Tribute to Betty White

Illustration by Jaida Noble

She put her foot in the doors of entertainment and never left.

New Year’s Eve of 2021 will be a day that no one will forget, as it was the day we learned that the beloved Betty White died just shy of turning 100. White’s passing was a great loss in the entertainment industry, but from her death people are sharing and connecting with others who were also touched by her work. 

White is best known for her role in the show “The Golden Girls” where she played the lovable Rose, whose naive personality and spunk always made the audience laugh from the antics that she would get into. White played the character so well that seeing her play other characters seemed out of place, especially in some of the Saturday Night Live skits, but it just shows how open she was to playing different characters.

Some might not know that White started her entertainment career doing radio shows, first reading commercials and even singing or going on game shows. This eventually led her to appear on many radio shows and even having her own radio show called “The Betty White Show.” In the early ‘50s, White appeared in “Hollywood on Television”, where she started as a co-host but then began hosting herself in 1952, where she performed for five and a half hours of live television six days a week. 

During the same time she was hosting “Hollywood on Television”, she was also the star of a show called “Life With Elizabeth” where White played the main character. With this show, White was one of the first women who had full creative control in front of and behind the cameras. This was unusual for the 1950s, but it shows the creative and societal influence that White had as an entertainer, not to mention she was only 28 when she became the co-producer and owner of a television show.

Not only did White push boundaries in the production aspect of the entertainment industry, she continued to push boundaries on her television talk show “The Betty White Show” from 1952-1954. She was the first to feature an African American performer, ArthurArthur Duncan, on television. The show got criticism for having an African American as a regular on the show tap dancing.. White’s response was “I’m sorry. Live with it” and gave Duncan more time on the show. 

White would then continue on doing many game shows and talk shows like “Password”, “Match Game,” and “Pyramid,” just to name a few. White would also make appearances on shows like “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” “The Carol Burnett Show” and “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson.” In more entertainment, White was seen in “Boston Legal” as Catherine Piper, the soap opera “The Bold and the Beautiful” as Ann Douglas, “The Proposal” a romantic comedy with Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds, and the comical Snickers commercial for Super Bowl XLIV. 

White was an animal welfare advocate by donating, volunteering and fundraising for animals and the shelters. White fought against racial injustice like she did with Duncan and throughout her life. She also supported LGBTQ+ rights saying “If a couple has been together all that time – and there are gay relationships that are more solid than some heterosexual ones – I think it’s fine if they want to get married. I don’t know how people can get so anti-something. Mind your own business, take care of your affairs, and don’t worry about other people so much,” which she said in Parade magazine in 2010. 

In White’s 99 years, she received 57 award nominations and won a total of 27, five of them being Primetime Emmys. Betty White gave us so much during her time and put every ounce of herself into her work. She leaves a legacy full of laughs and we are lucky to have the technology to look back at all her work and continue to spread the joys of Betty White.

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