From District 6 to District Royalty – in December 2023, we talked to Sandra Dee about the founding of the Fairy Godmother COmmunity Project and her reasons for the founding of the Project.

The Fairy Godmother Community project, officially registered on 29 October 2014, was founded by Sandra Lentoor, also known as Cape Town drag Queen Sandra Dee.  

The Fairy Godmother Community Project is involved with community upliftment in Hanover Park, one of the most gang-frequented areas in Cape Town.  One way the project makes a difference is as a vital outreach to elderly citizens of her community living in one of Cape Town’s most gang-riddled suburbs.  At weekly events, these vulnerable community members get treated to special luncheons hosted by Sandra.  But it is a huge challenge because according to Sandra  “ The ladies have to cross busy streets and face the skollies on the way to the civic centre to attend” She says that fewer and fewer of the elderly attend due to the regular shootings in their area. “I believe that seniors must be treated with dignity and respect, not live in fear or fall victim to the next crossfire by the gangs”.  

Another project hosted by the Fairy Godmothers is the Princess Project.  In this program, the project supplies matric farewell outfits to members of her community who cannot afford to buy or rent a gown for their special night.  According to Sandy, people from all over Cape Town ask her to help their children and she is too happy to help. “I even help them with their hair and makeup and I love the feeling of making them feel beautiful”.  Sandy runs the Princess Project from the Youth Impact and Sustainable Solutions (YISS) hub at the Crystal High School in Hanover Park. 

Sandra Dee on the left, posing among some of the dresses with Nanushka Pearce, a model for the Princess Project

The clothes are donated by various organisations and by people with suits and dresses hanging unused in their cupboards at home.  Regular contributions are made by Sandy’s ‘girls’, her endearing term for some of Cape Town’s other drag queens.  

The outfits are loaned free of charge to people who are unable to afford a fee for the use of the service, but if they can afford a small donation, it is used towards the luncheons and annual Christmas party held for the senior community members of Hanover Park.

When asked what the inspiration was for the Princess Project, Sandra said it was her own life experiences that prompted it: ‘Because I’ve been a queen all my life I want to give back to the community. The boys and girls must be able to experience something like this at least once.

“You see, I was born like like this. I remember when I was about 5 years old, it was in the 1950’s when we were still living in District 6 before my family was displaced by the Apartheid government.  My mom was doing the washing, and when hanging up the laundry. I would steal one of my older sisters’ dresses when my mom was not looking and disappeared for hours until my mom realised the dress was gone.  She would then send my cousin to look for me and find me in the dress in the street outside.  My drag queen life started at the age of 11 years when I ran away from home after I had enough of years of sexual abuse by some people I knew.   I was living on the street in Seapoint.  And I was in drag, then and ever since.

Since the 1960s, Sandra partook in various beauty pageants and was the first to be crowned unofficial Miss Gay Cape Town, now known as Miss Gay Western Cape. Her crown was not official, because being gay remained illegal in South Africa until 1989.  Therefore, although the event started in the apartheid years, it has only gained visibility since the early 2000’s and is now recognised as the largest and most popular gay pageant in South Africa.

Sandra Dee, one of Cape Town’s oldest living drag queens has been partaking in pageants since the late 1950s

When asked what it must have been to live a life in drag in the 1970s in South Africa, Sandy reminisced that she was accepted by her own community but that white people were not as accepting.  ‘Everything was fine as long as we did not go down to the main road.  There we would be picked up for ‘masquerading as women’ and we would be thrown in jail. Sandra was arrested many times, sometimes the case would be thrown out of court but other times she was less lucky and she has spent a few stints in jail.  According to Sandra, she once spent time in a holding cell with Nelson Mandela. “I think Mandela always had an understanding of the suffering of us moffies.  That’s probably why he has given us this constitution where we are all free’

Sandra Dee poses for photographer Jac De Villiers in 1976 in District 6
Miranda Trefoil, Sandy Lentoor (aka Sandra Dee), Tamara Dobson and Olivia de Havilland (aka Madame Two Swords).
Image: Jac De Villiers

I went through hell in the 70’s and 80’s because of the Apartheid regime but it made me a strong woman today”

Sandra is not only the founder of her own NGO, she also serves on the Community Advisory Board (CAB) of the UCT LI, and is a member of YES NGO.

Sandra Lentoor (Sandra Dee) in 2024