Icon and trailblazer: community mourns transgender pioneer Katya

Photo: MGRM/Facebook.

The LGBTIQ community is mourning the death of “trailblazer and icon” Katya, a pioneering Maltese transgender model and performer.

Katya, who died aged 63, was well known as a cabaret performer in clubs around Malta and London in the 1970s, and appeared as a model for Vogue magazine and several international agencies. 

The rights group Allied Rainbow Communities described her as a “trailblazer and icon” who “dared crossing very dangerous waters in a time where the island was still very conservative.”She dared crossing very dangerous waters in a time where the island was still very conservative.

“Katie was a good soul who battled her demons by living the life of a star, well as well as she could, anyway,” close friend Anthony Sultana told Times of Malta, recalling a glamorous youth that included modelling with Karl Lagerfeld and partying with David Bowie and Mick Jagger. 

Photo: Albert BuhagiarPhoto: Albert Buhagiar

But Mr Sultana also recalled his friend’s kindness and generosity: “I personally will be forever grateful to dear Katya for taking me in when I had no place to stay,” he said.

“She was, for a while, the Mother Teresa to a group of us homeless, young, gay men.

“She was also very witty, forever quoting lines from Bette Davis Gloria Swanson and Joan Crawford movies, like she studied the parts and played them herself.

“I will always remember her as the beautiful woman who brought a smile wherever she sashayed.”“She was, for a while, the Mother Teresa to a group of us homeless, young, gay men.

Among those paying tribute on Monday were the lobby group MGRM, fashion designer Charles Van Maarschalkerweerd Borg and transgender model Karly Naudi, who hailed Katya for pushing boundaries for other transgender people and for “the courage to be her true self in a dangerous time for anyone within the LGBTIQ Spectrum.”

“Even though we only met a couple of times, I want to thank you for helping me understand who I truly am and inspiring me with your style, poise and incredible strength,” Ms Naudi wrote on Facebook.

Allied Rainbow Communities has encourage friends, loved ones and others who knew Katya to email with their memories as part of a tribute “to keep her alive as one of Malta’s historic LGBTQ icons”

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