Born Sonya Kalish to a Jewish family en route to a new life in America from Tsarist Russia in
Sophie Tucker would become one of the greatest and most beloved entertainers of the 20th
The singer, comedian, TV, film and radio personality grew from humble roots in Hartford,
where her family appropriated the last name Abuza and opened a restaurant. In addition to
maintain the family business, Sophie began singing for tips at an early age and discovered her
powerful voice and innate knack for entertaining.
At 16, Sophie married local heartthrob Louis Tuck (from whom she would derive her famous last
and soon after gave birth to her son, Bert. The rocky marriage and jump into motherhood exposed
Sophie to a bleak future ahead if she chose to stay close to home and abandon her theatrical
With heartbreaking determination, Sophie left her child to be raised by her younger sister, Anna
left Hartford for New York City. With just $90 in her pocket, Sophie was determined to make a
for herself and find success that would allow her to give back to her beloved family.
The harsh reality of roughing it in New York didn’t faze the ingénue and, after pounding the
and pinching pennies, Sophie eventually found work performing vaudeville and burlesque tunes in
local establishments. However, being pegged “too fat and ugly” to perform as herself, Sophie was
restricted to performing in blackface as a “coon shouter.” While she made a name for herself
this act, a happy accident which left her without her makeup kit one day in 1909 forced Sophie
on stage naturally – that is, as natural as a full-figured girl in a sequined ball gown and
curls can be. The crowd adored the real Sophie, and though the disguise was gone for good, she
continue to draw on ragtime, blues, and jazz influences, which were primarily African American
genres at the time.
After a brief but acclaimed stint in the legendarily extravagant Ziegfeld Follies, Sophie gained
traction that would send her on the road until her death from lung cancer in 1966. Amassing an
extraordinary fan base, Tucker enjoyed the success of many popular recordings, most notably
including My Yiddish Momme and Some of These Days, the latter of which became the title of her
autobiography. Sophie appeared in several films during her lengthy career, including one of the
first “talkies,” Honky Tonk, in 1929, and alongside Judy Garland in 1937’s Broadway Melody of
Deemed “The Last of the Red Hot Mamas,” Tucker was adored for her candor, bold sense of humor,
powerful voice, and unwavering energy as a performer and as a woman. Sophie never fit the
Hollywood beauty mold, but presented herself and her body in an empowering way that shut down
preconceptions or superficial standards.
Sophie continues to be celebrated as a groundbreaking entertainer and transcendent example of the