Darcelle XV, the world’s oldest drag queen, dies aged 92: ‘I thought they would live forever’

Darcelle XV

Portland icon Darcelle XV, recognised by Guinness World Records as the world’s oldest performing drag queen, has died aged 92.

Darcelle, real name Walter W Cole, started her drag career in 1967 performing in Portland, Oregon. Her friends and family have said they are “heartbroken” at the loss.

In a Facebook post, they said Darcelle died from natural causes, and said all shows at her Portland bar, Darcelle XV Showplace, would go ahead as planned.

“We ask for privacy and patience as everyone processes and grieves in their own way and at their own pace,” they wrote.

Darcelle was recognised as the world’s oldest drag queen in 2016, at the age of 85, and was also celebrated for hosting the longest running drag show on America’s West Coast.

Tributes have been paid by fans and Portland locals, painting a picture of a much-loved performer and a powerful figure in the city’s queer scene.

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“Drag for Darcelle was both entertainment and a force for good. Her life should be a lesson to those trying to demonize the LGBTQIA+ community,” wrote Reverend Dr Chuck Currie.

“Somehow, no matter how old they became, I thought that they would live forever, an absolute light in queer Portland. I am heartbroken,” said Rhonda Robertson.

“I am beyond devastated to hear of this. Darcelle’s always treated everyone with respect and kindness,” added drag performer Tommi Rose.

RuPaul’s Drag Race star Jinkx Monsoon also paid tribute, calling Darcelle “an icon, and really — an institution.”

Shangela spoke about performing with Darcelle on a boat cruise, saying she was grateful to have seen “given her the flowers she deserved”.

Local press reports that Darcelle “entertained generations of tourists and bachelorette parties” during her career at the Old Town nightclub.

In a 2018 interview with Insider, Darcelle said her make-up only took her “10 minutes” to apply.

“I’ve been in the business for 51 years, so I do the same make-up,” she told Insider.

“It’s my trademark.”

Darcelle described herself as “a man with big bushy eyebrows” and would wear brows made of paper during her performances, saying she “wanted to look okay” when out of drag.