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“When I think of my mom, I think of her big smile. I was adopted by my aunt but i know I have my mother’s spirit with me. She passed when I was about 8 years old from HIV/AIDS. I took it really hard. I don’t know, it’s like when they first tell you,...

“When I think of my mom, I think of her big smile. I was adopted by my aunt but i know I have my mother’s spirit with me. She passed when I was about 8 years old from HIV/AIDS. I took it really hard. I don’t know, it’s like when they first tell you, I really didn’t comprehend it until about a couple of hours later and my brain just snapped. And I felt like everything was just done. Being 8 years old and only knowing your mother and not your father, only knowing certain people in your family and the only thing you’re left with is people that you’re not really that close to.

I think my mother would actually be proud of the fact that I can be who i am by myself. Like, I didn’t need anyone there by my side. I have always been there for myself. So I think she would be really proud that I can do this on my own. I don’t need anybody on my shoulder telling me "you can do this.” because she is there telling me every day that I walk, “You can take the next step.” Ya know, I was born myself and I don’t need anybody to be there to help me.

I just wish she could be here. It’s hard. It’s hard just being here without her. But it makes me smile to know she would be proud of me and proud that I did it.“

Giovanni Martinez-Cruz, Philadelphia

Interviewed by Anthony Leon & Photographed by: Louie A. Ortiz-Fonseca

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“I’m your mother,” she said. It was more than a declaration, it was a reminder that her kids would never have to feel orphaned in a world where AIDS, violence, poverty and homophobia would surely steal their magic. It was the early 1980’s, pre-gentrified New York, years before “transgender” and “gender non-conforming” were part of our everyday vocabulary.  Back then you were either gay or a drag queen. But Angie, was a goddess. She was a mother.

Raised in the Bronx, Angie Xtravaganza, at age 13, walked away from a violent home and directly into the vision of herself. Some say that we seek justice in the same places where it was carved out from us. This is how Angie lived her life. After surviving family violence, she created her own. “I’m your mother.”


Angie Xtravaganza, was a founding member of the Legendary House of Xtravaganza. Her fierce leadership is credited for the swift rise of Latinos in the ballroom in the early 80’s. By the early 90’s, the House garnered mainstream recognition when Angie was featured in the 1990 documentary film “Paris Is Burning.” As a young teen, I remember hearing other young Latino gay boys talk about the House of Xtravaganza. “Loca, if I was in that house, these faggots would not be able to take me.” Of course there were the ones who would outright say, “I was just voted into the house.” I knew that it wasn’t true but it was clear that the New York based House had connected with the Latino LGBT community in Philadelphia. Everyone wanted Angie to be their mother.

When founding Father Hector Xtravaganza died from complications of AIDS in 1985, it was Angie’s love and her “I’m your mother” approach to healing that kept the House of Xtravaganza on course to become legendary. When her daughter Venus Xtravaganza was found murdered in 1988 at the age of 23, it was Angie’s ruthless commitment to her vision of family that kept the House together in a world that would have taken pleasure in watching them fall apart. She was a fighter. She herself would say, “Don’t let the dress fool you!” She was a warrior mother who loved her kids through every battle – even the one she would eventually lose.


In 1991, when Angie was tested positive for HIV, over 100,000 Americans had already succumbed to the epidemic. Those who survived were often reminded of the odds against them. Mother Angie had lived a life of battling against every odd – HIV would be no exception. Her will to be a mother was just simply stronger.

In the 1993 article “Slap of Love” penned by Pulitzer Prize winning author Michael Cunningham, Frank Xtravaganza shared that Angie, weeks before her death, took him out to dance his heartbreak away at Sound Factory Bar. A drag mother will not only buck you up when you’re feeling rejected. Unlike most other mothers, a drag mother will spray her wig and take you out herself.

Iconic Mother Angie Xtravaganza died on March 31, 1993 at the tender age of 28. Her loss was felt through-out the ballroom community. Three weeks after her death, the New York Times printed a large picture of her with the headline, “Paris has Burned” in the Style Section. Writer Jesse Green wrote of Angie in the article: “And as mother of the House of Xtravaganza, Angie had taken many rejected, wayward, even homeless children under her wing; she had fed them, observed their birthdays, taught them all about ‘walking the balls.’ Competing in categories like High-Fashion Eveningwear and Alexis vs. Krystle, Angie was legendary, a Queen among queens, achieving in fantasy what the world had denied her in reality.”

Twenty two years later, Angie Xtravaganza’s indomitable spirit remains a fundamental part of the House and a vital part of our collective history as queer Latinos. So on this Trans Day of Remembrance and Resilience, we celebrate the memory and movement of Miss Angie Xtravaganza. And we echo the powerful words of Karl Xtravaganza, “In many ways, the continuing existence of the House of Xtravaganza twenty two years after Angie’s passing is a living tribute to her vision and strength of character. She is the bravest woman I’ve ever known.”

special thanks for Karl Xtravaganza for his support during the writing of this piece. 

for information or to keep up with the Legendary House of Xtravaganza, like them on Facebook 

1994 classic house music track “X” by Junior Vasquez.  The record was produced a year after Angie’s passing.  If you look closely at the label, it bears the dedication “In memory of Angie Xtravaganza”.  It went on to become one of the defining underground house music tracks of the 90s and is still a dancefloor favorite today.  

The 2014 track “Xtravaganzas” by percussionist, band leader, trans activist and House of Xtravganza member Koko Jones, is a tribute to the history and spirit of the House, with lyrics such as “Mother Angie in the pages of Vogue, they taught Madonna how to strike a pose”.  

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