Toronto Mourns Loss Of An Iconic Drag Queen

By Ben Hamill - April 01 2021
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Toronto Mourns Loss Of An Iconic Drag Queen

The city of Toronto is mourning the loss of legendary drag icon Michelle Ross. She is being remembered as a kind and loving person. On the steps of Crews and Tangos, a drag bar that Ross frequently performed at, mourners have left flowers, pictures and handwritten cards in her honour.

According to several of the performer’s closest friends, Ross passed away over the weekend of March 27. The cause of her death is currently unknown.

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A Shining Light

Tributes from all over the world continue to pour in for drag royalty Michelle Ross, who was once described by CBC Arts as the “reigning queen of Toronto’s Church Street.” Michelle Ross was born in Jamaica and enjoyed a successful drag career that began in 1974 at the city’s legendary Manitee Club. She was well-known for performing as iconic female entertainers including the likes of Gloria Gaynor, Dionne Warwick and Diana Ross. She also completed a six-year stint at La Cage Aux Follers, held a residency at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas and toured all over the world to destinations including Paris, Japan, London, Chicago and back to her native Jamaica.

She was well-known for being able to captivate an audience with a simple gaze. When she was on stage, “…everybody stopped and watched”, according to Cameron Rennie, a decades-long friend of Ross’s and a manager at Woody’s, a gay bar on Church Street. He went on to describe her as a “shining light and a beacon of love… An icon for everybody and a mentor for many, many young people and older people in the community.”

Amanda Roberts, who knew Michelle Ross for over 30 years, expressed her shock and disbelief at her passing. “I didn’t want to believe it and I still don’t want to believe it”, she said as she and Navin Stiles paid their respects at the Church Street location. Stiles added that the entire village was in shock. Michelle made a mark on the gay village of Toronto, and everyone knew who she was.

Pride Toronto Issues Statement

As an icon in Toronto’s LGBTQ+ community, Michelle Ross also entertained audiences at a number of events and festivals throughout her career. In a statement, a spokesperson for the Pride Toronto organisation announced that it was with a heavy heart that they shared that the legendary Michelle Ross has passed away.

They added that Ross was loved by the community and had entertained audiences at Pride Festivals with electrifying performances. She’d also wowed at this year’s Rise Up! event that celebrated Black History Month. The spokesperson went on to say that they will cherish her memory for many years to come. The statement, posted to Twitter, was accompanied by two striking images of Ms. Ross wearing glamourous red and yellow dresses.

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