The larger-than-life inspiration behind Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, Cindy Pastel was born Ritchie Finger in suburban Melbourne. Cindy looks back at the people and events that helped shape her extraordinary life and the sense of community that helped Sydney through the worst of the AIDS epidemic.
Nothing about Cindy Pastel’s life is conventional. One of the original drag queens, she found fame (if not fortune) as the inspiration for Hugo Weaving’s character in The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. She survived the AIDS-ravaged Sydney of the eighties, a cerebral haemorrhage, Hepatitis C and alcohol addiction, all with her wry smile and a slick of red lipstick intact.
“So much of how we live is about putting people in boxes. I like to break out like a loony freak. Why does everything have to have a label? So long as you’re not hurting anyone, just do it. That’s what I say,” she says over a coffee in Sydney’s Surry Hills.
INTERVIEW BY CYNTHIA SCIBERRAS
WORDS BY ANDREA O’DRISCOLL