Very sad news to report from Chicago. Stage and pageant icon Sasha Valentino passed away over the holidays. Sasha died December 26 after losing a long battle with dementia.
Sasha Valentino was crowned Miss Black Universe, Miss Universo Latina, Miss Sweetheart International and Miss Liberty International, among many honors. "In total, friends estimate that she carried more than 40 titles," reports Windy City Times.
"Sasha Valentino was an icon and an inspiration to us all in the Trans world," said performer Angelique Munro. Friends and family remember Valentino as a mentor and example to many, who regularly adopted "children" into her ever-growing family and encouraged them in their goals.
Standing at 5'5", usually in a gown, friends say that Valentino intimidated other performers both with her status as a living legend and a style that was copied time and again. According to friends, Valentino mentored countless young trans women who wanted to break into performing, and she impacted many more by serving as a role model. Christina Valentino, a performer herself, said that many copied her style, trying to perfect the dance moves and outfits that Valentino pulled off.
Valentino grew up on the South Side of Chicago and graduated from Christian Fenger High School in 1990. In the early '90s she began performing drag at clubs. In time, she was competing in pageants and doing her own drag shows. Her family was intensely supportive, said Christian Valentino. They came to cheer her on at pageants and took each of her losses and wins to heart.
The wake was held on New Year's Eve. Many friends surprised and dismayed by the final arrangements.
However, because of her mother's religious beliefs ( she is a Jehovah's Witness ), all of the print materials and photos were of Sasha in male form, and she was even buried in a suit, not one of her fabulous gowns. Born Raymond Jermaine Harris on Dec. 21, 1971, Sasha lived her last decades as a female impersonation performer across Chicago and the nation. Those facts were left off the obituary handed out at the funeral home.
Ruthie Mason, Sasha's great aunt, saw her perform and said she was "beautiful." She said her family accepted Sasha, but because Sasha's mother was in charge of the services, the family just had to accept it. Sasha's cousin Mable Casson said while she did not agree with how the wake was handled, it was the mother's choice. "Performing is what Sasha wanted to do, [ she ] chose and lived it beautifully. [ She ] moved on up," Mason said
On a personal note: I first met Sasha when she was in her late teens and before her transition. I had the privilege of watching her transition into a beautiful young woman and a role model to many. I saw Sasha perform flawlessly many times at LaRay's, CK's, the Clubhouse, the Generator and many clubs. Sasha Valentino was a legend. Perfect tens.