Monica Roberts

Goodbye, Octavia St. Laurent

Filed By Monica Roberts | May 20, 2009 11:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Gay Icons and History, Living, Media, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: Monica Roberts, movies, Paris Is Burning, the 90's

The ts-Octavia St Laurent1.jpgfirst time I saw Octavia St. Laurent , I was at the River Oaks Theater back home watching the 1990 blockbuster documentary Paris Is Burning.

I was starting my own transition at the time and the movie was on my must see list since it was about the ballroom community descended from the Harlem drag balls.

I was captivated by the class, grace and easy elegance she showed in that film living her life. I added her to the long list of women I based my own evolving feminine presentation on. I also resolved to meet her one day.

While I have been fortunate to meet and get to know many of the women in the transgender community I set my sights on meeting, and I'm even blessed to call some of them my friends, sadly my meeting with Octavia will never happen.

I received the disappointing news that she passed away on May 17.

Actually, my meeting with Octavia almost happened. I was planning to fly up to New York with Vanessa Edwards Foster for Amanda Milan's funeral in 2000 but couldn't get the time off from work to go. I was even more pissed when I discovered that Octavia gave a fiery and moving eulogy for her that I'd wished I'd been present to hear.

She asked at the time, "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?"

Sadly, that's a question that still has yet to be answered.

Octavia is many things to a lot of people. For those of us who watched her in Paris Is Burning, she stole the show. For the children who are now battling to become legendary in the ballroom community, she's an iconic figure. For those of us who were transitioning at the time and since, we had her to look up to as an example of the grace, class and spiritual beauty that we wished to project to the rest of the world. For others she was an educator warning about the dangers of HIV/AIDS in the ballroom community.

Rest in peace, sis, you've earned your rest and you'll be missed. The ball competitions in Heaven just got a little fiercer as well.

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Thanx for sharing this Monica. I had not heard this news yet. If it weren't for people like you I'd never hear this news because items like this aren't important to most news outlets. But Octavia St. Laurent was/ is an inspiration for many and her story should not be forgotten. This news is sad indeed.

Thanks, Monica, I remember watching Paris is Burning in Ottawa, Canada and being blown away by the presence of Octavia.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts once again

That's what we're here for. The Project and other GLBT blogs help ensure that our issues, our concerns, our history and our cultural icons aren't forgotten.

I was a little shocked as well when I received the e-mail alerting me to it. She was still active in the New York area and the ballroom community.

The 17th was a hectic news day as well. Had it been a slower news day you probably would have seen more focus on it or the MSM is waiting for the funeral.

I was very shocked to her of this death - this is one of them people where it's hard to tell cause beauty was for surely there naturally. Amazing.

Tracie Stevens | September 3, 2010 12:29 AM

Hi there Monica!

Long time no see! Miss you...

I was absolutely devastated to here that Octavia has passed...

Judging from your post date and mine, I'm late as hell, but devastated nonetheless...

May Octavia rest in peace...

Bless you Monica!

So sad to hear this so long after the fact. RIP beauty!!!