Once described by People magazine as “a Miss Piggy for the blissfully depraved,” exuberant actor, performer and drag queen Divine tore up the rulebook of body image and gender identity. Born Harris Glenn Milstead, the celebrated kook embraced the cultural upheaval of the 1960s and adopted a camped-up persona that caught the eye of the “Pope of trash” himself, John Waters. Subsequently starring in almost a dozen of Waters’ cult classics, including Multiple Maniacs, Polyester and Female Trouble, the duo questioned American notions of taste and helped to redefine underground cinema. The Baltimore beatniks are seen here hatching the notorious feces-ingesting scene from 1972’s Pink Flamingos, taken from Jeffrey Schwarz’s documentary I Am Divine. Featuring never-before-seen home movies, Divine's high school sweethearts and cameos from Elton John and Ricki Lake, Schwarz’s film reveals the endearing personality behind the famous smudged lipstick and gravity-defying wig. “I've worshiped at the altar of Divine and of John Waters since I was a teenager,” says the director. “An entire new generation has come of age without him in their lives and I hope this film restores him to his proper place as Queen Mother of us all.” For the uninitiated, a timeline of some of Divine’s rowdiest moments that earned her the immortal sobriquet “filthiest person alive.”
1945: Flower Stealer
Already showing signs of the iconoclastic behavior that would define his future character, the adolescent Milsted solved the problem of not being able to afford the flowers he so desperately craved by stealing them from the graves of dead neighbors.
1968: Taste Trasher
Playing Jackie Kennedy in Waters’ first 16mm film, Eat Your Makeup, which chronicles a deranged nanny who kidnaps young girls and forces them to “model themselves to death,” Divine re-enacted the 1963 JFK assassination just five years after the actual incident.
1971: Shit Eater
Appearing in Pink Flamingos, the performer shocks the world by literally eating shit, preceded by the infamous line: “You think you know somebody filthier? Watch!”
I Am Divine is available On-Demand Now and on DVD August 25 in the UK and Ireland