Venus Xtravaganza

Venus Xtravaganza


“She was murdered by one of her male escorts because her gender did not correspond with her anatomical sex.” At least that’s the theory on the streets.

Venus was born Thomas Pellagatti, Born: 1965, Jersey City, NJ, Died: December 21, 1988, New York City, NY.

She was found murdered under a bed in a New York hotel room in 1988. Her body was discovered by a stranger four days after her death, she had been strangled to death and her killer has never been found.  She was outspoken about the racial and socioeconomic barriers faced by many in the ball scene, in one of her interviews she described the transphobia she experienced during her time as a sex worker. She described having to flee for her life once by escaping through a window, after a client had become enraged that she was not a cisgender woman.

Her take on sex work compared to being a married woman living in the burbs was something like “If you’re a married woman living in the suburbs, a regular woman, married to her husband… and she wants him to buy her a washer and dryer set, in order for him to buy that I’m sure she’d have to go to bed with him anyway – for him to get what he wants, for her to get what she wants. So in the long run, it all ends up the same way.”

  Venus_XtravaganzaI like Venus because she was observant, honest and spoke her mind not giving a shit what anyone thought, agree with her or not she just said it. Many believe that it was her lifestyle that got her killed and for those of you that don’t know me, that train of thought is a cop-out to me and I view it as victim blaming.

She did not wake up one morning and decide it would be a great day to get murdered. If a cop dawns a uniform and dies in the line of duty he dies a hero, if an escort or prostitute are murdered while on the job it’s somehow her fault because she chose that profession and we don’t care about them. We look down our noses at them as if they are somehow less than human, less than the rest of us and to me that is so wrong. 

Venus was a human being who had dreams, she had spunk, attitude and knew how to carry herself. She did not deserve to be murdered.

Venus did work as a prostitute in NY,  but because of that client mentioned above, the one who became enraged she decided to earn her living as an escort instead in an effort to save for sex reassignment surgery. She was an aspiring model and is very well known for her work in the documentary “Paris is Burning.”

The documentary was not released until 1990, Venus came to national attention from her appearance in the documentary which was about the New York City Ball Culture and her life story as a transgender woman living in New York City.

She took the name Venus as a teenager after leaving home in search of a different life. She then took the surname Xtravaganza in 1983 upon being accepted into the House of Xtravaganza, one of many ‘houses’ consisting of predominantly transgender and gay youth associated with the 1980’s ball culture scene.

Her life was snuffed out too soon.

Another Death

Lorena Xtravaganza, was a transgender performer known for her impersonations of Beyonce and Jennifer Lopez. She was given the last name, Xtravaganza for her membership into The House of Xtravaganza.extralarge

On May 11, 2012 she brought two men to her apartment, at about 4 a.m. a fire broke out in the apartment. In the ensuing chaos, everyone seemed to emerge from the building – except Lorena. Firefighters arrived, as did officers from the 83rd Precinct. When the blaze was extinguished, at 4:37 a.m., Lorena was discovered, “unconscious and unresponsive” and paramedics declared her dead at the scene.

Just to note, Lorena had already had her sexual reassignment surgery. The reason that I highlight her story here is to point out the fact that some killers target those within the transgender community, whether they have had surgery or not.

What that means is simply, the suspect pool is not that large. Those within the transgender community will tell you that finding acceptance is difficult, especially from those who are of the opposite sex. No it’s not like what you have seen on Jerry Springer when the guy finds out he has dated a transgender woman.

It is highly unlikely that either woman were murdered due to her being transgender. Often times, people from every walk of life tend to self medicate both emotional and mental pain rather than face it. It is my belief that both deaths were related to something that afforded an opportunity to self medicate as well as feed an addiction.

The police really do have an opportunity to solve both murders if they’d look at the suspect pool. It’s not a needle in the haystack and the suspect in both cases was known within the community.

Cristal M Clark


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