Portland to rename square after legendary late drag queen

Drag performer Darcelle XV wears blue eye makeup and a light blond wig as she stands outside her space in Portland, Oregon

A public square in downtown Portland, Oregon will soon pay homage to one of the city’s most iconic and beloved drag figures – the legendary Darcelle XV. 

Darcelle XV, the stage name of Walter Cole, was a long-time drag performer, cabaret owner and LGBTQ+ icon who championed queer inclusivity every time she graced the stage. She died of natural causes in March at the age of 92. 

Darcelle held the record as the world’s oldest working drag performer from the Guinness Book of World Records since 2016, and she wowed audiences at her regular show until her passing. 

Portland announced the “momentous decision” to rename O’Bryant Square to Darcelle XV Plaza in memory of the late legend on Friday (7 July). The city said the move also celebrated the “vibrant LGBTQ+ history and culture that have shaped Portland”, local media outlet KATU reported. 

Mayor Ted Wheeler added that the rename “signifies the progress we have made as a city in embracing diversity and embracing LGBTQ+ history”. 

“May this plaza serve as a reminder of our shared journey towards inclusivity and acceptance,” Wheeler said. 

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Portland city commissioner Dan Ryan said that by renaming O’Bryant Square to Darcelle XV Plaza, the city is “embracing and celebrating the indelible contributions of Darcelle XV to our city’s LGBTQ+ community”.

Portland, Oregon drag performer Darcelle XV wears blue eye makeup, a blue outfit and a light blond wig as gets ready to take the stage
Darcelle XV entertained audiences for decades with her drag performances and tireless advocated for her community. (YouTube/Insider)

Portland said the Darcelle XV Plaza will be a “vibrant gathering place for community events, cultural celebrations and public gatherings” as well as a symbol of the city’s “commitment to equality, acceptance and the ongoing struggle for LGBTQ+ rights”. 

A renaming proclamation is set to take place on 13 July. 

Darcelle XV was known for hosting the longest-running drag show on the west coast of the US at her eponymous space, the Darcelle XV showplace, and produced the La Femme Magnifique International Pageant.

In 2020, the Darcelle XV showplace was added to the Oregon National Register of Historic Places for its contributions to LGBTQ+ rights, further cementing its place in the state’s history. 

Darcelle provided a home and safe space for countless drag performers in the city. Outside of drag, she was widely known for her philanthropy and love of her community with an AIDS Memorial Monument and street named in her honour.

In June, the late drag performer became the first Oregonian to be named on the National LGBTQ Wall of Honour at New York City’s famed Stonewall Inn. The wall is housed inside the historic inn that’s recognised widely as the birthplace of the modern LGBTQ+ rights movement after the 1969 riots.