South Beach Drag Legend Wanda Shot Dead in Streets of Tampa
Standing an imposing 6'6" (and even taller in heels), the legendary drag icon Wanda had been stomping through South Beach like it was her personal runway since its '90s heyday. She was at one point perhaps the most polarizing and controversial figure in South Beach nightlife.
A master at throwing shade and saying whatever was on her mind, Wanda occupied a special place in Florida's drag community -- a fact made sadly apparent when she was gunned down at the age of 49 this past Tuesday in an apparently random and unsolved act of violence.
Wanda, whose real name was Anthony Jerome Lee, was visiting a friend's house in Tampa. She was busy cooking dinner when she heard a knock at the door. When she answered, she was greeted by five bullets.
The case remains a mystery, and police believe Wanda might have been a victim of mistaken identity. So far, a suspected getaway car has been recovered.
Only a life so colorful and lived so large can outshine such a shocking end.
Born in Tampa, Wanda got her start as a performer in the Gulf Coast city before relocating to South Beach in the '90s. She was a regular entertainer at the legendary Sunday gay nights at the original club Amnesia. Her onstage antics were plentiful, according to reports: entering the stage from the rafters, wearing dresses made of tampons, and covering her face in baby powder while lip-syncing to her idol Whitney Houston.
"I've thrown people in fountains, I've pulled women's breasts out, I've ruined people's clothes," she once told this paper. "I'm a comedian. Don't sit in the front row if you don't want to be picked on. I'm different. There's nobody on the Beach like me."