Angie Xtravaganza, 1964-1993
Story by The AIDS Memorial and Irwin M. Rappaport
Recording by Dominique Jackson
Angie Xtravaganza was a Puerto Rican trans performer and the Mother of the House of Xtravaganza.
Her birth family was Catholic, had 13 children, and lived in the South Bronx. Beginning when she was 13 years old, Angie started taking care of other kids who had been rejected by their birth families. Those kids lived and gathered in Times Square and on the Christopher Street Piers where Angie met Hector “Xtravaganza” Valle.
She started doing drag and performing at Harlem drag balls in 1980 when she was 16. She and Hector Valle founded the House of Xtravaganza in 1982 when she was 18 years old. It was the first house in the New York ball scene that was primarily Latino and was formed in part because of discrimination against Latino performers in that era.
I am Dominique Jackson, and I played the role of Elektra Abundance in the award-winning television series “Pose” which chronicled the New York drag ball scene.
Timmy Dean Lee recalled, “I miss seeing Angie at the Garage. We took a liking to each other right away when we first met. My friend Big Lou would introduce us because Angie had admired some of my hand-painted clothing. It was because of that introduction that I was soon painting clothes for many of the Xtravaganzas, attending the Balls and, on occasion, honored to be asked to be a judge. The kind, loving but tough Mother Angie.”
Angie, who was known for her keen sense of fashion, was featured in Jennie Livingston’s 1990 documentary Paris is Burning about the drag balls and the houses that fiercely competed to win the trophies. The film won its own trophies: the Sundance Film Festival Grand Jury Prize, and awards at international film festivals in Berlin, Toronto, San Francisco and Seattle, along with Best Documentary Awards from film critics in New York, Los Angeles and from the National Film Critics Circle.
Angie was diagnosed with AIDS in 1991. Despite her illness, she took care of her kids.
Frank Xtravaganza told Pulitzer Prize-winning author Michael Cunningham: “The last time she went out, it was St. Valentine’s Day. I’d had a date, but he stood me up, and I was bummed out about it. Angie was really sick by then, but she said, ‘Miss Thing, we’re going out.’ She put on make-up and her wig. She wore jeans and a top that showed her belly button, which was about the only place by then that didn’t have KS lesions. She teased up her wig, sprayed it, and we went to the Sound Factory Bar.”
After she died alone in the hospital in 1993, her ashes were sent back to her family in the South Bronx who buried her with her birth name, Angel Segarra, on the plaque.
In April 1993, Angie’s death and the deaths of others featured in the Paris is Burning documentary were written about in a New York Times article titled “Paris Has Burned” featuring Mother Angie on the front page of the Sunday Style section.
In 1995, Michael Cunningham published an article “The Slap of Love” about Angie and about drag performer and house mother Dorian Corey.
As Hector Xtravaganza said to Cunningham: “She believed in me when I didn’t believe in me. We all felt that way. She believed in us. She was my gay mother, my friend. She put so much shit in my head, just the slap of love. And it woke me up.”