Dorian Corey

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Dorian Corey
Dorian Corey.jpg
Dorian Corey in Paris Is Burning
Bornc. 1937
DiedAugust 29, 1993 (aged 56)
Manhattan, New York, U.S.
Alma materParsons School of Design
OccupationDrag queen, fashion designer

Dorian Corey (born c. 1937 – August 29, 1993) was a trans woman, drag performer, and fashion designer. She appeared in Wigstock and was featured in Jennie Livingston's 1990 documentary Paris Is Burning.

Early life and education[edit]

Corey was born in Buffalo, New York to Franklin Legg and Mary Fox Clark out of wedlock, though they later married October 18, 1947.[1][2] Raised on a farm in Buffalo, Dorian began performing in drag, and later identified as a transgender woman, beginning her transition when leaving the city of Buffalo.

In the 1950s, Corey worked as a window dresser at Hengerer's, then moved to New York City to study art at Parsons.[3]


In the 1960s, Corey toured as a snake dancer in the Pearl Box Revue, a cabaret drag act.[3][4] She was one of four performers who appeared on the 1972 Pearl Box Revue LP Call Me MISSter.[5][6]

Corey was also the founder of the voguing House of Corey, holding over 50 grand prizes from the voguing balls. She was also "house mother" to Angie Xtravaganza, who later became a mother of her own house and was also featured in Paris Is Burning.[7]

Corey also ran and designed a clothing label called Corey Design.[8] At one point, Corey's act involved her wearing a 30-by-40-foot feather cape. Once she shed her costume down to a sequined body stocking, two attendants raised the cape up on poles to produce a feathered tent that covered half the audience.[4]

Death and legacy[edit]

On August 29, 1993, Corey died of AIDS-related complications at Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center in Manhattan at the age of 56.[8]

After her death, the preserved body of Robert Worley (also known as Robert Wells) was found amongst Corey's belongings; it appeared that he had died from a gunshot wound to the head.[9]

Investigators determined the body to have been dead for approximately 15 years, with speculation that Worley had potentially been an abusive ex-lover of Corey, that Corey may have shot him in self defense during a lovers' quarrel, or that he may have been shot during an attempted burglary; abuse perpetrated against transgender people by their partners was a common occurrence among New York's trans community of the time.[10] Corey's cremated remains were sent back to Buffalo, New York, but were unclaimed and later disposed of.

Corey's legacy remains one of importance to the transgender, drag and ballroom communities, and her particular importance in the development of voguing as a cornerstone of New York ballroom culture is venerated and memorialized in the modern day.

In fiction[edit]

In the third episode ("Butterfly/Cocoon") of Pose season two, transgender house mother Elektra, who secretly works as a dominatrix in a BDSM club, discovers one of her clients has died from an overdose in her private dungeon. She enlists the aid of other characters to transport, mummify, and hide the body in a trunk. Producer and director Janet Mock confirmed on Twitter that writer Our Lady J based the anthology melodrama on Corey.[11]


  1. ^ Browning, Barbara (2013). Infectious Rhythm: Metaphors of Contagion and the Spread of African Culture. Routledge. p. 228. ISBN 978-1-136-05182-1.
  2. ^ Smith, Tim (July 23, 2016). "Murder-mystery musical 'Dorian's Closet' begins to take shape". Baltimore Sun. Retrieved April 25, 2017.
  3. ^ a b Russell Kasindorf, Jeannie (May 2, 1994). "The Drag Queen Had a Mummy In Her Closet". New York Magazine. Vol. 27 no. 18. New York Media, LLC. p. 55. ISSN 0028-7369.
  4. ^ a b Cunningham, Michael (May 1998). "The Slap of Love". Open City. Vol. 6.
  5. ^ "Pearl Box Revue – Call Me MISSter". Retrieved October 23, 2014.
  6. ^ Doyle, JD (June 2017). "Pearl Box Revue". Queer Music Heritage. JD Doyle. Retrieved September 21, 2017.
  7. ^ "A Gender Variance Who's Who: Dorian Corey (1937–1993) performer". August 5, 2010. Retrieved March 24, 2016.
  8. ^ a b "Dorian Corey Is Dead; A Drag Film Star, 56". The New York Times. August 31, 1993.
  9. ^ Conlon, Edward (1995). "The Drag Queen and the Mummy". Transition. No. 65. pp. 4–24. JSTOR 2935316.
  10. ^ "A Gender Variance Who's Who: Dorian Corey (1937–1993) performer". August 5, 2010. Retrieved March 24, 2016.
  11. ^ @janetmock (June 25, 2019). "Titled BUTTERFLY/COCOON, episode 3 of #PoseFX is inspired by the lived experiences of two ballroom legends -- DORIAN COREY and TRACEY AFRICA NORMAN. One ascends to unprecedented success, another descends into a dark dark place" (Tweet) – via Twitter.

External links[edit]