When African-American entertainer Josephine Baker first arrived in Paris in 1925, her dancing to the ‘jazz hot’ of La Revue nègre was, famously, perceived as ‘primitive’. But her 1934 performances in Offenbach’s La Créole completed the construction – and tested the limits – of a complex redefinition of Baker as French. Substantially revised, the operetta in effect staged her own assimilation, a new black character serving as a foil for the ‘creole’ Josephine and marking her as ‘in-between’. If most observers saw Baker’s transformation as an affirmation of France’s civilising mission, the few dissenters paradoxically risked insisting on her difference in terms of an essentialised blackness. Recognising both personas as ‘performative’ relocates Baker’s agency. It helps move beyond fixed racial categories to dynamic cultural processes: ‘creolisation’.