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  • Yma Sumac didn't speak the Quechua language. She merely memorized it for her songs. Composer-husband Moises Vivanco knew the language, however.

 

  • Yma Sumac's father was half Spanish.

 

  • She had a very unusual -sometimes startling - Snow White-like relationship with the animal kingdom in real life.

 

  • Although plastered all over the internet, books, magazines and newspapers as fact, Sumac never remarried Moises Vivanco after their 1957 divorce. Therefore there was no 1965 “second divorce.” The announcement of a 1959 reconciliation was a publicity stunt conjured up by Vivanco.

 

  • Argentina, Brazil, and Mexico gave Yma Sumac her greatest recognition pre-international career (1943 to 1946). Her first recordings were made in Argentina (Peruvian folk music) and her first performance of an operatic aria was sung in Brazil in 1944, at the Inauguration of the Quitandinha Hotel. Sumac sang an aria from Donizetti's L'elisir d'amore while dressed as Lucrecia Borgia.

 

  • Sumac was born in El Callao and not Cajamarca. However, she spent most all of her childhood in Cajamarca in the village of Ichocan and did not discover her El Callao birth until she found her birth certificate in her mother's belongings. Her parents didn't want her to feel “left out”, as most of her siblings were born in Cajamarca. But she wasn't.

 

  • Yma Sumac considered herself an "international performer."

 

  • Her 1950 debut album Voice of the Xtabay is one of the few albums in the world to never go out of print, so important is it to the history of recorded vocals.

 

  • The Diva was not actually the first Latina on Broadway, despite claims on the internet. Lupe Velez (1932), Margo (1936), Carmen Miranda (1939) and Diosa Costello (1940) preceded her.

 

  • Frank Sinatra did not open for Yma Sumac, ever, despite the odd claim in recent "internet revelations." However, they did perform on the same show in 1971 at the famed Hollywood Bowl and she appeared on his television show in 1952.

 

  • The Diva sang for over 20 million people during her 1960-61 tour of the Soviet Union.

 

  • Yma Sumac named all of her dogs “Cholito” and most all were white Maltese. She had one per decade usually, and all were rescues.

 

  • She was 5'3” tall and had green eyes.

 

  • Doris Day, Maria Callas, Dionne Warwick, Barbra Streisand and Diana Ross were among Sumac's favorite female singers. Marlene Dietrich was her childhood idol, but Bette Davis was her favorite dramatic actress.

 

  • Famed Italian director Vittorio de Sica was in love with Yma Sumac in 1952 and '53. She was flattered but married.

 

  • Sumac's favorite places to visit were Paris and Spain.

 

  • Sumac married only once and never dated before or after the marriage.

 

  • The Diva loved hats, scarves and turbans despite having beautiful thick black Indian hair.

 

  • Los Angeles, California was her home from 1950 to 2008. New York before that, and various places in South America in her earliest years.

 

  • Fellow true originals and pop culture icons, Vampira, Eartha Kitt and Bettie Page, all passed away the same year as Yma Sumac (2008).

 

  • Rudolph Valentino, Judy Garland, infamous mobster Bugsy Seigel, iconic movie director Cecil B DeMille, Douglas Fairbanks Jr and Sr. and cult goddess Vampira all reside at Hollywood Forever Cemetery with Yma Sumac.

 

  • Yma Sumac never sang her wildly popular songs “Gofer Mambo” and “Taki Rari” live. Ever. She did not consider them important to her repertoire, and only sang “Malambo #1” live a handful of times in 1954 and '55.

 

  • Sumac was not related to Cholita Rivero. That was a Capitol Records publicity move.

 

  • Despite being Peruvian, the Diva was not particularly celebrated in Peru, especially after becoming an American Citizen in 1955 (she had lived in the U.S. for 9 years by that time). After much conflict during a 1965 visit and more in 1973 visit, she did not return for 33 years.

 

  • She was not “Amy Camus from Brooklyn.” She really was Peruvian born. Famed columnist Walter Winchell said it as a passing joke in 1951, and wicked gossip columnist Dorothy Kilgallen took it seriously, thus perpetuating the rumor. Unfortunately the rumor became a part of Sumac folklore for the rest of her life.

 

  • “Augusta” was not part of Yma Sumac's birth name. She added it later feeling it added prestige. Her birth name was Zoila Emperatriz Chavarri. “Del Castillo” - her mother's last name – was not included on the Diva's birth certificate but is often added when spoken or written about today.

  • Her original stage name of Imma Sumack was not part of her mothers name as often claimed, but was made up to hide from her parents the fact that she was singing in Lima on the radio instead of studying. A sister eventually informed the parents the beautiful voice of “Imma Sumack” was actually Emperatriz! They were not pleased. At first.

  • In 2010 high fashion V Magazine declared Yma Sumac one of the top 10 most important international fashion icons of all time.

 

  • Yma Sumac's final concert was in 1997 at the famed Montreal International Jazz Festival.

 

  • In late 2020 Apple used Sumac's “Gofer Mambo” in a iPhone 12 promo commercial.

 

  • Yma Sumac had a 4 ½ (four and a half) octave voice range. Under perfect circumstances she could reach 5.

 

  • Yma Sumac's scenes in Secret of the Incas were all filmed in Hollywood, CA on the Paramount Studio lot. The Machu Picchu scenery in her scenes was styrofoam and plastic plants. Her 3 pre-recorded songs were selections from her now-iconinc Xtabay album.

  • Until the mid 1960's the Diva had a 22 inch waist (when dressed).

 

 

  • Sumac loved nightclubs, but rarely drank. She loved the Mocambo and Ciro's (both in West Hollywood, CA) and Bimbo's (in San Francisco, CA).

 

  • Yma Sumac incorporated operatic arias in most all of her 1950's and early 60's concerts, but was never interested in performing in a full scale opera.

Little known facts about the Diva.....

TRIVIA
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