(Photo: Greg Gorman)
Harris Glenn Milstead, also known by his stage name Divine, (October 19, 1945 – March 7, 1988) was an American actor, singer and drag queen. Associated with independent filmmaker John Waters, he was a character actor, usually performing female roles in cinematic and theatrical appearances, and adopted a female drag persona for his music career; People magazine described him as the “Drag Queen of the Century”.
Born in Maryland to a conservative, middle-class family, he embraced the counterculture of the 1960s and became involved with Waters’s acting troupe, the Dreamlanders, starring in early Waters films Mondo Trasho (1969), Multiple Maniacs (1970), Pink Flamingos (1972) and Female Trouble (1974). Hits on the U.S. midnight movie circuit, the films became cult classics. In the 1970s, Divine moved to theater, appearing with The Cockettes before performing in Women Behind Bars and The Neon Woman. Continuing cinematic work, he starred in Polyester (1981), Lust in the Dust (1985) and Hairspray (1988). In 1981, Divine embarked in the disco industry, producing Hi-NRG tracks that were mostly written by Bobby Orlando. He achieved global chart success with hits like “You Think You’re a Man”, “I’m So Beautiful”, and “Walk Like a Man”. Although Divine died in Los Angeles, California from cardiomegaly in 1988, he has remained a cult figure ever since, particularly within the LGBT community, and has provided the inspiration for fictional characters, artworks and songs. Various books and documentary films devoted to his life have also been produced, including Divine Trash (1998) and I Am Divine (2013).