The Unsolved Murder of Venus Xtravaganza

A thirty two year old cold case

A.W. Naves
5 min readMay 3, 2021


Venus Xtravaganza (Photo Credit: Paris is Burning)

On a cold Christmas Day in 1988, the body of a young transgender woman was found strangled and stuffed under a bed in New York’s Duchess Hotel. A medical examiner would later determine that her body had been there for about four days before being discovered. There are few details of her case available beyond this due to its continued active status.

The victim was 23-year-old Venus Xtravaganza, who had been currently filming Paris is Burning, a documentary that followed the lives of some transgender performers in New York City.

Another performer in the film, Angie Xtravaganza, was one of the first to be interviewed by authorities. The closing minutes of the film include Angie reacting to the death of Venus. Angie would be the one tasked with delivering the grim news to Venus’s biological parents. She says this of her friend:

She “was too wild with people in the streets.” I feared that “something [was] going to happen to [her].”

Born on May 22, 1965, in Jersey City, New Jersey, Venus was one of five children. Her first performances were around 1978 or so at the age of 13 or 14 years old, part of a secret life she kept from her family. When her parents became aware of her lifestyle, she moved away, saying she didn’t “want to embarrass them.”

It was at this time that she made her way to New York City, where she felt she would be afforded better opportunities to perform. There she met Hector Valle. She would later recount that Valle “was the first gay man I ever met.” Valle took Venus to Greenwich Village for her 15th birthday, throwing her a party and buying her a cake. She speaks of him fondly in a portion of her interviews for Paris is Burning.

She took the name Xtravaganza in 1983 when she began cross-dressing and performing as a member of the House of Xtravaganza, an early ball circuit founded in 1982 by Vale. It would be a short-lived venture for him, as he succumbed to the complications of AIDS in 1985.

At this time, Angie Xtravaganza assumed the role of house mother. She took the young Venus in as her protegee and drag daughter. Like Vale, Angie would eventually succumb to the…



A.W. Naves

Creator of DOING CRIME — True Crime Blog