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Harris Glenn Milstead
Divine, was born as Harris Glenn Milstead (1945–1988), and was an outrageously eyebrowed, respectability razzing, incredibly foul and funny superstar; known to some as the ‘most beautiful woman in the world’. Milstead was an American actor, singer and drag queen.
After developing a name for himself as a female impersonator known for ‘trashy’ behaviour in his early films, Divine capitalized on this image by appearing at his musical performances in his drag persona. In this role, he was described as displaying ‘Trash. Filth. Obscenity. In bucket-loads’ by his manager Bernard Jay. Divine described his stage performances as ‘just good, dirty fun, and if you find it offensive, honey, don't join in.’ As a part of his performance, he constantly swore at the audience, often using his signature line of ‘fuck you very much’, and at times got audience members to come onstage, where he would fondle their buttocks, groins, and breasts. Divine and his stage act proved particularly popular among gay audiences, and he appeared at some of the world's biggest gay clubs. According to Bernard Jay, this was not because Divine himself was gay, but because the gay community ‘openly and proudly identified with the determination of the female character Divine’.
Becoming increasingly known for outlandish stunts onstage, each time trying to outdo what he had done before. Divine was content with being known primarily for his drag act; he told an interviewer ‘My favourite part of drag is getting out of it. Drag is my work clothes. I only put it on when someone pays me to.’
During his childhood and adolescence, Divine was called ‘Glenn’ by his friends and family; during his adult career, he used ‘Divine’ as his personal name, telling one interviewer that ‘Divine’ and ‘Glenn Milstead’ were ‘both just names. Glenn is the name I was brought up with, Divine is the name I've been using for the past 23 years. I guess it's always Glenn and it's always Divine. - Do you mean the character Divine or the person Divine? You see, it gets very complicated. There's the Divine you're talking to now and there's the character Divine, which is just something I do to make a living. She doesn't really exist at all.’ At one point he had the name ‘Divine’ officially recognised, as it appeared on his passport, and in keeping with his personal use of the name, his close friends nicknamed him ‘Divy’.
‘Divine’, Wikipedia, retrieved 29 September 2013
‘I am Divine’, BAM, retrieved 29 September 2013
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