8 min 18sec (looped)
Korla Pandit, the dreamy-eyed television performer in Los Angeles in the 1940s and 50s, was, according to press releases from the time, born in New Delhi, India, the son of a Hindoo government worker and a French opera singer. Korla was said to have studied music in England, then later moved to the United States, where he went on to become one of the first colored television stars in the country––an exotic, mystic performer from the land of snake charmers and fakirs.
It was only following his death in 1998, that it was discovered that Korla was in fact, John Roland Redd, the light-skinned African American son of Ernest and Doshia O’Nina Redd, born in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1921, where he lived for much of his life, before moving to California and reinventing himself as the TV star Korla Pandit.
John’s passing as Korla, was less an act of deception and more one of survival––conceived in order to navigate the existing racism in the United States, especially the deep intolerance of a segregated South.