Meet Divine, the drag queen that inspired one of Disney’s most iconic villains

She’s big, she’s bold, she’s brash. An evil queen with enough iniquitous energy to inspire fear and awe in equal measure. No we’re not talking about The Little Mermaid‘s Ursula. We’re talking about Divine.

Born Harris Glenn Milstead on October 19, 1945, Divine was dubbed the “Drag Queen of the Century” by People magazine, establishing herself as an icon on the drag scene.

The Charm City queen was known for her irreverent, unconventional style. She was known to masturbate with dead fish, perform a song called “Journey to the Center of Uranus,” and curse her parents on stage.

According to her manager Bernard Jay, Divine displayed “Trash. Filth. Obscenity. In bucket-loads.”

A queen and a muse

Deviating from the glamour-driven drag scene of 1960s Baltimore, and embracing the countercultural scene, Divine became the muse of film director John Waters. It was this friendship that would eventually propel Divine towards the limelight.

Waters christened his friend “Divine” and described her as “the most beautiful woman in the world, almost.”

The film director helped craft his friend’s image, creating an alternative beauty queen.

Divine challenged the conventional drag queen aesthetic (Palace Pictures)

“John wanted a very large woman,” Divine told NPR’S Fresh Air in 1988, “because he wanted the exact opposite of what normally would be beautiful.

“He wanted a 300-pound beauty, as opposed to a 110-pound beauty. He wanted, as I’ve been called, inflated Jayne Mansfield.”

Divine ripped up the rulebook for drag aesthetic, setting a precedent. “He broke every rule,” Waters told Baltimore Magazine. “And now every drag queen, every one that’s successful today is cutting edge.”

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