GT Screen

I Am Divine

Kill. Everyone. Now.

If you thought it was Elizabeth Taylor you were wrong: Divine was the most beautiful woman in the world. And, kicking off the London Lesbian and Gay Film Festival last night, she’s back to remind us.

Read GT's review below the trailer...

It’s been 25 years since Glenn Milstead, a.k.a. Divine, passed away - and he’s finally got the big, showy, indulgent biography he deserves. Glenn was so inextricably linked with his drag persona that he's described with both female and male pronouns throughout the film – though he didn’t see himself as transgender. He did, however, see himself as Divine.

Think of ‘Divine’ and ‘Pink Flamingos’ probably springs to mind – especially if you’re of a certain age – but this film shows that there was much more to Glenn’s career than eating dog turds. Don’t forget the murders! Archive footage adds colour, and humour, and the people who knew him best provide a complex portrait of a unique talent. Glenn’s mother Frances (who died in 2009) recalls her shy and feminine son, and speaks candidly about rejecting him after he came out to her as a young man. Years pass and she sees Divine on the cover of Gay News (which later became GT, so you know) and realises that the drag queen everyone was talking about was, in fact, her son. A reunion follows and Frances becomes, after Divine, Divine's biggest fan – and so begins the audience’s first round of sniffling. Tissues are seen.

Adding to the sense of intimacy is Divine’s longtime collaborator John Waters, who, we’re pleased to see, is still sporting his trademark pencil moustache. He describes Divine’s huge appetite for just about everything life had to offer, particularly sex, stardom, cannabis, and, simply, food. Ricki Lake, who worked with Glenn on the original Hairspray film, explains how he overcame his initial envy of her (she took the lead role) to shower her with big spirited sisterhood. It turns out she also got some tips on how to walk in heels. Lucky Lake.

We are lucky too, treated to plenty of “Oh yeah, I forgot she did that!” moments and (for the uninitiated) “My god, did she do that?” – she did. He did. He was fearless, ambitious, warm and kind. This lovingly crafted documentary celebrates that complexity and creates a resource for anybody interested in a module on fabulousness. All in all it’s a divine offering – because, of course, it’s all about Divine. Something tells us she’d approve.


I Am Divine will tour in 2013, for updates see

Words: Paris Lees

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