1945 - 1988

“I can stand on stage and do nothing, and people will write, 'Divine was outrageous.'”

- Divine

Harris Glenn Milstead was born into a conservative Baltimore family. Bullied in high school because of his weight and gentle demeanor, he was sent to a psychiatrist at 17 where he began to explore his attraction to men. In the mid- 1960s he met director John Waters who christened him Divine and put him in the short film ‘Roman Candles.’ His natural comedic talents and outrageous persona blossomed in subsequent shorts before Waters cast him in his feature ‘Mondo Trasho’ (1969). Lead roles in ‘Multiple Maniacs’ (1970), ‘Pink Flamingos’ (1971), and ‘Female Trouble’ (1974) followed, and a cult drag superstar was born. In the mid-1970s Divine toured in successful runs of the campy plays ‘Women Behind Bars’ and ‘The Neon Woman. In 1981 he starred in Waters’ ‘Polyester’ while simultaneously launching a career as a disco diva. His outrageous live performances were a huge club draw - performing such dance hits as ‘Native Love (Step by Step),’ ‘Shoot Your Shot,’ and ‘I’m So Beautiful.’ In 1985 he made two non-Waters films including ‘Lust in the Dust.’ His performance in the Waters film ‘Hairspray’ (1988) was a watershed – heralding a new acceptance for female impersonation in popular cinema as well as a new respect for his acting. Having finally broken through into the mainstream, he appeared on talk shows with David Letterman, Alan Thicke, and Merv Griffin, and was featured on the cover of ‘Interview’ magazine. In 1988, with his career at a high point – he had just been cast in the new ‘Nightmare on Elm Street’ film – he died at age 42 of an enlarged heart. In his obituary ‘People’ magazine declared him as ‘Drag Queen of the Century.’


Gender Male

Sexual Orientation Gay

Gender Identity Cisgender

Ethnicity Caucasian/White

Nations Affiliated United States

Era/Epoch Information Age (1970-present)

Field(s) of Contribution





Commemorations & Honors

Andrew Logan's Divine Statue Permanently Displayed at Baltimore's American Visionary Art Museum

Inspiration for The Little Mermaid's Ursula the Sea Witch Character (1989)

I Am Divine Documentary Released (2013)

San Francisco Rainbow Honor Walk Honoree (2019)


Original Biography Author
Owen Keehnen
Biography Edited By
Victor Salvo
Resources Coordination
Carrie Maxwell