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Carlotta, Kings Cross (Les Girls)

1970-71

National Portrait Gallery

National Portrait Gallery

Carlotta (b. 1943), also known as ‘Queen of the Cross,’ is Australia’s best known transgender identity and cabaret performer. Born in Balmain, as Richard Byron, Carlotta overcome a turbulent childhood to star in Les Girls – a cabaret group that began in 1963 with an entirely male cast. They presented a confronting and radical gender blur, and were immensely popular throughout the 1970s and 1980s, before touring Australia in 1993. Both Les Girls and trail-blazing Carlotta were the inspiration for ‘Priscilla Queen of the Desert.’
Known for her boisterous personality and distinctive voice, Carlotta became an icon in Sydney life throughout the decades. This photograph is from the ‘Kings Cross’ series, where Rennie Ellis spent six months in 1971 examining ‘the surface glitter and underground guts of the cross.’ This period of time was particularly rambunctious, as large numbers of American servicemen from Vietnam were on their R&R in Sydney.

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