An American Drag Queen and mother figure for homeless and underprivileged youth who are a part of the LGBTQ+ community. LaBeija was also known for being a co-founder of ball culture and etiquette.
A proud Black trans woman, a drag mother and, a pageant girl, Crystal LaBeija was the cause of an iconic moment in drag history that paved the way for house culture, voguing, Paris is Burning, and the TV series Pose.
Online Resources and Media
The Queen Who Reinvented Ball Culture
Summary: PBS American Masters collection on Crystal LaBeija and the history of drag and ball culture.
Summary: More than 40 years before “RuPaul’s Drag Race”, this ground-breaking documentary about the 1967 Miss All-American Camp Beauty Pageant introduced audiences to the world of competitive drag. The film takes us backstage to kiki with the contestants as they rehearse, throw shade, and transform into their drag personas in the lead-up to the big event. Organized by LGBTQ icon and activist Flawless Sabrina, the competition boasted a star-studded panel of judges including Andy Warhol, Larry Rivers, and Terry Southern. But perhaps most memorable is an epic diatribe calling out the pageant’s bias delivered by Crystal LaBeija, who would go on to form the influential House of LaBeija, heavily featured in “Paris Is Burning” (1990). A vibrant piece of queer history, The Queen can now be seen in full resplendence thanks to a new restoration from the original camera negative.
A YouTube upload can be seen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-fU-6sPGIdI
Summary: Flagship site for the history of LaBeija, as well as information about chapters by state, video productions, photo galleries, as well as links to socials for more details.
Summary: This landmark documentary provides a vibrant snapshot of the 1980s through the eyes of New York City’s African American and Latinx Harlem drag-ball scene. Made over seven years, it offers an intimate portrait of rival fashion ‘houses,’ from fierce contests for trophies to house mothers offering sustenance in a world rampant with homophobia, transphobia, racism, AIDS, and poverty. Featuring legendary voguers, drag queens, and trans women–including Willi Ninja, Pepper LaBeija, Dorian Corey, and Venus Xtravaganza.
Summary: Follows the lives of several transgender people and underground drag ball participants as they all find their lives changing.
Crystal LaBeija is not featured, but focuses on ballroom culture.
*Available to stream on Netflix with subscription (Season 3 available Spring 2022).
RuPaul’s Drag Race
Summary: RuPaul searches for America’s next drag superstar. Playing a dual role, RuPaul reigns supreme in all judging and eliminations, while RuPaul, the man, helps guide the contestants as they prepare for each challenge.
Crystal LaBeija is not featured, but focuses on drag culture.
* Various seasons can be found on VOD, Hulu, Prime Video and Paramount+