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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.

Carlotta, Kings Cross (Les Girls)

1970-1971
Rennie Ellis

gelatin silver photograph on paper (sheet: 50.4 cm x 40.2 cm, image: 43.5 cm x 30.0 cm)

Carol Spencer AM (b. 1943), known as Carlotta, is a cabaret performer, television personality and LGBTIQ+ advocate. Known as the 'Queen of the Cross', she is famous for her performances in Les Girls, a cabaret show in Sydney's Kings Cross. After a difficult childhood, at fifteen Carlotta began working for David Jones, putting makeup on mannequins. She joined Les Girls in 1962 and soon became the star, performing with the popular show for almost three decades. In 1973, Carlotta was the first transgender person in the world to play a transgender character on television in the Australian series Number 96. One of the inspirations for the 1994 film Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, she began as a regular panellist on Beauty and the Beast in 1997 and later appeared on Studio 10. She translated her 2003 book I'm Not That Kind of Girl into a stage show, Carlotta's KingsX, which was staged at Luna Park in 2005. Immortalised in the 2014 film, Carlotta, she has toured extensively with her one-woman shows, Carlotta: Live and Intimate and Carlotta: Queen of the Cross.

This glamorous image of Carlotta, taken by photographer Rennie Ellis in the dressing room of Les Girls, is part of a series capturing the 'surface glitter and underground guts' of Kings Cross. Ellis documented the inner-city suburb over a six-month period from 1970 to 1971.

Purchased 2006
© Rennie Ellis Photographic Archive
www.RennieEllis.com.au

The National Portrait Gallery respects the artistic and intellectual property rights of others. Works of art from the collection are reproduced as per the Australian Copyright Act 1968 (Cth). The use of images of works from the collection may be restricted under the Act. Requests for a reproduction of a work of art can be made through a Reproduction request. For further information please contact NPG Copyright.

Artist and subject

Rennie Ellis (age 30 in 1970)

Carol Spencer AM (age 27 in 1970)

Subject professions

Performing arts

Related information

The Companion

Permanent collection catalogue

Café and shop

On one level The Companion talks about the most famous and frontline Australians, but on another it tells us about ourselves: who we read, who we watch, who we listen to, who we cheer for, who we aspire to be, and who we'll never forget. The Companion is available to buy online and in the Portrait Gallery Store.

Bon Scott & Angus Young, Atlanta, Georgia
Bon Scott & Angus Young, Atlanta, Georgia
Bon Scott & Angus Young, Atlanta, Georgia
Bon Scott & Angus Young, Atlanta, Georgia

No shirt, no service

Magazine article by Dr Sarah Engledow, 2010

Bon Scott and Angus Young photographed by Rennie Ellis are part of a display celebrating summer and images of the shirtless male.

Rosaleen Norton, Witch of Kings Cross
Rosaleen Norton, Witch of Kings Cross
Rosaleen Norton, Witch of Kings Cross
Rosaleen Norton, Witch of Kings Cross

Aussies All

Magazine article by Dr Sarah Engledow, 2006

Rennie Ellis photographs the self-proclaimed 'Witch of Kings Cross'.

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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders past and present. We respectfully advise that this site includes works by, images of, names of, voices of and references to deceased people.

This website comprises and contains copyrighted materials and works. Copyright in all materials and/or works comprising or contained within this website remains with the National Portrait Gallery and other copyright owners as specified.

The National Portrait Gallery respects the artistic and intellectual property rights of others. The use of images of works of art reproduced on this website and all other content may be restricted under the Australian Copyright Act 1968 (Cth). Requests for a reproduction of a work of art or other content can be made through a Reproduction request. For further information please contact NPG Copyright.

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