Best known for her iconic voice and sultry persona, Broadway actress and singer Eartha Kitt has died at the age of 81.
The “Santa Baby” singer died on Christmas Day (December 25) in Connecticut, according to a statement from family spokesperson Andrew Freedman. Kitt, who recently underwent treatments at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital in New York, died of colon cancer.
Kitt’s career spanned six decades, beginning with her appearance in the 1948 film “Casbah” with the Katherine Dunham Company dance troupe. In following years, she gained renown for her recognizable voice, releasing her best known song “Santa Baby” in 1953.
An outspoken opponent of the Vietnam War, Kitt became a cultural icon in the 1960s, though she was temporarily blacklisted from performing due to her sentiments. She kicked off her triumphant Broadway career in 1978 with “Timbuktu!” and starred in national touring companies for “The Wizard of Oz” as the Wicked Witch of the West and “Cinderella” as the Fairy Godmother.
Despite her recent battle with cancer, Kitt remained an active performer, offering her talents to a number of film and television projects, including the animated role of Yzma for Disney’s 2000 film “The Emperor’s New Groove.” The South Carolina-born actress reprised the role from 2006 through 2008 on the daytime cartoon “The Emperor’s New School,” for which she won a Daytime Emmy Award in 2007 and 2008.