Alexis Arquette Exclusive: Pop Artist Sham Ibrahim Pays Tribute, Opens Up About His Relationship With The Transgender Star

Sham Ibrahim is a pop artist, known for creating works of art for and featuring many of Hollywood’s biggest stars. One of his closest friends and the centerpiece of many portraits was his good friend Alexis Arquette. Sham knew Alexis very well, and for many years so the passing of his friend has been a very emotional time.

Sham has been paying tribute to Alexis Arquette for a few days now, so I reached out and asked if I could tell the story of how the two friends met. It was obvious that Alexis’ influence on Sham’s life was huge and the mark she left is even bigger. Here is Sham Ibrahim’s story of how he met Alexis and what she meant to him in his own words. He also created a video to share with the world, letting them get to know Alexis a bit more intimately. Be sure to check it out.

[Photo used with permission from Sham Ibrahim]

Alexis Arquette was one of the biggest talents I have ever known. She was a true artist in every sense of the word. She could sing, she could act, and she was a better painter than I could ever hope to be. Her paintings were so incredible, I used to go to her house and just stare at them on her walls and wish I had her talent. Even though she was well known as an actor, no one really knew about her artistic talents.

I first met Alexis Arquette when I was 19-years-old and working as a go-go dancer at a nightclub called Cherry. Alexis was the celebrity drag queen host, and we met in the dressing room while I was changing. The year was 1999, and she hadn’t transitioned to female yet. She was still a he and was basically only doing drag on the weekends for night club appearances. We hit it off immediately. She seemed more like a wild club kid than Hollywood royalty. She had a punk-rock, down-to-earth sensibility about her. We stayed close until she died. I consider her one of my closest friends.

[Photo used with permission from Sham Ibrahim]

Alexis taught me to have no fear in life and I truly don’t think I would have made the career in art and reality TV [that] I have today without her influence in my young life. She inspired me to be myself and not care what anyone in Hollywood thought of me. She was the first person in Hollywood to come from a family like she did and basically trade a career as an A-list actor to be an out trans/gay person. She was uncompromising in her moral integrity and you could never tell Alexis what to do because she had an instinctive sense of right and wrong.

Alexis was always very attractive and very sexual. Men and women were attracted to her whether she was presenting as male or female. She had many, many lovers. Because she was a part of Hollywood since her childhood, she often would attract famous heterosexual men who were attracted to her androgynous look.

Her family members were incredibly supportive of her. She lost her mother and father prior to coming out as trans, but I know that she told me she used to run around the house in her mothers’ dresses and makeup as a toddler and she said all her brothers and sisters and parents were extremely liberal about it.

[Photo used with permission from Sham Ibrahim]

I always thought she was female in spirit and in 2004, when she told me that she was “slowly going to phase the boy out,” I didn’t even bat an eyelash. She seemed much happier as a woman, but would get angry when people tried to “figure out what was in her pants,” as she put it.

Alexis was actually a very private person. Her wish was that her health remains private and as her friend. I will always respect her wish. She was a loyal friend, but because of her family name, she was surrounded by people who just wanted to use her to get to her family. I never asked Alexis about her family or brought them up when I was with her. I never tried to meet them. After we knew each other for about 6 or 7 years, she started taking me to the occasional family function, and I had the pleasure of witnessing just how supportive they were. I’ll never forget going to meet her sister, Patricia, for her daughter’s kindergarten graduation party. Alexis had transitioned and was living her life as female. She arrived all dolled up and her niece, Harlow, greeted her with a big hug as Patricia said, “Harlow loves her auntie.” This was way before Chaz Bono or Caitlyn Jenner. I remember thinking how incredible it was to see a family embrace their transgender family member with total love and acceptance. Sadly, the world was not as accepting of Alexis.

I remember many times when we would go out people would heckle her and call her “tranny.” It wasn’t the open society we live in today and she was incredibly brave running around town in mini skirts and high heels. On more than one occasion I witnessed people actually get physical with her and attack her. Fortunately, Alexis knew how to fight back and didn’t take s**t from anyone.

[Photo used with permission from Sham Ibrahim]

I found out about her passing when a reporter called me ?Sunday morning? to let me know that Boy George had just tweeted about my friend Alexis dying. The reporter promptly asked me if I knew the cause of death. I hung up the phone and let it sink in. I had known she was in the hospital several days prior to the call. I knew it was bad. I guess I just wasn’t expecting her to actually die because she was honestly one of the strongest people I have ever known. Also, I wasn’t expecting to get the news from a reporter.

As I watch the media storm unfold around her death and I watch her literally “trending” on the internet, I can’t help but smile. All her life she was chastised by Hollywood and the world for not being the Academy Award-winning actor she was supposedly destined to be. However, I am now watching her life take on deeper and more significant meaning than any Hollywood acclaim can offer. She’s being hailed as a “transgender pioneer,” a “trailblazer,” an “activist,” and everybody in the world is talking about her. I couldn’t agree more. I know she is smiling down from heaven above. Alexis Arquette was truly the biggest star I have ever known and she is finally getting the recognition and credit she deserves.

[Photo used with permission from Sham Ibrahim]

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