Carlotta (born Richard Lawrence Byron; 2 September 1943) is an Australian entertainer, cabaret performer and television celebrity. Often billed as "The Queen of The Cross", she began her career as an original cast member and later Bardot-like star of the long-running male revue Les Girls (pronounced LAY-GIRLS) cabaret show, which started in 1963 in the purpose built and Abe Saffron-owned Les Girls nightclub building which stood on a prominent corner in the heart of Sydney's Kings Cross, to the right of the famous El Alamein Fountain. The revue was performed entirely by costumed males in drag and Carlotta often performed spot-numbers as a singer and comedian. Carlotta became a transgender woman and rose through the ranks of the show to eventually become the show's compere and its star
Les Girls and Carlotta became an attraction for visitors to Australia, particularly Sydney. The show was popular with visiting international celebrities. The show continued in the Les Girls building until 1993 when, inspired by the film The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, the show went on the road, touring Australia. The Les Girls building, which was still standing intact with original 1960s features throughout the 1990s, was the venue for alternative cabaret, including the Sunday night club The Tender Trap.
Carlotta was featured in the soap opera Number 96 in 1973 as Robyn Ross, the new girlfriend of Arnold Feather (portrayed by Jeff Kevin). In the story it was soon revealed that Robyn was in fact a transsexual showgirl, a revelation that led to the character's quick departure from the show. To preserve the shock ending to this storyline, the true identity of Robyn's portrayer was kept secret from all but a few central cast and crew members of the series. Her scenes were shot on a closed set and Carlotta was credited as "Carolle Lea".
From 1997, Carlotta became a regular panelist on the talk show Beauty and the Beast, hosted by Stan Zemanek. Since 2013, she makes regulars appearance as a panel member on morning show Studio 10.
Carlotta, who was born in Balmain, New South Wales, as Richard Byron, had a sex change operation in the early 1970s. It was not the first such procedure in Australia, but due to her celebrity status it became the first to receive publicity in the country. Carlotta was also one of the inspirations for the film The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. She had a few short breaks from Les Girls for international tours, but overall by the time she left the show for the final time in 1992 she had spent a total of 26 years performing with the troupe. She is a published author and has been the subject of many personal memoirs.
In 2005, she featured in her own half a million dollar stage production, "Carlotta's KingsX", presented at the Big Top, Luna Park, Sydney. Produced by Brett Elliott and Richard Bernardo, the 90 minute show delivered classic storytelling, stand up comedy, lavish costumes, and team of 'Les Girls' dance performances throughout. Supported by massive 6x22m video backdrop, video content presented the story of Kings Cross collated from footage supplied by ABC, Channel 7 and Channel 9.
Carlotta tours Australia with her one-woman show Carlotta: Live and Intimate.
In 2011, it was announced FremantleMedia Australia purchased the rights to a telemovie based on her life, to be broadcast by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, with Carlotta acting as a consultant. Shane Jenek, also known as drag queen Courtney Act, was initially linked to the project. In 2012, it was announced that Jessica Marais was to portray Carlotta.
In 2013, a new production company, Story Ark Productions, began production on the telemovie after FremantleMedia Australia chose not to proceed with the project. Its worldwide premiere on ABC TV in Australia was aired on 19 June 2014. It was the No. 10 show of the night and nationally won its timeslot with 811,000 viewers.