shows.
What impressed me most about New York were its huge apartment houses.
When I act I try to express the suffering or joy I've known during my lifetime.
When I first went on the stage I was 17 and under the legal age for performers.
I learned early in life not to judge others. We outcasts are very happy and content to leave that job to our social superiors.
There is a certain type of white Southerner who respects certain Negro individuals.
We miss a lot in life because we don't know when to quit, what to leave out.
Among Negroes it is a bad omen when someone knocks on the door of a house where a person has died.
The greatest acts in colored show business had long made Harlem their home and favorite stamping ground.
You are a person of the greatest importance when you are a mother of the family.
I dressed plain, but my partners were always spending more money on clothes than I could afford.
I found that a couple of bottles of beer would give me a lift, but the third bottle would sober me up.
My aunts lived on liquor and seldom felt like eating much. I don't know what's wrong about a kid stealing when he's hungry.
Only those who are being burned know what fire is like.
Many people know how to criticize, but few know how to praise.
I am somebody cause God don't make no junk
Whenever I write for hotel reservations, I always enclose a set of rules I have made for the hotels.
The first time I sang after my throat operation was one of the tensest times of my life. But my voice proved to have a clearer tone than ever before.