Born on March 11, 1957, Chablis grew up in Quincy, Florida. Her parents divorced when she was five, and she was supported by her aunt, Katie Bell, and grandmother, Anna Mae Ponder, after her mother moved to Chicago to be a nurse. She did not meet her mother until she was nine, or her father until she was 12. She went on to live with her father in the Harlem neighborhood of New York City, in 1969. She changed her name to “The Lady Chablis” when she was 16 years old and living in Atlanta. “My mom was going to have a baby and she miscarried. The baby’s name was going to be La Quinta Chablis and she told me to take the name. I didn’t even know what Chablis was.”

Chablis’ mother moved back to Florida and practiced nursing at Sunnyland Hospital in Tallahassee. She lived with her mother and her new husband, who owned a dry-cleaning business. Chablis became close to her neighbor, Connie, who offered her a lot of support and a refuge from homophobic troubles at home.

Chablis began her career at age 15 in the Fox Trot gay bar in Tallahassee. It was there that she met Cliff Taylor, who performed under the pseudonym of Miss Tina Devore. He was the first male in Quincy that Chablis ever met who dressed up. Taylor offered to have Chablis stay with him if she ever moved to Atlanta. She moved there in 1974 at the age of 17, previously living with her aunt in Tallahassee for about eighteen months.

She began working at the Prince George Inn, a gay-owned restaurant, where she began a relationship with one of her co-workers. She left in 1975 after the relationship ended, and picked up work at Eckerd’s Drugstore. After becoming sick for three weeks, she had to leave that position too. A new friend, Linda, saw the decline in Chablis’ health and moved her into her two-bedroom apartment. She found another job, this time at a Burlington Coat Factory outlet.

Chablis and Linda moved to Regency Woods apartment complex. Encouraged by her friend’s lush life and surroundings, Chablis decided to return to the stage.She eventually found herself at The Locker Room, a bathhouse.

In the late 1980s, a job offer from The Friends Lounge, a cabaret bar in Savannah, Georgia, resulted in her moving south from Atlanta.

She performed at Club One on its opening night in 1988, and was a regular performer there until August 6, 2016, just before she was hospitalized.

In the early 1990s, she moved with her partner, Jesse, to Columbia, South Carolina, where she began working at a new spot, The Menage. The Menage closed after three years, due to new competition, and Chablis did not find much work for a couple of years.

Chablis returned to Savannah, beginning work at new club, The Edge.

She was a prominent character in John Berendt’s best-selling 1994 book Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, during her days working at The Pickup on Congress Street. She left her job in a dispute over pay.

Chablis frequently performed at her “home” nightclub of Club One, where she was known as the “Grand Empress”. Chablis traveled the U.S. performing her show, The Doll Revue, at various venues and special events, such as gay pride gatherings. She also appeared on radio shows.

Chablis’ autobiography Hiding My Candy: The Autobiography of the Grand Empress of Savannah was published in 1996, a year before she played herself in the Clint Eastwood-directed movie adaptation of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, starring Kevin Spacey and John Cusack.

The Lady Chablis was featured in the closing segment of the Savannah episode of Bizarre Foods America on The Travel Channel. She joined host Andrew Zimmern at several Savannah restaurants including Elizabeth on 37th. In 2012, she was interviewed in Savannah on the local television and internet talk show MAMA Knows Best (season 2, episode 1). On April 19, 2013, Chablis performed for the grand opening of the short-lived Mama’s Cabaret in Lewiston, Maine, with “MAMA” Savannah Georgia.

The Lady Chablis died on September 8, 2016, from Pneumocystis pneumonia, aged 59, at Savannah’s Candler Hospital.

On November 5, a special screening of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil was shown at Savannah’s Lucas Theatre for the Arts, with a tribute to Chablis beforehand. A few of Chablis’ gowns were on display in the theatre’s lobby. Jerry Spence, the former hairdresser who appeared in both the book and movie, was in attendance. A reception was held at Club One after the memorial service and, after the movie screening, Club One Cabaret held two Lady Chablis tribute shows.

Upon news of her death, several of Chablis’ former co-stars made tributes to her. Paul Hipp, alongside whom she appeared in the movie adaptation of Midnight in the Garden, said: “So sad to hear of The Lady Chablis’ passing. She was super talented, kind, and laugh out loud funny. She was a true transgender pioneer, way ahead of her time (in the Deep South, no less). This pic of The Lady and me was taken between shots while filming Midnight In The Garden Of Good And Evil. Feel free to envy our glamour.”