Crystal LaBeija

Crystal LaBeija
Died 1982
Cause of death Liver Failure

Crystal LaBeija, originally know as Crystal LaAsia[1], was a Manhattan drag queen who founded The House of LaBeija in 1977[1]. LaBeija may have started the modern drag queen ballroom culture as The House of LaBeija is often credited as being the start of "house" culture for drag queens.[2] She died from liver failure in 1982. Pepper LaBeija became the second "mother" of The House of LaBeija after her death. Kia LaBeija is the current “mother” of the House of LaBeija.


LaBeija worked and competed on the Manhattan drag circuit and was crowned Miss Manhattan. At the time, she was one of only a few African American drag queens to be awarded a "Queen of the Ball" title at a drag ball organized by whites. [3] In the 1960s and 1970s, drag queens of color were expected to whiten their appearance to help their chances at winning competitions and they often faced racist environments.[3]

During the 1967 Miss All-America Camp Beauty Pageant held in New York City Town Hall, LaBeija was upset with the bias and racism of the balls, as shown in The Queen (1968 film) when LaBeija, Miss Manhattan at the time, accuses the hostess of rigging the process for a white queen Rachel Harlow, formerly Miss Philadelphia. Shortly after, Labeija's friend, Lottie, convinces her to host a ball for black queens, the first to be hosted by a “House.” The event was titled "Crystal & Lottie LaBeija presents the first annual House of Labeija Ball at Up the Downstairs Case on West 115th Street & 5th Avenue in Harlem, NY.’13". [4]

Aja played LaBeija as part of the Snatch Game in RuPaul's Drag Race: All Stars in 2018. LaBeija is mentioned by her protege Pepper LaBeija in the documentary films Paris Is Burning (1990).


  1. 1 2 Iovannone, Jeffry J. (June 29, 2018). "Crystal LaBeija: Legendary House Mother". Queer History For the People. Retrieved August 25, 2018.
  2. street, mikelle (August 19, 2016). "The Iconic Drag Queen Behind Frank Ocean's 'Endless'".
  3. 1 2 Street, Mikelle (February 16, 2018). "5 Things to Know About Ballroom Icon Crystal LaBeija". Retrieved 2018-08-25.
  4. ""'Listen, and You Will Hear all the Houses that Walked There Before': A History of Drag Balls, Houses and the Culture of Voguing". London: Soul Jazz, 2011". July 16, 2013.
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