A Puerto Rican actress who happened to be transgender was honored for a few seconds at the Academy Awards on Sunday. Holly Woodlawn was one of almost 50 notable film industry executives and actors featured in the in memoriam video that remembers individuals who passed away in the last year.
After a battle with brain and liver cancer Woodlawn passed away in December, 6, 2015 in Los Angeles. She was 69.
Woodlawn rose to fame acting in films produced by Andy Warhol. She was born in Juana Díaz, P.R., on Oct. 26, 1946 to a Puerto Rican mother and a U.S. soldier of German descent who left his wife soon after the wedding, according to The New York Times.
Woodlawn left Puerto Rico and first moved to the Bronx and then to Miami Beach with her parents. She later returned to New York where she would begin her film and cabaret career. Warhol’s filmmaking partner Paul Morrissey casted Woodlawn in experimental films like Chelsea Girls, Flesh, and Trash.
She was a subject on a Lou Reed song titled “Walk on the Wild Side.” Produced by David Bowie, the song’s opening verse was inspired by Woodlawn’s journey to New York, according to Rolling Stone Magazine.
“I was very happy when I gradually became a Warhol superstar. I felt like Elizabeth Taylor!” Woodlawn said in an interview with the Guardian in 2007. “Little did I realize that not only would there be no money, but that your star would flicker for two seconds and that was it. But it was worth it, the drugs, the parties, it was fabulous.”
Most recently Woodlawn was featured playing herself in two episodes of the Amazon series Transparent in 2014.
Throughout her life Woodlawn was an advocate for the equal rights of LGBT individuals. Along with Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera she is believed to be one of the trans women of color who challenged police who were targeting LGBT patrons at the Stonewall Inn in New York City.
Woodlawn’s last wish in her will was to establish a fund that would help transgender youth who are at risk. Her estate founded the Holly Woodlawn Memorial Fund for Transgender Youth at the Los Angeles LGBT Center. The fund will help transgender youth with a variety of services including trans health care and training to develop their professional skills.