Who Is Alexis Arquette? Patricia Arquette Opens Up About Her Transgender Sister In Emmy Speech

Alexis Arquette died in 2016.

Who Is Alexis Arquette? Instagram

Alexis Arquette died in 2016 but her family has never forgotten her. Now her sister Patricia has written a memoir where she talks about the impact her sister had on her own life and career.

Alexis is the fourth of the five Arquette children, all of whom are well known for their Hollywood careers. Though assigned male at birth, Alexis transitioned to female in her late 30s. During her life, she was an actor, cabaret performer and activist. She began her career as a child actor and went on to perform in dozens of films. She passed away in 2016 due to complications related to HIV.


Patricia Arquette, Alexis’s older sister, was very close to her and her death caused her a great idea of grief. Now she has written a book where she talks intimately about their relationship and how they supported one another.

Who was Alexis Arquette? Read on to learn more about her.

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1. Child actor

Alexis was named Robert at birth and was the fourth of five children in the Arquette family. She followed older siblings Rosanna, Richmond and Patricia. David is the youngest of the five siblings. Alexis’ first acting role was in the 1982 music video for the song “She’s a Beauty” by The Tubes. She played “this little kid who's on a ride with all these women and whatnot.” 


By 1989, when she was 20, she began a Hollywood career. She would go on to work in dozens of films, sometimes as Robert, later as Alexis. She also worked as a female impersonator under the stage name Eva Destruction.



A post shared by Tony (@pantsshop85) on Mar 7, 2019 at 1:14pm PST

Alexis with close friend Luke Perry.


2.  Transition

In 2004, Alexis started the process of transitioning to female. The process was documented in the film Alexis Arquette: She's My Brother. The film debuted at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2007. Sources close to Patricia say that she was always supportive of Alexis presenting herself as she chose. The source said: “'When Alexis transitioned Patricia was the first person she told she was going to finally be a woman. Patricia, of course, told her, ‘I've always known you wanted this.’”



A post shared by Mark Moore (@markmoore01) on Oct 4, 2013 at 2:04am PDT

Alexis performed as a female impersonator under the name Eva Destruction.


3. Career trouble

While the Arquette family was supportive, Alexis found that the film industry wasn’t as welcoming. After she transitioned she had a harder time getting work. A source close to the family said: “She deserved so much more. The family called Alexis the triple threat because she was the most talented. She could sing, dance, act and she was an artist who truly didn't receive the recognition she deserved because she was transgender.”

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A post shared by Ashley Lovell (@theashleylovell) on Nov 4, 2018 at 2:39pm PST

Alexis in The Wedding Singer with Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore.


4. HIV

Alexis contracted HIV when she was 16 years old but kept the diagnosis quiet for many years. People close to her said that she never wanted to be seen as sick. Ultimately, the virus led to cardiac arrest caused by myocarditis. She died in 2016 with her family around her. At the time her family issued a statement saying “Alexis was born as Robert, our brother. We loved him the moment he arrived. But he came in as more than a sibling — he came as our great teacher. As Alexis transitioned into being a woman, she taught us tolerance and acceptance. As she moved through her process, she became our sister, teaching us what real love is. We are all heartbroken that she is no longer with us, but we are grateful for the grace and kindness we were all shown during this difficult time.”

In a separate social media post, Patricia said “Alexis was a brilliant artist and painter, a singer, an entertainer and an actor. Her career was cut short, not by her passing, but by her decision to live her truth and her life as a transgender woman. Despite the fact that there are few parts for trans actors, she refused to play roles that were demeaning or stereotypical. She was a vanguard in the fight for understanding and acceptance for all trans people.”



A post shared by THE AIDS MEMORIAL (@theaidsmemorial) on Jul 28, 2018 at 4:05am PDT

Alexis discussing her transition on Larry King Live. 


5. Legacy

As a way of honoring her memory, the Arquette family founded the Alexis Arquette Family Foundation. The foundation is dedicated “to the care and support of LGBTQ+ community" and is a partner with Violence Intervention Program (VIP) at the LAC+USC Medical Center on The Alexis Project, which provides health care to LGBTQ+ youth.

Patricia started writing her memoir in 2015 before Alexis died. She had to put writing on hold to care for her sister during her illness. The book is said to deal closely with Alexis’s death and how it affected Patricia. No release date has been set.

6. Patricia's Emmy speech

Patricia Arquette won the Emmy for Best Supporting Actress in a limited series or movie for her role as Dee Dee Blanchard in The Act. In her acceptance speech, she took the time to honor her late sister Alexis. She said: “I’m grateful at 50 to be getting the best parts of my life. I’m so sad I lost my sister Alexis and that trans people are still being persecuted… Let’s get rid of this bias that we have everywhere. I’m in mourning every day of my life, Alexis, and will be the rest of my life, for you, until we change the world so that trans people are not persecuted, and give them jobs, they’re human beings let’s give them jobs.”

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Rebekah Kuschmider has been writing about celebrities, pop culture, entertainment, and politics since 2010. Her work has been seen at Ravishly, Babble, Scary Mommy, The Mid, Redbook online, and The Broad Side. She is the creator of the blog Stay at Home Pundit and she is a cohost of the weekly podcast The More Perfect Union.