Mother Flawless Sabrina, a drag icon and LGBTI rights trailblazer, passed away on Friday 17 November at age 78.
Flawless was born in Philadelphia in 1939 as Jack Doroshow. The legend first tried on women’s clothes at age 8. By age 19, the Mother Flawless Sabrina character was perfected.
Despite drag being stigmatized in the 1960s, even in the gay community, Mother Flawless Sabrina organized drag pageants across the United States. It was at these events that many iconic performers, such as Divine, donned drag for the first time.
Crossdressing was illegal in those days, and Doroshow was arrested numerous times for dressing in drag.
‘We would take hotels, usually in the black section of town, and rent out the ballrooms,’ Doroshow told Out Magazine in 2015. ‘We would hang sheets as a canopy outside so people could get in and out of the building without being seen, even though they were in suits and ties when they came in.’
In 1967, upon promoting the semi-documentary film The Queen in Times Square, Doroshow was also arrested.
The Queen was the first movie about drag. Focusing on the Miss All America Beauty Pageant, Mother Flawless Sabrina played the mother of the contestants, including Crystal LaBeija. The film came to be with the help of Andy Warhol, and was shown at the Cannes film festival.
Later on in life, Doroshow became an activist for gay and trans people, homeless youth, and those living with HIV or AIDS.
Many, including fellow drag queens and LGBTI activists, took to social media to mourn the loss of the iconic Queen:
Divine’s first drag performance was at a Flawless Sabrina event in the late 1960s. A true pioneer and legend. You will be missed Mother! RIP 💐🌷💐 https://t.co/6Xg1AhuSLD #flawlesssabrina #divine #johnwaters #rip
— Divine (@DivineOfficial) November 19, 2017
rip legendary mother flawless sabrina pic.twitter.com/XA6nNaL5qV
— hari nef (@harinef) November 18, 2017
— i bring thunder i bring rain (@YURAMEKl) November 19, 2017
We lost a mother. RIP Flawless Sabrina (Also, when will we finally get The Queen on DVD). pic.twitter.com/wN37EMCJ84
— Bradley Traynor (@bradleytraynor) November 19, 2017
— Back in the Gays (@backinthegays) November 18, 2017
Mother Flawless Sabrina has left us. I don’t know what to say but I want to say something:
Sometimes moms don’t know they are moms because life is hard and they don’t get to know how important they were to young folk who were scared.
RIP, Jack. https://t.co/5jNsny88Hc
— Rachel Crowl 😈 (@rachelcrowl) November 19, 2017
— Bianca Del Rio (@TheBiancaDelRio) November 19, 2017
The great lady has left us. Thank you for the magic, Mother Flawless Sabrina. pic.twitter.com/UpGoycuBIU
— Justin Sayre (@JustinSayreCHM) November 18, 2017
R.I.P Mother Flawless Sabrina 🙏 thank you for your long life of activism
— pokerface (@_yazoh) November 19, 2017
Rest in Peace, Mother Flawless Sabrina. One of the originals and a pioneer in th LGBT* community 💔 pic.twitter.com/N2VFbERj1U
— Craig Burns (@craigburrrns) November 19, 2017
Rest in Power. Flawless Sabrina. You were a light in the darkness for decades. Interviewing you was a highlight of my career https://t.co/Pg1khLLKK0
— Hugh Ryan (@Hugh_Ryan) November 18, 2017