The LGBTQ community lost an icon Thursday, when The Lady Chablis passed away. NBC News reports Chablis, who came to national fame after her role in the 1997 film Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, succumbed to pneumonia after a month-long stint in the hospital in Savannah, Georgia. She was 59.
Cynthia Ponder, Chablis’ sister, confirmed her death, saying, “The legacy that she wanted to leave was one of ‘believe in who you are and never let the world change who you are,'” Ponder said. “Love yourself first and respect yourself first and others will love and respect you.”
Chablis had been a popular performer in Savannah’s famed Club One in the 1980s when she was spotted by Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil novelist John Berendt. After including her in the book, and her subsequent appearance in the film, Club One became a popular tourist destination for those wanting to see Chablis in action.
Club One issued a message about her passing on its Facebook page.
“The Lady chablis, who stole hearts – and the spotlight – in Midnight In The Garden of Good and Evil, passed this morning surrounded by friends and family,” the post said. “Chablis always wanted to give the audience, be it 15 or 1500, the best that she had. With her declining health, she regretted that her body wouldn’t allow her to give more. Chablis is survived by her sister, Cynthia. Our thoughts and prayers are with her family, who request privacy during this time of grief.”
Over on Twitter, friends and fans of The Lady Chablis mourned her passing.
I recall the days when we'd hang out at Lady Chablis' house & put an eating down — her famous fried chicken would melt in your mouth.
— Tony Snell Rodriguez 🏳️🌈 (@TonyEquality) September 8, 2016
— Laverne Cox (@Lavernecox) September 8, 2016
Our condolences to those who knew the Lady Chablis, a trans pioneer who stole the show in “Midnight in the Garden of Good & Evil”
— GLAAD (@glaad) September 8, 2016
RIP to a legend. The first Trans Entertainer, The Lady Chablis 🌹 pic.twitter.com/KVJpNvnwDK
— 2.08 ♒️ (@EatMyHeartOut_) September 8, 2016
— sheryl lee ralph (@thesherylralph) September 8, 2016
— Marla Jean Rooker (@Jedimaster_MJ) September 8, 2016
— Coco Montrese (@cocomontrese) September 8, 2016
The Lady Chablis was loved by many who credited the performer for paving the way for a generation of trans entertainers.