Eartha Kitt’s Only Daughter, Kitt Shapiro, Pays Tribute to her Legendary Mother with Simply Eartha, a Lifestyle Collection of Accessories that Say Something
When the legendary entertainer Eartha Kitt died of colon cancer on Christmas Day in 2008, her only daughter, Kitt Shapiro had the unenviable task of going through her mother’s personal belongings. What she discovered in the Connecticut home were hundreds of pieces of paper with her mother’s words, pearls of wisdom that she has turned into a lifestyle brand of accessories that say something. Simply Eartha, formed in 2011, pays homage to the words, wisdom and beauty of the late, great Eartha Kitt, one of America’s original divas.
In a conversation with Posiedmag.com, Kitt Shapiro, a successful model who ran Eartha Kitt Productions for 25 years, shared her vision of Simply Eartha.
What is Simply Eartha? Simply Eartha is a lifestyle brand of accessories that say something. I use my mother’s words — my mother loved to write a lot and she loved to coin Kittisms, as I know many people have their isms –– and I’ve taken these words and put them and used them in designs for home accessories, candles, personal jewelry and scarves. Some of them use my mother’s actual handwriting. I have a scarf that I’ve done that uses her hand-drawn heart. So I’ve tried to keep the spirit of my mother’s words and her essence and translated them into these items.
How did Simply Eartha come about? My mother recycled and she repurposed everything, and we had a vegetable garden and everything was organic. She always would say to me: don’t throw anything away. You either find another use for it, you recycle it, you put it back into the earth. And, if it’s something of mine that I’ve done that I have created, it is for you to use after I leave this earth, for you to then take and do something with of your own. So I started to look around and said you know: What am I going to do with all these pieces of paper?
Her music, her pictures, her films, and television, those are always going to be accessible because everything’s available on the Internet or somewhere. But her words — the part of her that was truly who she was – are simply Eartha. She would say that I am just a cotton picker from South Carolina. And she picked cotton as a young girl. Even though she was a glamorous sort of diva, people would see she was happiest with her hands in her dirt in the garden, and with her animals. So it seemed to make sense to me that instead of calling it the Eartha Kitt Collection to make it Simply Eartha because it really is all about who she truly was. She really wanted only items made in the U.S. Simply Eartha items are all made in the United States by local artisans, some sole proprietors, and most of items are recycled or made of natural materials, and that really is a part of who she was and that’s something I’m staying true to.
What are Kittisms? She would love to say things like, “God may not be there when you want him, but he’s always on time,” “Don’t panic,” it doesn’t change a thing. She would say, “Never miss an opportunity to shut up,” because sometimes it’s important to just listen to the silence or listen to our own inner voices
They’re not necessarily earth-shattering statements, but what she found is that words are so important, and when you speak you should say what you mean and mean what you say. She didn’t like to use too many words. In fact, one of them I have on some stationary says, “Too many words,” because she felt people were so busy talking that a lot times they weren’t paying attention to what other people were saying or even hearing what they were saying. That’s what her Kittisms were, and if you worked with her, people often would know that she was sort of known for these Kittisms. Some of them obviously are things we’ve all heard before. But again, it just sort of reinforces those messages that are really important.
How many Kittisms are there? I use about five right now in different products, different items, but I have hundreds of them literally. Some of them in her own handwriting, some of them that she typed up, some of them she might have said and had been quoted in an article. When she died I went through all of her things and there were thousands of pieces of paper of hand-written notes, and some of them were journals and some of them were just notebook sheets that she’d torn out of notebooks. Some of were written on little post-its or even napkins. If an idea came to her she wrote it down. If she was venting, she would just write it down. She was an avid reader and writer. So I have just literally hundreds and hundreds of her sayings and words strewn throughout her belongings.
Tell me about Kitt Shapiro… Since her death, I have become a member of the board of directors for the Colon Cancer Alliance to bring attention to the need for screening and early detection for what is the second-largest cancer killer in the United States, which most people don’t realize. It’s one of the most preventable and curable when found early enough. It’s a very important thing for us all. We don’t talk about our colon. It’s not as sexy to talk about our colon as it is to talk about our breasts, but I’m going to try and change that.
For more information about Simply Eartha visit www.simplyeartha.com.
Written by Alicia Maxey Greene
Alicia Maxey Greene is a freelance writer in the New York City metropolitan area. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org
 The five Kittisms Kitt Shapiro currently uses as part of the Simply Eartha accessories are: Don’t Panic, My Flaws Make Me Who I Am, Just Thinking, Too Many Words and Never Miss An Opportunity To Shut Up.