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Goodbye to an icon: ‘DC’s Hat Lady,’ Ms. Vanilla Beane, dies at 103

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OCTOBER 25, 2022

The District of Columbia said goodbye to an icon on Tuesday. The woman affectionately known as “D.C.’s Hat Lady,” Ms. Vanilla Beane, has died at the age of 103, Mayor Muriel Bowser’s office said.

Beane was known for her talents in crafting elaborate hats, turning her passion into a longtime business in the District.

Even after celebrating her centennial birthday in September of 2019, Beane continued spraying, molding and crafting elegant hats by hand.

In September, Mayor Muriel Bowser presented Beane with the 2022 Award for Distinguished Honor at the 27th Annual Mayor’s Arts Awards.

Combining grace, elegance, and longevity, Ms. Vanilla Beane embodied Black excellence. Her talents have been on display in our city since I was just a little girl. No matter the occasion or the outfit, whether she was designing for a neighbor or a civil rights icon like Dorothy Height, Ms. Beane always knew how to make the perfect hat. I was honored to celebrate her at this year’s Mayor’s Arts Awards, and now her story is a part of DC’s story. She was DC’s Hat Lady. She was a mother, a grandmother, and a great grandmother. She was an inspiration for generations of Black women and for anyone who ever thought about turning their talent into a business that you love so much you stay at it into your hundreds. Rest in heaven, Ms. Beane. We will miss your beautiful soul and the beauty you brought to this world. Today, we send our love and prayers to Ms. Beane’s family and all who will miss her.

Combining grace, elegance, and longevity, Ms. Vanilla Beane embodied Black excellence. Her talents have been on display in our city since I was just a little girl. No matter the occasion or the outfit, whether she was designing for a neighbor or a civil rights icon like Dorothy Height, Ms. Beane always knew how to make the perfect hat. I was honored to celebrate her at this year’s Mayor’s Arts Awards, and now her story is a part of DC’s story. She was DC’s Hat Lady. She was a mother, a grandmother, and a great grandmother. She was an inspiration for generations of Black women and for anyone who ever thought about turning their talent into a business that you love so much you stay at it into your hundreds. Rest in heaven, Ms. Beane. We will miss your beautiful soul and the beauty you brought to this world. Today, we send our love and prayers to Ms. Beane’s family and all who will miss her.

Beane was born Vanilla Powell, but married a man with the last name Beane.

Hard work was part of her success for decades.

She opened her shop, Bené Millinery, in northwest D.C. more than 40 years ago and made countless hats including for civil rights icon Dorothy Height.

“A lot of them wear them to church, or an outfit they come in to match completes the outfit,” she previously told 7News. “And it just makes you feel good.”

Beane even has a hat in the National Museum of African American History and Culture.  She also met former President Barack Obama and D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser

“You have to be happy to keep going,” Beane once said.


Courtesy/Source: WJLA-Washington DC

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