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A Toronto drag queen who ‘wowed audiences’ has died and people are paying tribute | CBC News

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A Toronto drag queen described as legendary has died and people in the city are mourning her loss with heartfelt tributes on social media.

Michelle Ross, born in Jamaica and believed to be in her 60s, was known as “true drag royalty.” Pride Toronto confirmed her death in a statement on Twitter on Monday. Her cause of death is not known. The tributes say Ross was kind and talented.

Glad Day Bookshop, which describes itself as the “first queer-focused Canadian bookstore,” said the death of Ross is a huge loss for the community.

“Our village, our city and our world has lost Michelle Ross. Michelle was legendary for her kindness, friendship, commitment, style and raw talent. May she continue to inspire us all,” the bookstore said on Twitter on Sunday.

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Drag queen Brooke Lynn Hytes, originally from Toronto, said in an Instagram post that Ross had an international career that lasted decades and she described her as a “Icon, Legend, Diva and STAR” of the drag scene in Toronto.

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“If you were booked in a show with her, it was understood that you were the intermission or the smoke break. People were there to see Michelle! Her shows were a drag master class. She held her audience captive!” Hytes said.

Salon Noir, a community group, expressed condolences on Facebook to her family, friends and admirers on Sunday. The group says it was “born out of our desire and commitment to black trans, gender fluid, gender queer and queer people to provide a safe place for our communities to laugh, learn, love and socialize.”

“I don’t think any of us were prepared for this news this morning — confirmed by the family. We wish you all comfort during this time of grief. Miss Ross may you rest in glory with your King Jesus.”

Pride Toronto, for its part, said Ross was a much-loved performer at its annual festival.

“Michelle wowed audiences at Pride Festivals past with electrifying performances and this year’s Rise Up! event. We’ll cherish her memory for years to come,” it said in its statement. “Classy. Elegant. Glamorous. Miss Ross.”

According to Pride Toronto, Ross began to perform in 1974 at Manitee Club in Toronto. She had a six-year stint with La Cage Aux Folles in Toronto as well as a residency at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas. She appeared at events in Canada, in the U.S., in London, England, and Jamaica.

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CBC Arts once described her as “a reigning queen on Toronto’s Church Street.” 

Xtra magazine, in a June 17, 2009 article entitled “Parliament of queens,” said of Ross: “The supremely talented Ms Ross is a true Canadian drag legend. Like her namesake Diana, Ms Ross is The Boss.”

After performing thousands of times, “her presence is true drag royalty,” the magazine said.

“Worldwide stints and weekly gigs on Church Street have garnered her a huge cult following of loving fans who can’t get enough of that huge fabulous hair. There just ain’t no mountain high enough.”

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