My Other Amazing Idols

We miss you Stephanie!

By Stephanie Julianna

As a follow-up to a previous post I am presenting the other ladies who I idolized as a teen.  The three main publications that featured professional “female impersonators”  were: Lee Brewster’s “Drag Magazine”, “Female Mimics” and the cleverly titled, “Female Impersonators”.  I had been aware that there was this “profession” out there from seeing ads in the NYC area newspapers that ran small ads featuring one of the girls at Club 82 in NYC.  And then there was the traveling drag show, The Jewel Box Review that took out bigger ads with pictures of more girls, when they came to town.  But these pictures were of poor quality and usually very small.     

But my world changed when I wandered down the infamous 42nd Street into the Red Light district one Saturday in 1962.  I was not long before I was a regular customer at one book store just past Broadway.  The proprietor was a big black guy named Erin.  He surmised my interest and was so nice to me, never making me feel like I was strange or bad for looking at all the female mimic mags and crossdressing fiction books in the left back corner of the small shop.  I became a loyal customer for the next 20 years.  It was the magazines mentioned above that made me realize the reality that a genetic male could truly attain a beautiful female image.  There were so many but there were three that rose to the top of my list.      

Most boys would look at pictures of these amazing entertainers and say that they would love to bed them not knowing that they were looking at men.  However, I looked at them and wished I could look and dress like them.  As it turned out, none were American.  All performed at the famed Au Carrousel in Paris and two were French and one was British.  When you see them you will agree that these ladies were the Best of the Best and what crossdresser would not want to look as amazing as them?

Starting at number 3 is April Ashley (above).  I actually found out about her when I saw a Cover story in the Midnight News that had a headline “Lady was a Man”.  I was around 12 at the time.  But it was in the professional drag magazines that I realized that she started out at the Au Carrousel with the stage name Tony April.

Number 2 was Coccinelle (above).  My jaw dropped when I first saw a photo layout of her in Drag Magazine.  She eventually was featured in all three magazines, if my memory is correct.  That being said, I must admit that I wasn’t sure that she was really an impersonator.  How could someone that feminine and beautiful ever have been born male?  My young mind was blown away.  

Well, if Coccinelle blew my mind, then Bambi made it explode.  My Number 1 pick of all the professionals I ever saw. OMG!  There she was in all her glory.  Everything that I wanted to be.  She had attained  the level of beauty that my GG idols, mentioned last week, had attained and she was not born female. 

In my early days of dressing this lady gave me a bar to try to reach.  I knew that I could never achieve that level of perfection without the total commitment to the art which meant hormones and surgeries.  I eventually decided that loss of family and friends was too steep a price to pay but they peppered my dreams often and even to this day.     

When I researched the internet for this post I was reminded of their beauty and  that everyone of them did transition completely during their years as entertainers.  I do not know about you, but it would have been a shame if they hadn’t.  For me, the world was just a bit more beautiful because they were in it.  And they gave me a dream.       

The last picture is how far below the bar I fell but a decent showing since the bar was so amazingly high. 

Thank you ladies. 

You enriched my life more than you can ever imagine.

Thank you Stephanie, you have paid it forward and done the same for us! I love and miss you!!

I have been unable to reach Stephanie in quite some time. I know the pandemic created problems for her in struggling with her gender and her home situation. Thy handful of posts she wrote for the old blog are so meaningful, I want to continue sharing the gift of her with you.


2 Responses

  1. Lovely post and I definitely think that, despite her reservations, Stephanie could hold her head high as far as that photo is concerned.

    Also nice to hear about other girls’ influences. For me, it was Caroline Cossey who was, and still is, off the scale gorgeous and Stephanie Anne Lloyd, founder of the ‘Transformation’ chain of shops whose glamour photos in the 1980s were completely at odds with the ‘before’ shots depicting a bespectacled & balding guy that invariably accompanied them (but gave hope to those of us equally challenged in the looks department!). And this was all in the days before facial feminisation surgery.

    It’s particularly sad that these ladies have either left us or are in/approaching the closing years of their lives. Nowadays, we can all reel off lists of names of trans girls who can challenge GGs in the beauty stakes but they do so in a largely tolerant and supportive society and with every possible medical intervention at their disposal if they so desire. April, Bambi et al were trailblazers in an age when most of the exposure they got was either hostile or from the media whose only interest was in selling newspapers with sensational stories, regardless of who they trampled on in the process.

    We have a lot to thank them for.

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