©2019 by Kaytlin Bailey and Justine McLellan. 

  • Justine McLellan

Flawless Sabrina, the Drag Pioneer

Flawless Sabrina was born in Philadelphia in 1939. She was a queer icon, an actress, a transgender rights activist, and a mentor to many.

Flawless wore a gown for the first time when she was 8-years old. She later developed her drag persona, Flawless Sabrina, and organized a national drag beauty pageant, The Nationals, in 1958. She said to OUT Magazine, that “[they] would take hotels, usually in the black section of town, and rent out the ballrooms. [They] 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.

Nine years later, the 1967 Nationals, which featured Andy Warhol as a judge, were captured by the Documentary “The Queen”. On her status as a drag pioneer, Flawless reflects that she “was just was like a cork in the ocean, and by serendipity became involved in something, which in retrospect looks like pioneering, but I don’t think it was anything of the sort. It was just cultural change, and I happened to be in the right place at the right time—or the wrong place at the wrong time, depending on your point of view”.

For queer historian Hugh Ryan, “wended through the last fifty years of American history like a queer Forrest Gump, touching Edie Sedgwick and William Burroughs, Bobby Kennedy and Jackie O., L.A. in the 70s, Paris in the 80s, and New York always and forever.

She mentored activist, author and frequent guest to the podcast, Ceyenne Doroshow, as well as Transparent producer Zachary Drucker. Recently, Drucker and writer Diana Tourjee raised 20 000$ for the Flawless Sabrina Archive, a project that aims to preserve Flawless’s Upper East side apartment, which contains treasures of New York city’s queer history.


Hugh Ryan's "Queen Sabrina, Flawless Mother America's majestic drag queen mother has spent her life mentoring her daughters and granddaughters"

Chadwick Moore's "Why Flawless Sabrina Is a Hero : Arrested more than 100 times for cross-dressing, Mother Flawless is an unsung hero whose archives should be on the national register"