On this day, 33 years ago, Divine died at the age of 42 (19.10.1945 - 7.03.1988). Divine was an American actor, singer, and drag queen, born as Harris Glenn Milstead.
Closely associated with the independent filmmaker John Waters, Divine was a character actor, usually performing female roles in cinematic and theatrical productions and adopted a female drag persona for his music career. Milstead developed an early interest in drag while working as a women's hairdresser. By the mid-1960s he had embraced the city's countercultural scene and befriended Waters, who gave him the name "Divine" and the tagline "the most beautiful woman in the world, almost."
Divine joined Waters' acting troupe and adopted female roles for their experimental short films. Divine next starred in Waters' Pink Flamingos (1972), which became a cult classic and established Divine's fame within the American counterculture. Then Divine moved to theater, appearing in several avant-garde performances alongside San Francisco drag collective The Cockettes.
He starred in two more of Waters' films, Polyester (1981) and Hairspray (1988), the latter of which represented his breakthrough into mainstream cinema.
Meanwhile, in 1981, Divine embarked on a career in the disco industry by producing a number of Hi-NRG tracks, most of which were written by Bobby Orlando. He achieved international chart success with hits like ’Shoot Your Shot’ (1981), ‘You Think You're a Man’ (1984) and ‘Walk Like a Man’ (1985), all of which were performed in drag.
Having struggled with obesity throughout his life, he died from cardiomegaly, shortly after the release of Hairspray.
Described by People magazine as the "Drag Queen of the Century", Divine has remained a cult figure, particularly within the LGBT community, and has provided the inspiration for fictional characters, artworks and songs.
A worthwhile documentary film devoted to his life is I Am Divine (2013).