The Grand Empress

The Lady Chablis

The Lady Chablis, also known as The Grand Empress and The Doll, was an American actress, author, and transgender club performer. Through exposure in the bestselling nonfiction book Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, and its 1997 film adaptation, she became one of the first trans performers to be introduced to a wide audience.

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.”