By Diane Anderson-Minshall
Originally published on Advocate.com May 14 2012 3:10 PM ET
As residents streamed out of a building in New York, escaping the three-alarm fire that had engulfed their four-story complex in a gritty neighborhood of Brooklyn, one woman wasn't with them: Lorena Escalera, a 25-year-old transgender woman who was called the "Puerto Rican Beyoncé" by neighbors, fans, and fellow performers.
According to The New York Times, it took 65 firefighters over half an hour to battle the blaze early Saturday morning. A passing motorist actually roused most of the residents ("He was kicking on everyone’s door to let them know there was a fire," said one survivor to the New York Post). The good samaritan helped rescue a baby and usher residents out of the building.
But Escalera, a performer with the House of Xtravaganza, whose stage name was La'reina Xtravaganza, was found dead upstairs after firefighters used thermal imaging equipment to search the building.
Investigators have deemed the fire suspicous, according to the Times, though fire marshals haven't found accelerant, the most common sign of arson.
Gothamist reported that Escalera had company that evening before the fire, two men another witness may have later seen arguing outside the building at the time of the fire
Escalera, who worked as an escort to pay the bills, described herself on Facebook as a simple, honest, and humble person, posting, "I always believe in RESPECT." If her death is indeed murder and not simply a fire-related tragedy, police will now have to find out who didn't respect Escalera.