What started as an after school job for Léopoldine Doualla-Bell has turned out to be a very honourable thing!!
Her job as a ground hostess with UAT which later merged into Union de Transport Aériens or UTA; the airline that along with Air France served France's African routes gave her a real start into the aviation industry. She stayed on for 2 years and after graduating from high school in 1956 at the age of 17, Léopoldine was recruited and sent to Paris for flight training by Air France.
By 1960, she was snapped up by Air Afrique, her stellar credentials as an African with French aviation experience helped her stand out so much she became the airline's first official hire (her badge was no. 001!!)
She vividly remember her first flight at the tender age of 17..."I was yelling and screaming and [the other flight attendant] was telling me to calm down." she recalls, laughing at the memory of the first time she experienced soaring amid the cloyds in an airplane. "I kept thinking, what if I die?"
Despite many bouts of racism and sexism, Léopoldine continued to perform her duty gracefully. She finally hung her air hostess boots in 1969 when she left Air Afrique to become a manager for its subsidiary company.
In celebration of the 40th anniversary of the Black Flight Attendants of America, Léopoldine was honoured yesterday for her years of service at the Flight Path Museum at the Los Angeles International Airport.
Léopoldine Doualla-Bell Smith from the royal Douala Manga Bell family currently resides in Denver, Colorado with her spouse LeRoy Smith enjoying her family life with her grandchildren.
What a great role model...sticking to it despite the challenges. We wonder if this great honour has even been announced on Cameroon news yet?! Have the papers reported this?!
Credit: NBC News