Black History Month: The Lady Chablis

In celebration of Black History Month, first year Sociology student Bailey Hackett has written a series of blog posts casting a spotlight on a number of queer, black figures and groups who been instrumental in advancing the cause of both black and LGBTQ+ rights. We’ll be publishing one every week during October. Follow Bailey’s queer history blog at A Little Gay Historia.

 

The Lady Chablis 

Born: 11 March, 1957  - Died: 8th September, 2016

‘Savannah’s Grand Empress’ herself, The Lady Chablis, first launched into stardom when she featured in the film adaptation of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil; where she remained as the vibrant and glamorous heart of the South ever since. She actively worked to ensure she played herself in director Clint Eastwood’s 1997 adaptation, and as a result, became the first black trans woman to feature in a major motion picture. That same year, Chablis’ autobiography was produced and was entitled ‘Hiding My Candy’, a title that referenced her personal choice not to have sexual reassignment surgery, and was a trademark joke often used in her act. Her memoir quickly became a success.

The Lady Chablis cultivated a powerful image and reputation; illuminating Savannah’s gay scene, especially Club One where she was an iconic fixture and their first performer. Throughout the 00’s, The Lady Chablis regularly donated proceedings and money from her performances into supporting a wide range of charities, working particularly with the American Diabetes Foundation. Chablis also prominently contributed to LGBT+ organisations and headlined Savannah’s gay pride celebrations. In the memorial post on their Facebook page, Club One commented; 'She was Club One’s very first entertainer, officiating our grand opening in 1988, and paving the way for female impersonation in Savannah. No one, however, could outshine the Grand Empress herself.'

Chablis’ act was a celebration of femininity and womanhood. As she expressed; 'You know, women got the power baby, my being-in-touch with my feminine and my masculine side, I know that the feminine side is where the power is.' She was rich in sass and razor sharp wit, and even when faced with racism and transphobia, her signature charm won the hearts of many, and allowed her to thrive as a role model. After her passing in September 2016, Laverne Cox paid homage, providing a heartwarming sentiment; 'She was salty and brash in her stage act and represents a generation of trans women entertainers we must not forget. Rest in power the doll, The Lady Chablis.'

Check out our programme of Black History Month events at goldsmithssu.org/bhm.