Sunday, 12 September 2010

Venus Xtravaganza

Here is the 5th portrait in my Unsung Heroes series: Venus Xtravaganza. Venus (born Thomas Pelagatti) was a transgender American in the New York City Ball scene of the 1980s, in which contestants 'walk the balls' to compete for trophies under different categories such as 'Butch Queen', 'School girl/boy Realness', 'Hetrosexual Realness' and 'European Runway'.
The Balls were a fascinating homosexual subculture of fashion, style, and glamour, and were the inspiration for one of Madonna's biggest hits: Vogue. Vogueing is a series of gestures and dance moves which take from Egyptian hyroglyphics, gymnastics and mirror the poses in Vogue Magazine, and its roots date back to the 1930s. The ball scene was divided into Houses of 'drag families' often named after the Paris Fashion Houses such as Saint Lauren and Escada - each comprising a house 'mother' and often father. Venus was a daughter of The House of Xtravaganza, was saving up for sex reassignment surgery, and working as a prostitute to pay for the extravagant costumes she put together for the Balls. She longed to be a spoilt, rich suburban white girl, to get married in church and live in a nice home with her husband. Tragically, she was murdered by a trick and her body was discovered 4 days later in a New York Hotel room in 1988. You can see Venus in the documentary "Paris is Burning".

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