Las Vegas transgender legend Jahna Steele died Jan. 24, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal. She was 49.
The Clark County, Nev., Medical Examiner e-mailed Windy City Times that the 'cause and manner [ of death ] are pending at this time.'
Jahna Erica Steele was born John Matheny Sept. 29, 1958, in San Antonio, Texas, and lived in Nevada for a quarter-century. Matheny grew up in San Antonio before undergoing sexual-reassignment surgery in his early 20s. Steele was an accomplished actress and headline entertainer in Las Vegas. She was a member of the 'Crazy Girls' topless revue at the Riviera before being outed in 1992 by the TV show A Current Affair.
Steele's last job on the Las Vegas strip was reported to be as a warm-up announcer for 'La Cage,' the female impersonator show at the Riviera. Steele was also featured in the 2006 movie Transtasia, a documentary about the 'World's First Most Beautiful Transsexual Pageant.'
Mimi Marks, one of the headliners at the Chicago female impersonator venue The Baton and a featured contestant in Transtasia, told Windy City Times that Steele's passing was a 'shock.' Marks added that she felt she had 'a cool connection' when they met during the pageant ( their only meeting ) and that Steele 'paved the road for a lot of us showgirls. It was the most upsetting and disappointing thing that she passed away. ... It's a sad thing for the world of female impersonation—and what makes it more sad is that, starting on Valentine's Day, they're going to start playing Transtasia on Showtime.'
Local entertainer Tiara Russell, also featured in the movie, e-mailed that Steele 'was a goddess for the queens. She crossed barriers ... worked in Vegas for many years undetected as transgendered and spearheaded Transtasia. ... She had a pure heart and was sweet and believed in a universal spirit.'
Steele was preceded in death by her father, John. Jahna is survived by her mother, Connie; sister, Sally; brothers, Dan and Tim; and many nieces, nephews and friends. Jahna also leaves behind a large extended family and friends. She will also be missed dearly by her good friend, Tara.
For memorial information, go to Jahna Steele's Web site, www.thejahnasteele.com . Donations may be made to WE CARE Foundation.