It’s nearly 30 years since the release of one of the most important documentaries about the LGBT+ community. Released in 1990 Paris Is Burning documents the lives of the New York ball culture and the African-American, Latino, gay, and transgender communities involved in it.
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The film, by Jennie Livingston, focuses on the lives of eight individuals. Most of the film’s stars are now dead and many died from AIDS-related illnesses.
Dorian Corey 1937 – 1993
Drag queen performer and mother and founding member of the house of Corey. She was the house mother of Angie Xtravaganza, who went on to form her own House of Xtravaganza.
Corey died in 1993, three years after the film’s release. She died of an AIDS-related illness in New York at the Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center
Pepper LaBeija 1948 – 2003
LaBeija died in 2003 from a heart attack in New York at the age of 54. For the final ten years of LaBeija life, LaBeija was largely bedridden due to type 2 diabetes. Both feet amputated as a result. She had two children and daughter and son.
Venus Xtravaganza 1965 – 1988
Venus was killed before the end of filming and release of Paris Is Burning. Her body was discovered under a bed at the Duchess Hotel in New York according to her House mother Angie Xtravaganza. She had been strangled. Her body was discovered four days after her death. Her killer has never been found and her death remains an open, unsolved crime. According to the New York Post, New York has about 9000 unsolved murders since 1985.
Octavia St. Laurent 1964 – 2009
Octavia St. Laurent and later Octavia St. Laurent Mizrahi died after a long battle with cancer. She was a singer and a songwriter and in 2005 was working on a set of recordings which were never released.
Willi Ninja 1961 – 2008
Willi died from AIDS-related heart failure in New York in 2008. He was 45. He had a career that spanned film, music and choreography. He starred in two Janet Jackson music videos, “Escapade” and “Alright” before his death. He also released his own single, “Hot” in 1994. He was known as the “godfather of Voguing”.
Angie Xtravaganza 1964 – 1993
Angie Xtravaganza died three years after the film’s release. She was a founding member of the House of Xtravaganza and house mother to Venus Xtravaganza. She died at the age of 28 from an AIDS-related liver disease.
Freddie went on to have just two other film credits after Paris Is Burning, namely The Joan Rivers Show in 1989 and the film Strays in 1997. Twenty-five years after Paris Is Burning Freddie was the only star who attended an anniversary screening of the film.
Is still alive although not much is known about what he’s up to now.
The film’s maker Jennie Livingston is still alive. She has filmed five other films the last of which Earth Camp One is still in progress.