#QueerHeroes Day 25 – Crystal LaBeija of the legendary House of LaBeija.
In the late 60s-mid 70s, the drag pageants were overwhelmingly white-dominated, so much so that black contestants would score higher if they lightened their skin and succumbed to white palatability.
Crystal LaBeija was not that queen.
While still breaking through that barrier (reigning as Ms. Manhattan), LaBeija famously called out pageant hosts and organizers for rigging a pageant in favor of white queen Jean Harlow.
The event inspired her to form the House of LaBeija, becoming its mother. She would organize the House of LaBeija ball, an all black drag pageant, in Harlem in the early 70s.
With that event, ball culture as we know it began. If you’ve ever quoted Paris is Burning, if you watch Pose or enjoy Drag Race, you have Crystal LaBeija to thank for setting it in motion.
Nearly 50 years later, the House of LaBeija continues to thrive, with artist Kia LaBeija reigning as its mother.