Today is a notable day in Drag Race history. On this day, one year ago… RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars made its debut. After months of speculation and teasers, RuPaul’s Drag Race super-fans, semi-fans, and soon-to-be fans were counting down the minutes until we could indulge in, and savor, brand new, delicious moments with our most beloved Queens from past seasons. It was also a time for us–the seasoned queens and the aspiring queens, the LGBT community, the Straight Against Hate community, the faux queens, the makeup junkies–the Drag FAMILY…to pause, reflect, and pray for Sahara Davenport, a buoyant and high-spirited Queen who left us only 3 weeks earlier.
I remember. Vividly.
I remember, because last fall, my own world was already starting to collapse.
It wasn’t a hoax. On October 1, Sahara Davenport, otherwise known as Antoine Ashley, had passed away unexpectedly at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, MD. The cause of death was heart failure. Sahara was 27.
Sahara is a classically trained dancer from Dallas, TX. Her career in drag began while she attended Southern Methodist University, where she earned her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree. Upon graduating, she moved to NYC and began competing in (and winning!) many drag contests and competitions. Her success opened the door to her own show at Suite, though she performed at many other bars and nightclubs in the city.
It was in NYC that Sahara met Karl Westerberg, perhaps better known to the public by his drag name, Manila Luzon (RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 3 runner up). The two started dating, and had been in a relationship for six years when Sahara passed.
Best pic ever? YES.
Sahara has more than just RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 2 contestant on her list of television appearances. She was on A&E Network’s 15 Films about Madonna, Voom HD’s Magnificent Obsessions, and on ABC’s daytime soap One Life to Live. She was featured in the pilot of Judge Karen as an angry Beyoncé impersonator who sues the paparazzi.
And news to me: she was also in David Guetta’s music video “Gettin’ Over You” which is not only one of my favorite songs, but was included in my Twerk Riot playlist two weeks ago. (I love finding out l’il tidbits of drag queen trivia I didn’t know!)
Sahara released an album called Pump With Me in 2010, and the first single had the same name. In 2011, another single, “Go Off” debuted at number 50 on the Billboard Hot Dance Club Songs and peaked at number 35.
Did you see cameo appearances by Manila Luzon and Jiggly Caliente?
Ru tweeted it best. Immortal.
Now for those of you who are new to this great big Drag Family, and/or who are not familiar with the show… You’ll be interested to know that there’s a little more about Episode 1 of RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars that involves Sahara. As I mentioned earlier, the show debuted only 3 weeks after her passing. Included in the All Stars cast was Manila Luzon.
The All Stars season was recorded before Sahara’s death, and the producers did not cut out any references to her. The season aired as planned, and while it was with a heavy heart that I watched Manila compete, right before everything changed…I couldn’t help but remember what she had said in an interview, about a week after Sahara’s passing.
“I’m left cherishing his memories and carrying out his legacy…”
Sahara’s legacy. Truly a gift, in the wake of a tragedy. Carry on, Manila. <3