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Paris Is Burning Icon Carmen Xtravaganza Passes Away At 62

Paris Is Burning Icon Carmen Xtravaganza Passes Away At 62

Paris Is Burning Icon Carmen Xtravaganza Passes Away At 62
Screengrab via YouTube

According to friends and family, the Ballroom Hall of Fame member, model, and singer has passed.

Ballroom Hall of Fame member, model, and singer Carmen Xtravaganza has died, according to friends and family.

The House of Xtravaganza, which Carmen joined in 1985, announced her death on Instagram. The 62-year-old had been battling lung cancer.

"It is with a heavy heart that we share the news of Carmen Xtravaganza's passing," they wrote in a post on Friday night. "Today, we extend our deepest condolences to all who loved her. As we hold her memory close to our hearts, her famous quote '... but that voice is still there,' takes on new meaning, serving as a reminder that Carmen's spirit will live on through the love and memories she left behind."

In the 1990 landmark documentary Paris Is Burning, Carmen appears in a segment alongside her house sister Brooke Xtravaganza. In it, the pair are chatting about their transitions.

As Brooke describes the operations she has undergone, she begins to laugh.

"Except that voice is still there," Carmen cuts in, a line that has gone on to be quoted many times over. Later the pair go on to sing Gloria Gaynor's "I Am What I Am," in a moment that has gone on to exemplify trans sisterhood, resilience, and self-determination.

Carmen's life was one of impact.

Born on April 9, 1961 in Rota, Spain, she told TransGriot that she knew that she was trans at the age of around 5. "As far back as I can remember my dad always knew from when I was a small child I was always effeminate," she said back in 2013. "[My dad] explained it to me much later after I had already transitioned."

According to another interview she did in the 2006 ballroom documentary How Do I Look, she began hormones for her medical transition at the age of 16 in Washington D.C. while staying at a runaway house after fleeing her home. Two years later, she underwent bottom surgery.

In 1981 while living in New York and doing sex work in the Meatpacking District (an area known for trans sex workers as chronicled in HBO's The Stroll), she joined the ballroom scene with the House of St. Laurent. Within the community she became known for the category of face, which prizes skin clarity, bone structure, teeth, and an innate charisma. In 1983 at a ball put on by the House of Omni, she walked the face category and won over seven other women. She then took her trophy to the House of Xtravaganza table to ask the mother Angie Xtravaganza if she could join the house and was allowed to. In May 1988, she covered the Village Voice for a story titled "Venus Envy: The Drag Balls of Harlem." It was the first time ballroom had received mainstream press. It would prove an inspiration point for Paris Is Burning.

By the early 1990s, Carmen had returned to Spain and was working in the fashion industry as well as nightlife. She founded the Spanish chapter of the House of Xtravaganza (a member of the house appeared on Drag Race España decades later). She also found work as a model and was a staple of the nightlife scene, hosting popular parties. Over the years, she also released music that found most of its popularity in Europe. Carmen would eventually return to New York, becoming the mother of the House of Xtravaganza in 1997, chosen by Angie Xtravaganza. She served as a mother off and on until 2015 and was named to Ballroom's Hall of Fame in 1999. Eventually, she relocated to Florida.

In September of 2022, Mink Xtravaganza started a GoFundMe for Carmen's "unfortunate situation."

"During this difficult time she is going to need some help until we figure out the logistics of what is going to happen during her chemotherapy treatment," he wrote. In October he updated fans that she was out of the hospital. The fund raised over $6,000. On July 3, Carmen posted to her Facebook account.

"My message is my departure coming soon as I was noticed by my oncology [doctor,]" she wrote, explaining that the cancer, which had reached stage 4, had spread to her bones. "The chemotherapy I was taking has not worked. My message is enjoy life. Love family, be forgiven, humble, and love god over all things. I want to thank you all for being part of my journey in life. Carmen Xtravaganza."

Her life is being remembered throughout the community as an icon, pioneer, cherished mentor and a testament to self-actualization.

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