Toronto mourns drag queen Michelle Ross

The performer was a ubiquitous presence in the city's queer scene for more than four decades


One of the city’s best known drag queens, Michelle Ross, has died.

Pride Toronto confirmed Ross’s passing on Monday on social media after news of the the Church Street fixture’s death spread among fans.

“Loved by the community, she entertained audiences at Pride Festivals past with electrifying performances, and wowed at this year’s Rise Up! event celebrating Black History Month,” Pride said in a statement. “We’ll cherish her memory for years to come.”

A cause of death has not been reported.

Born in Jamaica, Ross was known for her energetic yet nuanced performances to songs by music icons Patti LaBelle, Gloria Gaynor and Diana Ross. She was a regular at Pride events such as Blockoroma and the 519’s Green Space Festival, as well as Church Street bars like Woody’s and Crews and Tangos.

Pride’s remembrance notes that Ross began performing in 1974 at Club Manatee and had a six-year stint with La Cage Aux Folles, in addition to a residency at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas. She travelled across the U.S., Canada and Europe and appeared in the 1977 cult Canadian classic, Outrageous!

Black Lives Matter Canada, Canada’s Drag Race winner Priyanka, Mayor John Tory and several Toronto drag performers posted remembrances and filled Ross’s Facebook page with tributes.

“Michelle Ross always spread kindness, positivity and love,” performer Sofonda Cox wrote on Facebook. “A true legend and icon of our community.”

A memorial of flowers, cards and photos has been set up on the steps of Woody’s. Read more tributes below.

@nowotoronto

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