Alexis Arquette (Pic: Toglenn)
As the world mourns the death of transgender actress, painter and activist Alexis Arquette, we remember her brief visit to South Africa.
Arquette was known for her roles in films like Pulp Fiction, Bride of Chucky and The Wedding Singer, as well as for her famous family: She was the sibling of actors Rosanna, Patricia, and David.
Her transition from male to female in her 30s was documented in the 2007 film Alexis Arquette: She’s My Brother.
On Sunday, the family announced that the 47-year-old star had died “surrounded by love” while her loved ones “sang her David Bowie’s Starman as she punched through the veil to the other side”.
Arquette came into the spotlight as a gay actor but after beginning her transition her acting career came to a virtual halt. Her family noted in a statement that her “career was cut short, not by her passing, but by her decision to live her truth and her life as a transgender woman”.
“Despite the fact that there are few parts for trans actors, she refused to play roles that were demeaning or stereotypical. She was a vanguard in the fight for understanding and acceptance for all trans people.”
The family continued: “She fiercely lived her reality in a world where it is dangerous to be a trans person – a world largely unready to accept differences among human beings, and where there is still the ugliness of violence and hostility towards people that we may not understand.
“Alexis was born as Robert, our brother. We loved him the moment he arrived. But he came in as more than a sibling – he came as our great teacher. As Alexis transitioned into being a woman, she taught us tolerance and acceptance. As she moved through her process, she became our sister, teaching us what real love is. We learned what real bravery is through watching her journey of living as a trans woman.”
In 1998, Arquette, then still publicly identifying as a gay man, visited South Africa as a guest of the (now sadly defunct) Out In Africa Gay & Lesbian Film Festival, and even performed as her drag alter ego Eva Destruction in Johannesburg and Cape Town.
Former festival director Nodi Murphy told Mambaonline that she was deeply saddened by the news of Arquette’s death. “She was funny and energetic and was a delight, and also terribly naughty,” she said of the performer.
“She put on impromptu drag shows for us all over the place and agreed to do every single interview. She didn’t behave like a star. She was always friendly and warm and didn’t expect extra special treatment.”
There was no indication of Arquette’s cause of death but it appears that the family had been expecting her passing due to an illness for some time.