Beloved trans actress Isabel Torres passes away aged 52: ‘Fly my beautiful girl’

Isabel Torres posing on the red carpet

Isabel Torres, the activist who railed against Spain’s anti-trans laws in the 1990s before winning countless awards as a beloved actor, has died. She was 52.

Her family confirmed her death on Torres’ official Instagram account on Friday (11 February).

The cause was complications of lung cancer, which she had suffered from for two years before it led to bone metastases, her family said.

“Today, February 11, 2002, we say goodbye to Isabel,” read a statement, translated from Spanish, posted on Torres’ account.

“Although her family and friends feel her loss deeply, we know that, however she foes, she will have fun as only she knows how.

“Thank you all for the messages of affection and concern. She was left feeling very loved and supported.”

Veneno director praises Isabel Torres’ ‘effort, talent, courage, beauty, power.’

Born in Las Palmas, the sizzling beachside capital of Gran Canaria, Torres became the first Canarian woman to have her gender marker changed on her legal identification card in 1996. By the following year, she appeared on the cover of the weekly news magazine Interviú.

She quickly became one of Spain’s most recognisable trans women, hosting programmes such as Nos vamos pa la playa as well as starring in films such as 1996′ Fotos and the feature movie Camino a la locura.

But it was her role on the Spanish television show Veneno which saw Torres spring to national attention. Playing the role of the older Cristina Ortiz, a Spanish trans pioneer known for her irreverent wit and skill as a vedette, Torres’ sassy dialogue and her vulnerability touched audiences and critics.

The show, created by Javier Ambrossi and Javier Calvo, saw Torres win the 2020 Ondas Award in the category of Best Female Performer in National Fiction. It was later picked up by HBO Max, sending the eight-episode series to international acclaim.

In the opening scene of the first episode, Valeria Vegas, a wide-eyed trans journalist, sees Ortiz for the first time with a stunned breathlessness – something that many trans girls in Spain felt when seeing Torres.

“I think in it there was a lot of me, and in her there was a lot of all of us,” she told The Advocate on portraying Ortiz.

“I never thought we would have a lot of similarities, and at the end, after seeing the character, learning her story, and learning to love her through her wounds, I understood that we share a lot in common.”

“I think it’s super important for there to be visibility in all areas, especially in film,” Torres added.

“I think this series — along with Javier Ambrossi and Javier Calvo — has found this balance to create visibility for trans people in a way that has not been seen before.”

For her work in television and radio, she was later handed the Charter 100 Gran Canaria Award.

But tragedy dashed her ascent. Titled “My last video,” Torres broke the news of her devastating experiences with lung cancer on Instagram.

“They gave me two months to live,” she said on November 2021. “Let’s see if I get over it and, if not, what are we going to do? Life is like that.”

Thanking Ortiz for long being a source of strength to her as someone who not only opened doors for her, but kept them open. Something she hoped to do the same.

She added that she felt “grateful” for the success of Veneno. “But,” she added, “it is also very hard what is happening with me.”

In a touching tribute, Veneno director Javier Ambrossi wrote on Instagram: “I can only thank you, Isabel.

“I still see you in every memory. In every complicit look in filming, in every dance when we could, in every rehearsal.

“You are effort, talent, courage, beauty, power. I take you to inside forever. Rest, my love”

“Fly my beautiful girl,” commented Sylvia Pantoja, “your light will continue to shine from above.”