Octavia St. Laurent

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Octavia St. Laurent
Paris Is Burnin-OctaviaStLaurent.jpg
Born(1964-03-16)March 16, 1964
Brooklyn, New York, US
DiedMay 17, 2009(2009-05-17) (aged 45)[1]
Syracuse, New York, US[2]
Other namesHeavenly Angel Octavia Saint Laurent Manolo Blahnik
Octavia Saint Laurent Mizrahi
Years active1982–2009
Parent(s)Linda Greaves Bey and Billy Pemberton
RelativesJoye Greaves Bey (Sister) Jonathan Pemberton Bey (Brother) Jalal Khweiss (Brother)

Octavia St. Laurent Mizrahi (March 16, 1964 – May 17, 2009)[3] was an American model and AIDS educator who was active in New York City's Black and Latino ballroom community and Harlem's luxurious balls.[4][5] They came to public attention after being featured in the 1990 documentary Paris Is Burning.[6]


St. Laurent began walking in the New York ballroom scene in 1982 and acknowledged that their favourite category to walk in was Face. One of the most common songs they'd walk to was "Swept Away" by Diana Ross.[5]

They were a central figure of the 1990 documentary Paris Is Burning and had a small role in The Saint of Fort Washington (1993).[7]

In 2006, they starred in Wolfgang Busch's How Do I Look, dubbed as "the sequel to Paris is Burning," and was using the name Heavenly Angel Octavia St Laurent Manolo Blahnik.[5]

Personal life[edit]

St. Laurent was born in Brooklyn, New York, on March 16, 1964. In their youth, Octavia identified as a trans woman, but had a very different view on their gender and when asked if they were a man, they would proudly claim "ABSOLUTELY" which quickly shut up their hecklers, and often stunned many in the trans community. They were an intersex person and did not identify as a woman. They were born producing more estrogen than most people assigned male at birth.[8]

Octavia said that growing up, their parents were accepting:[8] "I had wonderful parents that supported me. My sexuality was not an issue with my parents. They were accustomed to that since I was a child. People thought I looked like a little girl, and my mother said: 'This is a boy!'"[5]

Octavia experienced police harassment and was arrested on several occasions for wearing gender-nonconforming clothing in public.[5]

St. Laurent was diagnosed as HIV+, and would later serve as an educator to spread awareness about the disease. During their appearance in Wolfgang Busch's LGBT documentary How Do I Look, St. Laurent further discussed their drug use, sex work, and fight with AIDS.[9]

St. Laurent was good friends with Willi Ninja and Paris Dupree.[5]

In 2008, Octavia was diagnosed with cancer. Octavia moved in with their sister while receiving treatment and started a one-woman show at Spirits gay bar in Syracuse, New York, which they described as a quiet place for respite. Octavia gave a final interview by phone in March 2009.[10] Octavia died after a long battle with cancer on May 17, 2009, in Syracuse, New York, aged 45. Octavia is buried in a cemetery in Queens, New York.[11][12]


St. Laurent's appearance in Paris Is Burning was cited in Judith Butler's book Bodies That Matter in "Gender is Burning."[13]

St. Laurent was posthumously quoted in the television series credits of Pose (2019) season 2, episode 4: "Never Knew Love Like This Before," written by Ryan Murphy and Janet Mock, with the following: "Gays have rights, lesbians have rights, men have rights, women have rights, even animals have rights. How many of us have to die before the community recognizes that we are not expendable?"


  • This is me, you understand? No, I am not a woman. No, I am not a man. I am Octavia.[14]
  • Life is like a boomerang. When you throw it, it eventually comes back to you.[14]
  • If money wasn't important in the world to survive, I guess I wouldn't want anything but what I have now. But since money does, I hope that the way I look puts money in my pocket.[4]
  • Live life. Live life and do not take anything for granted. Because what you have today can instantly be gone tomorrow. And don't settle for nothing but... ...'and donʼt settle for nothing but the best.'[5]
  • Gays have rights, lesbians have rights, men have rights, women have rights, even animals have rights. How many of us have to die before the community recognizes that we are not expendable?


Year Title Role Notes
1990 Paris Is Burning Herself Documentary
1993 The Saint of Fort Washington Sex worker in car
Octavia Saint Laurent: Queen of the Underground Herself Documentary
2005 Pill Awards Hostess TV Award show
2006 How Do I Look Herself Documentary


  1. ^ "R.I.P. Octavia Saint Laurent". 2009-05-19.
  2. ^ "Find a Grave - Octavia St. Laurent". 2021-09-17.
  3. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2017-01-08. Retrieved 2010-02-28.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  4. ^ a b Goldsby, Jackie (2013). "Queens of Language: Paris Is Burning". Queer Looks. Routledge. pp. 108. ISBN 9780415907422.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g Wallenberg, Peter (20 November 2014). "Octavia St Laurent's last interview". Dazed. Retrieved 8 August 2019.
  6. ^ Green, Jesse (April 18, 1993). Paris Has Burned. She becomes an icon to LGBT Community specially for Transgender Women's New York Times[verification needed]
  7. ^ Green, Jesse (April 18, 1993). Paris Has Burned. She becomes an icon to LGBT Community specially for Transgender Women's New York Times
  8. ^ a b "Octavia St. Laurent". 2018-03-16.
  9. ^ Cotter, Holland (October 24, 2003). DL: The Down Low in Contemporary Art, New York Times
  10. ^ "Octavia St Laurent's last interview". 20 November 2014.
  11. ^ "Octavia St Laurent (1964 – 2009) performer, singer". 2014-05-14.
  12. ^ "Octavia St. Laurent (1964-2009) - Find a Grave..." www.findagrave.com. Retrieved 2022-04-04.
  13. ^ Butler, Judith (1993). Bodies that Matter: On the Discursive Limits of "sex". Psychology Press. p. 135. ISBN 9780415610155.
  14. ^ a b Soch, Adam (27 May 2009). "Octavia St. Laurent " Queen Of The Underground " WINNER 2010 PILL AWARD". YouTube. Jerico DeAngelo, OsiriStar Entertainment. Retrieved 8 August 2019.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)

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