Born in the United States, Vander Clyde began touring with a circus as a teenager, most notably as a replacement for one of the « World Famous Arial Queens ». When he developed his solo act and settled in Paris, during the 1920s, he chose the name Barbette that evoked both genders and sounded exotic. He rapidly captivated the avant garde community with his shows at the Moulin Rouge and the Folies Bergère, not only with his trapeze and wire acts but also with his female impersonation, clad in elaborate gowns and feathers: ‘I’d always read a lot of Shakespeare…and thinking that those marvelous heroines of his were played by men and boys made me feel that I could turn my specialty into something unique. I wanted an act that would be a thing of beauty—of course it would have to be a strange beauty’. Barbette’s sensibilities were embraced by Jean Cocteau who described his act as ‘an extraordinary lesson in theatrical professionalism’ and who commissioned Man Ray, in 1926, to take a set of photographs chronicling Vander Clyde’s physical transformation into Barbette, before a performance. The French writer also wrote about the performer in several textes and made him play in The Blood of a Poet, in 1930. His transformation likened by Jean Cocteau to that of Jekyll and Hyde as well as the metamorphoses found in Greek literature, Barbette carved a niche for a queer performing genre by enabling a state in between genders and sexes, a movement that called for tolerance and progressive thought.