by E. Dunn
The drag universe was stunned by the sudden and untimely death on October 1 of Antoine Ashley, better known as drag star Sahara Davenport, who competed on Season 2 of RuPaul’s Drag Race. A statement released by Ashley’s family last Wednesday revealed that:
“It is with the greatest sadness that we must confirm the death of Antoine Ashley, also known as Sahara Davenport, from the second season of RuPaul’s Drag Race. Antoine passed away due to heart failure on October 1, 2012, at John Hopkins Hospital, Baltimore, Maryland. He was twenty-seven years old.”
Longtime boyfriend of Antoine Ashley, Karl Westerberg (aka Manila Luzon from RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 3 and the upcoming All Stars) went on to add that:
“Antoine lived to entertain the world as Sahara Davenport, and the world was in awe over his extreme talent. But his heart is what made us all fall in love with him. To me he will always be my best friend, my hero, my Diva, and I have always considered myself more than lucky to have him be forever a part of my life….I’m left cherishing his memories and carrying out his legacy.”
Ashley got his start in drag performing in Texas while earning a Bachelor’s of Fine Arts in Dance. After graduating, he moved to New York City and continued doing drag. He also acted in television shows including One Life to Live, danced in music videos by David Guetta and Chris Willis. Last year, Ashley released a record single “Go Off,” which featured video performances by Manila Luzon and Jiggly Caliente, fellow Drag Racers.
On Saturday, Westerberg spoke out about losing Ashley, his partner of six years. Westerberg is “I was lucky enough to have time with him,” said Westerberg. When the two met at a Manhattan bar, they clicked instantly. When Westerberg found out that Ashley was a drag performer, too, it was kismet! Both learned and grew as drag performers together, and shared the experience of competing on Drag Race.
Westerberg’s support network of friends and family is a lifeline in this difficult time. “I’m hanging in there, but it’s hard because I have to deal with more than just grieving someone so close,” he revealed in People. “I have to deal with telling everyone all the information.”
Fans of Sahara can attend an upcoming memorial at New York’s XL nightclub. LOGO is also dedicating the first episode of “All Stars” to this queen. Known as much for her class as her talent on the dance floor, Sahara will be missed by so many.
Antoine Ashley’s nightclub memorial is being planned for November 2, with tribute performances scheduled by some of Sahara’s closest friends; Sahara’s Facebook page will provide deets as they become available.
A private funeral service is scheduled for October 12 or 13 in Maryland, where Ashley’s mother resides. Sahara’s family is accepting donations to help with the cost of the funeral, so fans can PayPal some cash to email@example.com to help this queen get the memorial she deserves.