Gauteng’s LGBTQ community loses two drag stars in one week


Dame Crystal Chandelier – Wayne Desmond Kleynhans

Gauteng’s LGBTQ community is in mourning over the loss of two drag stalwarts, Dame Crystal Chandelier (Wayne Desmond Kleynhans) and Cindy De La Vega (Steven Jacobs).

Dame Crystal Chandelier – Wayne Desmond Kleynhans

Pretoria-born Kleynhans, who died on 12 November, 2018, was one of the country’s biggest names in the drag scene. He was described by friend Jaco Strydom (Mercedes van Aswegen) as “a big gal with an even bigger heart who embraced life, friendship, family, and the art of drag.”

Kleynhans grew up as a typical Afrikaans boy, taking part in the expected activities, such as joining the “Voortrekkers” and playing rugby. He was later drafted for military service and became a chef in the army.

Kleynhans went on to work as a window dresser, assistant, and floor manager at several clothing stores and studied fashion design. He won Young Designer of the year and started Dwayne Couture, dressing teenagers, brides, and moms in his creations.

Kleynhans’ drag career began as a member of Contessa and the Cue Tips and then the well known Cooky Cups, alongside Tilly Tittalation (his spouse, Malcolm). The Cooky Cups performed at clubs, venues, and events, including The Cellar, Lounge Maximus, Ramp Divas, Senate and even Loftus Versfeld. They were among the first drag participants in the early Pink Loerie festivals.

They also performed at Prides, on TV, and even at funerals. There was a movie, Links Om, by Christoff Dorr, and they opened for Karen Zoid on several occasions.

The love of Kleynhans’ life was Malcolm and their romance, according to Aswegen, was “a match made in heaven.” The couple had a church wedding when not only same-sex marriage but homosexuality were both illegal in South Africa. They eventually legally tied the knot when they were able to.

“Dame Crystal Chandelier was of course a big personality; loud, outspoken, and walked her walk with shoulders and lashes perked up high,” said Aswegen. “You either adored her, or you cowered in her shade. She was a mentor to many a lad that wanted to start the art of drag and helped and supported where she could. This icon of the art of drag leaves a big gap that will never be filled and we are richer for having had the privilege to know her, to know him.”

Cindy De La Vega – Steven Jacobs

Cindy De La Vega – Steven Jacobs

Jacobs, who died on 9 November, 2018, was born in Springbok, in the Northern Cape.

He will be remembered as a sharp-tongued and witty drag queen and artist who touched the hearts and lives of so many over the years.

Jacobs started his drag career in the early 80s and won the titles of Miss Equiste in 1987, Miss Gay South Africa in 1989 and Miss Drag Pretoria 1995. He was also the winner of various monthly pageants in the 80 and 90s.

Jacobs made a living as a hairdresser, working at one point on cruise ships. He was also used as a leg model for Cameo stockings adverts. He was a mentor to many other drag artists and remained so until very recently.

Most importantly, Jacobs was a fighter for gay rights in South Africa, and not even a severe gay bashing in 1990, in which he suffered a neck injury, stopped him from fighting for equality.

With a steel neck brace and still recovering, he made a surprise visit at a Christmas show with his favourite song, I am what I am. He continued to speak up for the gay community and was featured on several television and radio shows and in newspapers and magazines.

With all the glitz and glam he brought to the gay community, his biggest achievement was not a title or fame but rather the lives of so many he touched. “She was a spokesperson for the fight for equality, even if that meant her body had to be used as a shield,” said friend Marcus Maré.

“She had a very special way of dealing with people and has been involved in so many success stories over the years. In her advice and care to the community she always mentioned that ‘life is not a dress rehearsal’. Cindy’s life was well lived with many extraordinary achievements. She was an icon, a mentor, a lover but most importantly a friend.”

Our condolences to the family and friends of Kleynhans and Jacobs.

These obituaries were written with the assistance of Jaco Strydom and Marcus Maré

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