Pepper LaBeija

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Pepper LaBeija
Pepper LaBeija Illustration.png
Born(1948-11-05)November 5, 1948
The Bronx, New York, U.S.
DiedMay 14, 2003(2003-05-14) (aged 54)
Manhattan, New York, U.S.
OccupationDrag queen, fashion designer

Pepper LaBeija (November 5, 1948 – May 14, 2003) was an American drag queen and fashion designer. LaBeija was known as "the last remaining queen of the Harlem drag balls".

Early life and career[edit]

LaBeija was born in The Bronx.[1] While LaBeija identified as male, she preferred to be referred to by the feminine pronoun she.[2] Around 1981, she took over from Crystal LaBeija as the head of the ball culture House of LaBeija (from which her surname was derived). She remained the head (known as "the Mother") for over 20 years.[1]

LaBeija competed in numerous drag balls and was known for her Egyptian-inspired runway performances.[3] Over the course of her career, she won approximately 250 trophies. To earn money, she produced drag balls and taught modeling.[2]

Later years and death[edit]

LaBeija and her companion Pamela Jackson had a daughter together, and LaBeija devoted much of her time to her family, raising her daughter and stepson. In 1992, Jackson died. As LaBeija's health declined, her children lived with their maternal grandmother.[citation needed]

LaBeija suffered from diabetes mellitus type 2 and had both feet amputated as a result. She was largely bedridden for the last 10 years of her life. On May 14, 2003, LaBeija died of a heart attack at Roosevelt Hospital in Manhattan at the age of 54.[1]

In popular culture[edit]

LaBeija is best known for her appearances in the documentary films Paris Is Burning (1990) and How Do I Look? (2006).

LaBeija also made appearances on The Joan Rivers Show (1991), TV Transvestites (1982), and The Queen (1968).

Malcolm McLaren quoted LaBeija in 1989 song and music video "Deep in Vogue", a tribute to the New York gay balls of the 1980s, runway competitions that involved dance, fashion, and attitude.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Martin, Douglas (May 26, 2003). "Pepper LaBeija, Queen of Harlem Drag Balls, Is Dead at 53".
  2. ^ a b "Pepper LaBeija, 53; Queen of Drag Ball Scene in Harlem". Los Angeles Times. May 29, 2003. Retrieved March 11, 2015.
  3. ^ Doonan, Simon (June 16, 2003). "Pater Is Burning! Rad Dads in Drag". Retrieved March 11, 2015.

External links[edit]