Legendary iconic drag queen Carmen died in Sydney on 15 December 2011.
The 75-year-old was born Trevor Rupe, one of 13 children in a New Zealand farming family, and went on to become one of the Gay and Lesbian community’s greatest icons in Australian and New Zealand. She took the name Carmen from Dorothy Dandridge’s character in the movie Carmen Jones.
Carmen died in Sydney’s St Vincent’s Hospital as a result of kidney failure.
“Even as recently as Monday night she was lucid and coherent and had a strong will to live,” close friend Jurgen Hoosma told GayNZ.com.
After experimenting with drag performances in New Zealand, Carmen moved to Sydney’s infamous Kings Cross entertainment area in the late 1950s and vowed to give up men’s clothes forever. Her various acts featured snakes and hula dancing before joining the Les Girls revue in 1963.
Carmen returned to Wellington from Sydney in 1967 and became an entrepreneur, opening several businesses. The most famous of these was Carmen’s International Coffee Lounge.
The entrepreneur and entertainer made an unsuccessful bid for the mayoralty of New Zealand’s capital, Wellington, in 1977 and campaigned for gay rights Down Under.
She will be buried at Sydney’s Rookwood Maori Cemetery.