I must admit the name Tessa Prendergast isn't familiar to me at all. I actually stumbled upon her name while looking up Black actors and actresses.
Tessa was a Jamaican actress who was born in 1928. She was also a businesswoman, and fashion designer.
Towards the end of the 1950's with approximately 4 films and a divorce under her belt she decided to leave acting behind and become a fashion designer. She started a clothing design business with Liz de Lisser in Montego Bay, Jamaica.
In 1962 something normal happened but it would later turn into movie history.
That year a low budget movie called Dr. No was being filmed. It was the first James Bond film.
An unknown Swiss actress, Ursula Andress arrived in Jamaica for filming but costumes weren't ready. The producers asked Tessa for help. She designed a belted white bikini that would fit Ursula's body like a glove.
The scene in the film when Ursula comes out of the ocean wearing the bikini made movie history. Back then not that many women wore bikinis so some consider that one scene as the beginning of the sexual revolution.
Ursula herself has stated: "This bikini made me into a success. As a result of starring in Dr. No as the first Bond girl, I was given the freedom to take my pick of future roles and to become financially independent."
Halle Berry wore a similar bikini, an orange one, in the 2002 James Bond film, Die Another Day to pay homage to the famous white bikini from the first Bond film.
But even Halle Berry can't compete with the original !
Tessa would later get married again and move back to London. In the 1970’s she owned a private members only drinking club and continued to run it until she died on July 9th 2001.
Ironically the same year she died her famous white bikini was auctioned off at the famous Christie’s auction house.
Sadly, with Tessa, as with the case of a lot of black people in Hollywood, if you’re not super famous who may disappear from movie history to the point where only bits and pieces of your life are found on the internet.
But the next time you watch that bikini scene from Dr. No remember it was a "Sistah" that made it all possible!
Films Starring Tessa :
- Song of Paris, a/k/a Bachelor in Paris (1952)
- His Majesty O'Keefe (1954)
- Helen of Troy (1956)
- Manfish (1956)