In memoriam: Betty White
Anna Falk | Tuesday, January 11, 2022
2021 was a long and tumultuous year for many. After 365 days of hardship and turmoil, many received the new year with open arms. However, there is one important person who missed out on this opportunity.
On Dec. 31, Betty White died of natural causes at the age of 99 — only two and a half weeks away from her 100th birthday. While her death has undoubtedly saddened countless people around the world, her legacy lives on.
Betty Marion White, born on Jan. 17, 1922 in Oak Park, Ill., did not initially aspire to be an actress. In her early life, White aspired to be a park ranger, a dream cultivated by family vacations to the Sierra Nevada. However, women were not allowed to become forest rangers at that time, and so she had to look elsewhere. She had a passion for writing, and she discovered a talent for performing after writing and starring in a play for her high school.
After graduating, she spent her time singing, modeling and looking for acting work. She volunteered with the American Women’s Voluntary Services during World War II and afterwards found success on the radio.
Her radio time led her to television success on shows like “Hollywood on Television” and “Life with Elizabeth.” She eventually hosted three different shows with the same name — “The Betty White Show” — over the course of three time periods in the 1950s and 1970s. Through most of her television career, she helped to produce the shows she starred in and — when given the chance — made it a point to hire female directors.
Perhaps her most well-known roles on television were as a frequent game show guest for programs like “Password,” “What’s My Line?” and “Pyramid,” as well as her portrayals of characters like Sue Ann Nivens on CBS’ “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” and Rose Nylund on NBC’s “The Golden Girls.” Following these roles, she continued working in film and television even into her old age.
White has been lauded for her work throughout her career, receiving 57 award nominations and 27 wins, including eight Emmys, a Grammy, three SAG Awards and even a Teen Choice Award for her role in the 2009 film, “The Proposal.”
Along with her work in the media, she also was a prominent advocate for animal and civil rights. In 1954 on “The Betty White Show,” she regularly featured Black tap dancer Arthur Duncan. White was threatened that the show would be taken off the air if she didn’t fire Duncan, but White responded, “I’m sorry, but he stays … Live with it!” She has also been a known proponent of LGBTQ+ rights, starring in shows discussing LGBTQ+ issues and working alongside gay and lesbian actors.
Betty White was truly one of a kind. I’ve known of her presence in the media since I was little, and I’ve always been fond of her. She’s starred in a wide range of television series and movies, cementing her in Hollywood history. It’s never even been a question of whether or not Betty White was important — it’s always been a universal truth.
White did everything: She wrote books, sang songs, hosted radio shows, produced and starred in television shows, worked on movie sets, served as the Zoo Commissioner of the Greater Los Angeles Zoo Association and so much more.
Even still, after all of her hardships and the copious amount of work she put herself through, she remained a kind and loving woman who people across the globe looked up to. Her work in film and television and her advocacy for civil rights both on and off the screen will forever be remembered.