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The month of June presents a special time to appreciate Black music, for in 1979, President Jimmy Carter declared it Black Music Month. While the sixth month of the year usually sheds a light on artists, we went a little deeper and looked at a melanin queen that made history though a music video.

Remember Ola Ray from Michael Jackson’s Thriller.

The mini-movie is a cultural classic and the first of its kind to be directed by a Hollywood movie director, John Landis (National Lampoon’s Animal House). Not to mention, costed half a million dollars to make, which was an unspeakable number in 80s. But the 13-minute visual is known for more than Jackson’s signature red jacket, dancing zombies, and his gorgeous but scared arm candy. Her name is Ola Ray.

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Ray’s curly mane, red lips, and denim on denim set with a striking red top and heels are iconic in its own right.

The now 58-year old actress was a former Playmate in the 1980 June issue and while she had the looks to be Jackson’s front-woman, her risqué past almost cost her the gig.

“I auditioned a lot of girls and this girl Ola Ray — first of all, she was crazy for Michael,” Landis told Vanity Fair in 2010. “Such a great smile. I didn’t know she was a Playmate.”

However, Jackson reportedly took a real liking to her.

“He seemed taken by the fact that I was a Playboy model,” Ray told the Sunday Mirror in 2012. “I said, ‘Michael, she’s a Playmate, but so what? She’s not a Playmate in this.’ He went, ‘O.K., whatever you want.’ I have to tell you, I got along great with Michael.”

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We’re so glad he did. Ray and Jackson truly light up the screen in the 13-minute long video. Between her sweet smile, stylish threads, and her famous shriek, Ray was and always will be an integral part of what is one of the most iconic music videos — if not the most — of all time. 

According to reports, she currently lives in Sacramento, Calif. with her kids and grandchildren.

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