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The House, The Awards, and The Mummy of Dorian Corey

Dorian Corey, born under a different name in the gritty precincts of Buffalo, New York, rose through the ranks of drag to become an enigmatic and influential figure in the world of Voguing. Yet her life, shimmering with sequins, feathered capes and grand ball prizes, had a dark underbelly that unfurled only after her death.

Underneath the surface of her vibrant stage persona, Corey harbored a concealed past, veiled in a mystery that involved an unsolved murder, its intrigue rivaling the narratives of classic noir films. As a trans woman navigating a world far from accepting, her journey was filled with defiance and courage, paving a path that made her a significant figure in the LGBTQ+ community and beyond.

Childhood and Background

She was born to Franklin Legg and Mary Fox Clark, a couple who, despite their initial transgressions, wed when she was still a young child. From these unassuming beginnings, a star with a shining and complex persona was born.

Dorian Corey in the movie "Paris is burning", 1990
Movie – Paris is burning

Embracing her identity at an early age, she began to perform in drag, using the farm’s barn as her first stage. With each performance, she revealed a little more of the woman she truly was, her gender identity slowly unfurling like a beautiful butterfly emerging from its cocoon.

Education and Early Career

Upon finishing her secondary education, she found work as a window dresser at Hengerer’s, a department store in Buffalo, where her artistic instincts began to flourish. Her aspirations, however, went beyond the boundaries of the city. The bright lights of New York City beckoned her, and she answered the call, leaving behind her familiar surroundings to pursue a degree in art at the prestigious Parsons School of Design. 

Immersed in an environment that celebrated creativity and self-expression, she finally felt she belonged. In the bustling city, she not only honed her craft but began her transition, a transformative journey that would shape her life and contribute significantly to her indelible legacy.

Cabaret and Tours

Her career took a glamorous and exotic turn in the 1960s when she became a prominent part of the Pearl Box Revue, a prominent cabaret drag act of the era. As a snake dancer, she enthralled audiences with her captivating performances, as she elegantly balanced the danger and allure of the exotic creatures with the enchanting grace of her own movement.

Dorian Corey in the movie "Paris is burning", 1990
Movie – Paris is burning

The revue allowed her to tour extensively, expanding her horizons beyond New York City. Her talent wasn’t limited to live performances; Dorian was one of the four artists featured on the Pearl Box Revue LP, “Call Me MISSter”, in 1972, demonstrating her ability to cross over into other artistic mediums.

Voguing and NYC Ballroom Scene

Yet, her talent and influence extended beyond the cabaret stage. She played a pivotal role in the voguing scene of New York City, establishing the House of Corey and winning over 50 grand prizes from the voguing balls.

As the ‘house mother,’ she provided a nurturing space for many young performers, including Angie Xtravaganza, who later forged her own path in the world of voguing.

All the while, she pursued her passion for fashion design, running her own clothing label, Corey Design. Whether it was her theatrical act, involving a mammoth 30-by-40-foot feather cape transforming into a grand tent, or her astute fashion sensibilities, her career was proof of her indomitable spirit and immense creativity.

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The Dorian Corey Mummy

Her life took an unexpectedly macabre twist after her death when a gruesome discovery was made among her belongings. A preserved body was found, identified as one Robert Worley, also known as Robert Wells. He had suffered a gunshot wound to the head, and investigators deduced the body had been dead for about 15 years. A mummy in the midst of Manhattan, the shocking discovery shrouded her legacy in mystery and speculation.

Dorian Corey in the movie "Paris is burning", 1990
Movie – Paris is burning

Dorian Corey and Robert Worley’s relationship was enigmatic, to say the least. Some speculated that he was an abusive ex-lover of hers. Others hypothesized that she may have killed him in self-defense during a heated lovers’ quarrel. Yet another theory suggested that he was killed during an attempted burglary of her residence.

At the time, instances of violence against the trans community were not uncommon in New York, adding credence to these speculations. Regardless of the true nature of their relationship or the circumstances surrounding Worley’s death, the reality remained that she had managed to conceal his body for well over a decade, adding a darkly intriguing layer to her already compelling life story.

The Impact of Worley’s Murder on Corey’s Life

The discovery of his body had a significant impact on the perception of Corey’s legacy. Here was a woman who had lived her life in the spotlight, celebrated for her talent and charisma, and yet, she had hidden a macabre secret that only emerged posthumously.

Dorian Corey in the movie "Paris is burning", 1990
Movie – Paris is burning

The whole saga invited speculation and conjecture, detracting from her achievements in the drag and voguing scenes, and overshadowing her creative output in fashion design.

Despite the uncertainty and speculation that surround the Worley case, the image of Dorian Corey continues to be a prominent symbol in voguing events, where her accomplishments and contributions to the community are memorialized.

The discovery of Worley’s body, while undoubtedly shocking, does not define her legacy, but rather adds an eerie chapter to the life of a complex, pioneering figure in the history of New York’s vibrant queer scene.


The influence of Dorian Corey’s vibrant life continues to be felt long after her passing, most notably in the entertainment industry. The critically-acclaimed television series “Pose,” a dramatic exploration of the underground ballroom culture of New York City in the 80s and 90s, clearly draws inspiration from Corey’s life and legacy.

In particular, the character of Elektra Abundance, a mother of a house with a mysterious past, mirrors Corey’s life in more ways than one. Elektra, like Corey, is revealed to have a chilling secret from her past when she hides the body of a man who died, creating an uncanny echo to the enigmatic discovery in Corey’s apartment after her death.

Her Legacy

Corey’s legacy lives on in other ways too, particularly within the LGBTQ+ community. As the founder of the voguing House of Corey and the holder of over 50 grand prizes from voguing balls, she played an integral role in popularizing this form of expression.

Her commitment to art and her community helped create a space for self-expression and acceptance at a time when such spaces were hard to come by.

Did you enjoy reading about Dorian Corey’s life? Feel free to share this article on your timeline to help spread awareness. Have any questions? Join the conversation by commenting below.

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About the author

Amanda Valentine Dela Cruz
Amanda Valentine is a transgender woman who has written about trans topics for over 10 years for My Transgender Date. She is an author who made it on Amazon’s best-seller list by writing 5 books on trans women’s relationships. Her book “Dating Transgender Women for Gentlemen” peaked at #3 in the Transgender Studies category on Amazon. She started writing at the age of 10 and won a poetry contest in 4th grade which convinced her to pursue a career in literature. Her personal experiences as a transgender woman give her a unique perspective on trans topics.

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