Historians say that in the 19th Century, women were the highest-paid circus performers, and Anna Olga Albertina Brown was no exception. Better known as Miss LaLa, she was an amazing powerful Black woman who broke through many racial barriers and dazzled audiences across Europe with her acrobatic feats.
Though LaLa was small, her strength was incredible. She worked in the troupes and became popular for her wire walking, trapeze, and other daring acts. Sources say she could lift three men simultaneously. It is also documented that she was good at doing “iron jaw” tricks, using her mouth and teeth to climb ropes and suspend herself from high places.
Born April 21, 1858, in the now-Polish city of Stettin and being of mixed parentage, her “exotic” look was often exploited by circus troupes. By that, ticket sales were increased. LaLa, who became known as “Olga The Negress,” “Cannon Woman,” “The Venus Of The Tropics” and other names, first appeared in the circus at the age of nine. It was at the age of 21, in France, that she found fame.
According to one account, she toured around countless circuses and music halls throughout Europe including the UK where she performed at London’s Royal Aquarium’s central hall and at Manchester’s Gaiety Theatre. In Paris, the audiences loved her because of her iron jaw act and she was often hailed as ‘La Venus Noire’.
In London, her “exotic” look birthed stories that LaLa was an African princess who lost her throne when her chiefs decided to pledge their allegiance to Queen Victoria. Those tales said she was subsequently sold into slavery and ended up in a circus in the South of France.
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