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Sunday, June 16, 2024

Brooks knew he was different.

Every year during Christmas, he looked forward to playing with his sister's new Barbies.

At age 2, Brooks would play dress-up with his mother's dresses and makeup and perform in the family living room for everyone to watch.

At age 17, he moved out and started working as a drag queen at the Melody Club.

India Brooks, 44, was born in Lake City, Fla., and he was raised by a conservative Republican family.

Brooks, who now lives in Gainesville, said it was obvious he didn't act like a normal boy, but his family was in denial. His father was a Republican politician who never accepted his sexuality.

The closest thing Brooks had to a city life was Gainesville, and yet that was not enough for him. He would go on family trips to Gainesville and found more excitement there than he would back at home.

One night, venturing to Gainesville with his friends, he encountered his first gay bar.

He found glamor; he saw men in full-faced makeup, dressed in gowns and singing on stage.

He finally met people who were just like him; he encountered his true identity.

Brooks said something important for him to do before accomplishing anything else was to have a sex change operation, so that's what he did.

She now is the Barbie she always wanted to be. She is a transsexual.

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India Brooks was born.

"Being a transsexual is something you know from a very early age," Brooks said.

At the age of 17, Brooks left her home and started a living a show-girl life. She didn’t have to worry about hiding her drag clothes from her family anymore.

“I’ve seen a drastic change. Back then gay clubs were underground,” she said. “Everyone kept it hush-hush.”

Brooks ended in Miami and started performing in drag shows. She was spotted by Gerry Kelly, an acclaimed couture designer, and he asked her to model for his shows.

Brooks moved to New York City, where she signed with Click Modeling Agency. She modeled and did runway shows; it was “one of the most exciting times of my life.”

After three years, she decided it was time to go back home.

“If you haven’t made it to super model status after a few years, then you'll only go so far,” Brooks said.

Brooks enrolled in Santa Fe College and received her associate in arts degree. She also attended Georgia State University and received her bachelor's degree in studio arts.

She started working at the University Club, in Gainesville, in the early 1990s and helped start building the shows along with Lady Pearl, another long-time performer.

“There used to be no crowd at all,” Brooks said. “We built it up for what it is today.”

Brooks has worked in Orlando and Atlanta. She won second runner up at a beauty pageant show in Atlanta and has also won the first-place award in “Miss Gay Orlando,” which was her first pageant to enter.

Today, Brooks works Thursday and Friday nights at the University Club. She books the talent, creates the shows and does most of the choreography.

“She’s unique and different,” said Mark Spangler, the club owner's son. “She’s always creative and gives it her all.”

Her favorite thing to do is Broadway-type shows rocked with Hollywood glam. The spotlight doesn’t bother her and she enjoys giving the audience a “Vegas” show-girl mood.

It's an upcoming theme show that is expected to premiere in July. The theme will be "OFF-OFF Broadway Show."

“It’s like a Broadway number but with a tranny twist,” Brooks said.

As for the current gay media buzz going on in regard to Lady Gaga and VH1’s “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” she said she’s happy that gays are accepted now more than ever before.

She loves Lady Gaga and loves everything she stands for.

“Transsexualism is so out there today,” she said. “Back then you had people that didn’t know what a transsexual was.”

Brooks actively participates in the Gainesville gay community and marches during gay pride week.

"As a transexual female, I've grown so much in my lifetime. I'm proud of who  I am and why should I try to conceal it?"

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