lady labelle, philadelphia

my name is julio mangual aka lady labelle, my stage name. i was born in mayagüez, puerto rico. i’m one of the old girls that’s still alive from north philadelphia. because growing up in north philly being a gay male, back then you couldn’t walk around being gay without getting beat up. i used to have a lot of problems because i would fight back. so i moved away and i started doing drag to get away from getting in trouble. it got me off the streets. i am where i am right now and i owe it to lady labelle.

lady labelle is different from julio. when i perform, everything i do has to do with me growing up. every song that i do has to do with being yourself. i’m happy when i’m lady labelle.

lady labelle started in puerto rico one day we were sitting down around halloween and we were going to do a show and i was with my gay mother and i wanted to do iris chacón. she was like “i’m going to do the iris chacón.” i was like have a damn but I’m black who am I going to do? she said Celia Cruz or Patti LaBelle and i was like i want to do Celia but i also want to do Patti Labelle. i did and it was a hit. i was one of the first ones that walked in actual an carnaval. i took the chance of walking in straight parades and i guess people learned to respect it.

julio mangual aka lady labelle
philadelphia, pa 

photographed & interviewed by: louie a. ortiz-fonseca

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