The jazz legend says she’s honored!
Collins was born in Edmonton, a city located in Alberta, Canada, before moving to British Columbia. During the 1930s, she began her career as a performer, appearing on television and radio shows across the country and working with a number of notable acts including Dizzy Gillespie and jazz pianist Oscar Peterson. By 1954, Collins landed a role as a cast member on CBC’s Bamboula: A Day in the West Indies, the first interracial cast featured on Canadian television. In 1955, she starred in "The Eleanor Show," making history as the first female Canadian singer and first Black artist to headline their own national TV series. Now the jazz pioneer is being honored for her contributions in a new commemorative stamp by the Canada Post.
Photo Courtesy of Canada Post
The 102-year-old legend spoke about the honor, saying, “My picture on a postage stamp? Can you repeat that? You know, it’s just so surreal.”
An unveiling of the stamp recently happened virtually, showing the color stamp with a closeup of Collins’ face illustrated by David Belliveau, inspired by a photograph taken of Collins in her heyday from photographer and friend, Franz Lindner. On the stamp, she’s dressed in a white collared blouse, her ears adorned with gems as she gazes to her left. To the side of the main image is a silhouette of Collins singing at a microphone.
“It just took my breath away. It was so stunning, so striking,” Collins said.
During the unveiling ceremony, Collins was celebrated by fellow artists and former colleagues alike. Many spoke about how much Collins influenced their own work including Nalda Callender of the National Congress of Black Women Foundation, filmmaker Sylvia Hamilton, and artists Sharman King, Marcus Mosely, and Wendy Solloway.
Collins has received a number of awards over the course of her life, including an induction into the Order of Canada on her 95th birthday in 2014 for her work as “a civic leader and pioneer in the development of British Columbia’s music industry.” However, Collins said it was never her intention to receive accolades, she just wanted to be a role model for people to look up to. Collins credits music as not only helping her do that, but as a safe haven for the Black community during otherwise tumultuous times.
“I see for my people, it was a…safe place to live, a safe place to be together because the harsh world outside there do not approve of us,” she said. Her message now is simple, encouraging others to just do their best and live a life worthy of honor.
“Bring your very best, every day of your life. Let history tell you what it was they thought they saw,” said Collins.
Thank you for your contributions, Mother Collins. You are appreciated!
Photo Courtesy Franz Lindner/CBC/Canada Post