9 November 2016: Suspicious death of transsexual vedette artiste

La Veneno during her golden days as a vedette star.
La Veneno during her golden days as a vedette star. / SUR
  • The risqué star had received death threats after the publication of her memoirs

Speculation still surrounds the death of Cristina Ortiz Rodríguez, the transsexual vedette entertainer who died under suspicious circumstances on 9 November 2016.

Better known as La Veneno (poison), the risqué entertainer had received death threats following the publication of a ‘no holds barred’ autobiography published shortly before she was found unconscious in her apartment in Madrid. She was suffering from traumatic brain injury, causing some of her close friends to believe she had been murdered as a “settling of scores”, although the autopsy determined that the cause of death was an accidental fall.

Born José Antonio, in Almería in 1964, La Veneno noted in her memoirs that from an early age she was different from other children. She soon realised that she was transgender, and she suffered assaults and ill-treatment by relatives and neighbours who could not accept her gender identity.

La Veneno showed early signs of talent in the fashion world and began working as a model. In a strange turn of events, Joselito, as she was known then, won the Mister Andalucía contest in 1989, but this did little to deter her determination to undergo sex reassignment surgery.

Unbeknown to her family, La Veneno began to wear female clothing in 1990 and in 1991, she decided to live in Madrid, where she began working as a prostitute. The following year she began the process of transition.

Her life changed in 1996, when she was discovered by journalist and TV presenter, Pepe Navarro. She was cast for numerous collaborations in his late night adult theme chat shows and she went on to secure a career in daytime television gossip programmes. She also recorded two records and became a popular vedette performer in Madrid. However, La Veneno’s career was interrupted in 2003, when she served a three-year prison sentence for arson and fraud. She was prosecuted for deliberately setting fire to her apartment in order to claim on the insurance policy.

On leaving prison, weighing 122 kilos and suffering obvious physical deterioration, she returned to daytime television. In 2010 she suffered from bulimia and depression, but after a short break from television, she reappeared looking healthy after losing 35 kilos.

In May 2013, she appeared on the popular television programme Sálvame Deluxe, where she presented her latest boyfriend to the world. However, a few months later, the 23-year-old toy boy disappeared with La Veneno’s life savings of more than 60,000 euros.

In October 2016, La Veneno bounced back again, when she launched her long-awaited autobiography, Hooker or Saint (Memories of La Veneno). In her memoirs, which sold out immediately, she confessed to having sex with famous celebrities, politicians and footballers. Approximately one month after publication of the book, La Veneno was found in her flat bleeding severely from a head wound.

She was rushed to hospital but never recovered after surgery. Rumours soon began to circulate that La Veneno was killed because she revealed her secret sex sessions with important personalities. The authorities said that her death was not treated as suspicious.