BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) – Everyone wants the opportunity to meet the next generation and inspire them to create, break barriers and strive for more. For 88-year-old Ketty Lester, that opportunity will be at the Comic Convention in Bakersfield this weekend.
The convention is a chance for Lester to travel, inspire one younger person and reunite with her old cast mates on “Little House on the Prairie,” where she plays teacher Hester-Sue Terhune, a role where she was one of the first black women on television.
Lester also was the first black woman on a daytime soap opera, which changed the course of television.
“I see a young black woman on television. I say I helped to put her there because I walked through the door,” said Lester.
Lester grew up in Arkansas, the granddaughter of a slave, singing through times of racism and hardship. Until she landed her biggest hit in 1962, Love Letters, a top five in the U.S. and U.K., becoming the signature piece that drove her career.
Love Letters’ success continued and signified Lester’s emergence as a rising star. She attributes Martin Luther King Jr. as an instrumental figure that motivated her to keep pushing for a black female vocalist and actress in a hard time.
“He said, ‘what about the average black woman?’ So, I became that average black woman. I opened that door for my people,” said Lester.
Looking back, this has led her to want to inspire the next generation.
“I’m not just here for nothing. I have worked, I have accomplished, I have opened doors for my people,” said Lester.
She hopes to share those tales with the generation of voices and minds attending the comic convention in Bakersfield who may not know her story but might have heard her voice or seen her on television but are still open to listening.
The 14th annual Comic Convention is at the Kern County Fairgrounds on Saturday, Nov. 19, and Sunday, Nov. 20.