Eartha Kitt – the international gay icon remembered for her sex-kitten cabaret performances, distinctive voice and catlike purr – passed away on Christmas Day at the age of 81.

An actress, singer and dancer, Kitt was born on a cotton plantation in South Carolina and claimed to be of Cherokee, African-American and European descent.

She is much loved for her rendition of the song Santa Baby and her role as Catwoman in the 1960s Batman TV series.

She performed on Broadway, recorded more than 20 albums, sang in ten languages and was nominated for Tony, Emmy and Grammy awards.

In addition to appearing in numerous films and television shows and earning fame as a cabaret star in nightclubs in Europe and the US, Kitt found a new gay audience in 1984 with her disco song, Where Is My Man – her biggest hit.

In tribute to her large gay fan base she often gave fund-raising performances for HIV/AIDS organisations and causes.

She continued to perform right up to the end, despite battling colon cancer. She most recently filmed a television special six weeks ago.

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