Pepper LaBeija

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Pepper LaBeija
Born William Jackson
(1948-11-05)November 5, 1948
The Bronx, New York, U.S.
Died May 14, 2003(2003-05-14) (aged 54)
Manhattan, New York, U.S.
Cause of death Heart attack
Nationality American
Children 0

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 William Jackson in The Bronx.[1] While LaBeija often dressed as a man, she preferred to be referred to by the feminine pronoun "she".[2] Around 1971, she took over as the head of the notable ball culture House of LaBeija (from which her surname was derived). She remained the head (known as "the Mother") for over thirty years.[1]

LaBeija competed in numerous drag balls and was known for her "Egyptian effect" runway performances.[3] Over the course of her career, she won approximately 250 trophies. To earn money, she also produced drag balls and taught modeling.[2] LaBeija is best known for her appearances in the documentary films Paris Is Burning (1990) and How Do I Look (2006).

Later years and death[edit]

LaBeija suffered from diabetes mellitus type 2 and had both feet amputated as a result. She was largely bedridden for the final ten 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]

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.


  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". 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]