Wednesday, June 29, 2022

GAY PRIDE-CRYSTAL LaBEIJA


"Don't you darling me darling!"

How can we have Pride Month without mention of Crystal LaBeija. She was so fabulous. So delicious. So catty and witty and didn't take shit from anyone. When I first saw the documentary, The Queen, I was drawn to her immediately, so much so, when I started doing drag, I almost considered the name Madeline LaBeija. Crystal was a proud Black trans woman, a drag mother and a pageant girl. She was myth, legend and over the top fabulous. And she was a force to be reckoned with. Crystal almost single handedly created the lifestyle and action of drag queens today... The attitude, the cattiness and the act of the "reading". She was sharp, and could read someone like a description for a set of steak knives honey. In addition to paving the way for house culture, and ballroom, she was the first to create a "house" in ballroom, House of LaBeija.

She was sharp witted, could cut to the chase and rebelled against the drag pageant system in her now iconic moment in drag history that paved the way for House Culture. Crystal was only one of a very few black queens awarded Queen of the Ball title at usually all white organized Drag Balls. Many were told to even lighten their skin. She knew her own worth. When she walked off the stage one fateful evening in 1967, she was protesting what she believed to be a rigged contest in favor of a white, blond queen, and the fireworks went off. Many think the contest was rigged for a queen Harlow to win, who coincidently had been dating Grace Kelly's brother...a Philly scandal.


In fact, after her explosive blow up.... a gay classic really...and should be mandatory gay viewing, that experience led her to organize her own ball for black queens. This move changed everything, and gay culture. House and Ball was officially born. Each drag house consisted of either a Father or a Mother, and they were the bosses of the house and looked after their drag children, taking them in off the street for a safe haven, and teaching them dance, fashion, and make-up techniques and preparing them for ball. These house Crytsal created and other were not just about everything fabulous but were also safe havens for runways and displaced LGBT youth who had either been discarded by their families or were living on the streets for any number of reasons. They provided a bed, shelter, and a support system of friends and belonging. Crystal LaBeija was one of the most iconic moments in drag, changing the whole lifestyle and the nuisances we know today, that I can tell you, some queens have no idea. Crystal also paved the way for not only house culture, but voguing, Paris is Burning and the TV series, Pose. But the most important thing she did was create the development of Ballroom and drag culture was forever changed...and the tradition of Houses has transcended beyond drag into modern LGBTQ culture still today. In my opinion Crystal and her drag daughter Pepper were two of the most influential drag icons to heavily influence drag and LGBT activist who fought to keep drag alive. 

And here is the scene from the Queen of her epic blow up. If your so inclined here is The Queen. documentary.

Happy Pride🏳‍🌈

22 comments:

  1. First I've heard of Crystal

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  2. Anonymous6/29/2022

    Tundra Bunny here.... Crystal LeBeija personifies FIERCE and FEARLESS! Thanks for highlighting so many LGBTQ+ trailblazers this month -- I've learned so much about Drag from your blog, Mistress Maddie! HAPPY PRIDE!

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  3. I am learning so much about these talented queens. Thank you for sharing these interesting stories about their trailblazing spirits.

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  4. Even I had heard the name, but wasn't sure exactly who was she? Wow, it's crazy how you can see their influence until today. It doesn't seem like she was from 60's or 70's. The way they were talking is very modern. Queens are truly innovative.

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  5. Thanks yet again for enlightening and educating me! Will watch the documentary later today.

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  6. Icon.
    The Queen is mandatory viewing. Before Paris is Burning, before any documentary on LGBTQ life, The Queen brings to the forefront LaBeija and we are all better for it. She was a trailblazer and needs recognition. Ballroom culture owes everything to her.
    Oh, and reading someone like a description for a set of steak knives? I LIVE!

    XOXO

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  7. At the start of the Covid pandemic, when I was forced to begin working from home, The Queen was the first thing I watched on Netflix. It had been on my list forever. It was well worth the time. Talk about a slice of gay history - almost as important as Stonewall. Thanks for this lovely tribute. She is an icon.

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  8. So glad you are sharing these, mostly, unheard of stories with us.

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  9. Pat Lark6/30/2022

    And thus was born the role of Elektra and the series "Pose."

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    1. I miss that show...but with the way it was set up...it couldn't very well continue

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  10. For everyone saying Elektra was too extra on Pose, I introduce you to the inspiration.

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  11. One of my favorite movies when it comes to drag. ''I have a right to show my color'' That Line ... the power ! STILL relevant to this day about POC in LGBTQ community !

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  12. The prejudice of the time be damned. Mother did not care. She let it all out and let them have it. And that is why she is a legend today. This moment right here. Long live the queen.

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  13. I believe your right Mistress, LaBeija has the distinction of showing the world a "read." This is the first "read" that to my knowledge was ever filmed and/or documented.

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  14. Crystal is a gay revolutionist. I have so much respect for my elder gays who paved the way for me and my people today. We still have a long way to go but I will keep fighting in the spirit of my elder gays. I have loved this post this month.

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    Replies
    1. That's a wonderful thing. Not everybody takes the time to listen to them.

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  15. Crystal was a wildfire! She was beautiful and she had a mouth that could read a building to the ground! This is herstory

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  16. Only Crystal could say "Dawh-ling" with such venom. She was and is LEGENDARY!

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  17. What I LOVE about Crystal the most is that when homegirl told her that she was showing her color, she admitted that she was, and rightfully told homegirl that she had the right to show her color. She took responsibility. It goes to show that these dolls were very intelligent.

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  18. I watched the docu yesterday, and also read about Grace Kelly's brother, wow, his mother was heartless! Crystal's rant in the end was awesome lol!

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    1. John B Kelly Jr was very handsome, and he dated Harlow for a couple years... while she was working as a hostess at a disco club, she owned named Harlow's...to the dismay of his mother.

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Go ahead darling, tell me something fabulous!