It is hard to think of a boundary Tina Turner didn’t break.
She annihilated the dichotomy between R&B and rock ’n’ roll. She showed it was possible not only to tell the story of being a wife who endured spousal abuse, but to transcend victimhood and make it into art.
But with that hair (usually wigs, but who cares?), those legs, that growl, and an endless supply of beaded dresses, Ms. Turner, who died on Wednesday at 83, also was a potent style icon and enduring sex symbol — one whose prime did not even really begin until 1984, when, at 44, she released the album “Private Dancer,” and it sold five million copies.
Many of her stage costumes were designed by Bob Mackie, the man who is best known as Cher’s partner in kitsch but with Ms. Turner accomplished something wholly different.
Mr. Mackie and Ms. Turner were introduced by Cher. In 1977, shortly before Tina and Ike Turner’s divorce was finalized, the two divas performed together — in identical, flaming gold dresses by Mr. Mackie — on “The Sonny & Cher Show.”
After that, Mr. Mackie became an essential part of Ms. Turner’s entourage, designing one get-up after another for a touring career that stretched until 2009, by which point she was on the verge of turning 70.
Jean jackets came and jean jackets went, but beads were omnipresent: They usually shimmered, little was loose, and the legs — simply the best — could not be hidden. When she sang, in “Proud Mary,” that “we’re going to do it nice and rough,” she could very well have been describing her visual style.
Her singular ability to look ferocious while being a relentless transmitter of hope and empathy set her up equally well to become both an author of best-selling self-help books and the villain in two campy cult classics: “The Who’s Tommy” and “Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome.”
It is impossible to look at electric deities like Mary J. Blige and Beyoncé, with their blond-ish hair, glistening costumes and anthems of resistance, without recognizing an influence that perhaps begins with, but certainly does not end in, sparkles.
Jacob Bernstein is a reporter for the Styles desk. In addition to writing profiles of fashion designers, artists and celebrities, he has focused much of his attention on L.G.B.T. issues, philanthropy and the world of furniture design. @bernsteinjacob
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