Transgender icon Carmen Rupe was this afternoon buried in the Maori section of Rookwood Cemetery following a service at Redfern’s Te Wairua Rapu Church just after midday where a diverse crowd from the Maori, LGBTI and drag communities had gathered to remember her and mourn her passing.
Carmen had laid in state at the church since Saturday, and was carried from the church to a waiting hearse in a gleaming red coffin topped with a floral arrangement and a red feather boa.
Rupe, who had a fall earlier in the year and suffered ill health ever since, succumbed to kidney failure on the morning of December 15 at St Vincent’s Hospital, Sydney at the age of 75.
Friends had been keeping a bedside vigil for several days.
The New Zealand-born drag performer was as well known in her homeland as in Australia.
She opened businesses including cafes, nightclubs and brothels in Wellington that were unique for being openly gay and welcoming to all in the community.
The Les Girls performer was also credited as being the first Maori drag queen in the ’50s.
In 2008 a topless Rupe famously led the Decade of the Divas float at that year’s Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade.