Tributes Pour In For Canadian Drag Icon Michelle Ross
Tributes are pouring in for Michelle Ross, the Toronto drag performer who delighted and inspired audiences for more than four decades.
Ross died Sunday, according to friends. A cause of death has not been disclosed.
"When Michelle Ross took the stage you stopped what you were doing and WATCHED!,” popular Toronto drag queen Amanda Roberts declared on Facebook.
Producer and director Mike Bickerton tweeted that Ross was “one of Toronto’s most incredible entertainers” and “truly a pillar of our community.”
Anahí Batista shared: “Michelle Ross was a once in a lifetime performer. Just her walking into any room, everyone would have nothing but positivity towards her. She was so respected by so many.”
Toronto writer and entrepreneur Scott Dagostino described Ross as “endlessly inventive, hardworking and KIND.”
“Michelle was not only an icon she was a visionary,” tweeted MPP Dr. Jill Andrew. “She made us all know that we had every right to live our lives and to live them FULLY and IN COLOUR never shrinking ourselves for anyone anywhere.”
Singer Vincent Wolfe remembered Ross as an “amazing entertainer, lovely person.”
“Michelle remains one of the greatest performers I have ever known... a Diva ... an icon... and still with that welcoming smile,” wrote Geordi Swick. “She has been a friend to many many thousands of people just by her professionalism and her longevity as the queen of them all.
“The ability to make people feel noticed in an often lonely world is an ability of very few especially when it is a performer on stage.”
A native of Jamaica, Ross started her drag career in 1974 and performed on stages around the world as divas like Dionne Warwick, Tina Turner and, of course, Diana Ross. She was also featured in the 1977 camp classic Outrageous!.
In the 2002 documentary Divas: Love Me Forever, Ross explained why she took her wigs off at the end of performances. “They know I’m not real," she said. "I don’t want to be a woman. I want to be me.”
Still, Ross acknowledged the life she was able to live by impersonating female icons.
“If somebody had told me in ‘74 that I would live in Switzerland, Japan, Puerto Rico, Paris, London… I would never believe it,” she said in the film. ”And it’s all because of this.
“I sit down and I look at what I have achieved doing this and all of the flack that I’ve taken because I took this road and I go, 'You know, I’ve done well. I’ve done well.’ I’m trying to do better, but for now I’m doing pretty good.”