Mercedes de Acosta: The great lover of women
While other lesbians made a mark in history for being writers, activists, and fighters, Mercedes de Acosta had a reputation of being a lover of famous women.
With her dashing figure, arresting profile, mannish clothes and tricorn hat, and her short hair, she once famously said: “I can get any woman from a man.”
However, de Acosta was no Casanova as her passion for her love for women eventually left her in relative poverty. When she once a wrote a memoir, her lovers disowned her for reportedly ‘outing’ them.
Mercedes de Acosta: A prominent family
Mercedes de Acosta was born in 1893 in New York City, coming from wealthy parents who were Spanish emigrants (and whose father came from Cuba).
The youngest among her siblings, Mercedes thought she was a boy until the age of 7, a perception encouraged by her parents.
When her parents sent her to a convent to teach her how to become feminine, she ran away.
According to Hugh Vickers, author of Loving Garbo: The Story of Greta Garbo, Cecil Beaton, and Mercedes de Acosta, Mercedes reportedly told the nuns: “I am not a boy and I am not a girl, or maybe I am both– I don’t know.”
“And because I don’t know, I will never fit in anywhere and I will be lonely all my life,” she added.
Though she married the wealthy portrait painter Abram Poole in 1920, the two divorced in 1935. When Abram had then proposed to her, she balked at first.
“I couldn’t make up my mind. As a matter of fact I was in a strange turmoil about world affairs, my own writing, suffrage, sex, and my inner spiritual development,” she wrote.
Mercedes de Acosta: The great lover
While Mercedes produced a number of written works– including several plays, a novel, and poetry– she was more known for her love affairs.
In fact, Mercedes wrote a couple of plays for Eva though both flopped.
When she went to Hollwyood in the 1930s, she met the great love of her life, Greta Garbo and the two immediately had an on-again, off-again relationship for more than a decade.
This was due to Greta’s domineering personality going against Mercedes’ clingy attachment. Because of this, Mercedes had relationships with other women, including Marlene Dietrich, Katharine Cornell, and Tallulah Bankhead.
Mercedes de Acosta: A tell-all book
In 1960, Mercedes published her autobiography, Here Lies the Heart, though she avoided any direct references to her same-sex loves.
However, several of the women mentioned in the book felt they were outed and severed their ties with Mercedes, including Greta and Eva.
Though she lived in “relative poverty and obscurity,” she still made new friends like with Andy Warhol. She died in New York in 1968.
As she once said: “I do not understand the difference between a man and a woman, and believing only in the eternal value of love, I cannot understand these so-called ‘normal’ people who believe that a man should love only a woman, and a woman love only a man.”
“If this were so, then it disregards completely the spirit, the personality, and the mind, and stresses all the importance of love to the physical body,” she added.