Photo: Getty Images
Chi Chi DeVayne, a popular contestant from the competition reality series “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” has died following a recent hospitalization for pneumonia.
The classically trained dancer, known offstage as Zavion Davenport, was 34.
The Shreverport Times, part of the USA TODAY Network, confirmed the news Thursday with Joe Patterson, the manager of Louisiana’s Central Station nightclub, who is in communication with the family. The production company World of Wonder, which produces “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” also confirmed the news on its Twitter account.
“We’re heartbroken to learn that Chi Chi DeVayne has passed away today,” wrote World of Wonder. “Her drag spread a message of love and kindness that truly touched each person she met.”
RuPaul, the host of the eponymous reality show, remembered DeVayne in a statement provided to USA TODAY on Thursday.
“I am heartbroken to learn of the passing of Chi Chi DeVayne,” said the host. “I am so grateful that we got to experience her kind and beautiful soul. She will be dearly missed, but never forgotten. May her generous and loving spirit shine down on us all. On behalf of VH1, World of Wonder and the cast and crew of RuPaul’s Drag Race, I extend my deepest sympathy – from our family to hers.”
A beloved international star, DeVayne became a household name for fans of “RuPaul’s Drag Race.” The Southern drag queen with an effervescent personality, one-of-a-kind fashions and impressive dance skills was a contestant on the eighth season of the show and the third season of the spin-off, “RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars.”
DeVayne’s road to stardom began in her hometown of Shreveport, Louisiana. Audiences packed into the Central Station nightclub to cheer her on, in hopes she would deliver on her signature backflips.
The reality show catapulted her career and brand. The glamorous star often shared details of performances and travels around the world, as well as behind-the-scenes footage, on social media.
This year, the tone of her posts took a turn when the entertainer began giving medical updates.
In July, DeVayne was admitted to the hospital for a biopsy after suspected kidney failure.
Days ago, DeVayne posted a brief video from a hospital bed after being readmitted due to pneumonia. In a heartfelt and labored message, DeVayne addressed fans: “Keep me in prayers. I’ll be back soon.”
Earlier this year, DeVayne was diagnosed with scleroderma, she said in an interview on Hey Qween. DeVayne described it as a chronic, incurable illness that causes the skin to tighten and thick scar tissues to form around internal organs, impairing their ability to function.
The illness caused the entertainer to lose weight and hindered her ability to perform at her peak dance level, she said.
“It’s hard when you go from being at the top of your game and then … something like this hits,” she said.
Following the news of DeVayne’s death, many took to social media to express their condolences.
“I’m heartbroken to hear about the loss of our beloved Chi Chi De Vayne,” “Drag Race” judge Ross Matthews wrote on Twitter Thursday. “She had a natural, God-given light within her & she shared it with all of us on Drag Race. She was a star & without her the world has less sparkle. I’m sending love to her family, her friends and her fans.”
I’m heartbroken to hear about the loss of our beloved Chi Chi De Vayne. She had a natural, God-given light within her & she shared it with all of us on Drag Race. She was a star & without her the world has less sparkle. I’m sending love to her family, her friends and her fans. ❤️— Ross Mathews (@helloross) August 20, 2020
Trinity “The Tuck” Taylor, a contestant from “Drag Race” and “Drag Race All Stars,” floated the idea of a drag benefit show to raise funds for DeVayne’s funeral.
“I am literally so upset about Chichi!” she wrote on Twitter Thursday. “I wish there was more I could do to help out her family in her honor or something. I’m thinking we should do a benefit show for her family to help with the costs of her funeral. I know that this is soon to even talk about but usually funerals happen quickly. I would love to have other rule girls a part of yes! If any of my sisters see this and are interested please let me know.”
Former “Drag Race” contestant Peppermint tweeted a photo of DeVayne.
“So much joy so much light,” she wrote. “Such I caring, empathetic and beautiful soul. I love you Chi Chi. Rest in Power.”
So much joy so much light. Such I caring, empathetic and beautiful soul.— Peppermint (@Peppermint247) August 20, 2020
I love you Chi Chi. Rest in Power pic.twitter.com/a69JK8wvvT
Longtime drag queen Miss Coco Peru remembered DeVayne’s laugh.
“Her laugh alone was enough to win my heart, but there was so much to her that won me over,” she wrote on Twitter. “I loved Chi Chi and I always told her so because… how could you not? She was lovable because she loved. That laugh of hers was the sound of her beautiful spirit. I’m heartbroken.”
English drag queen Cheryl Hole, who appeared on “RuPaul’s Drag Race UK,” tweeted that DeVayne “was such a light during her season and beyond.”
“She always showed how being humble, honest and your true authentic self will get you far!” the reality star continued. “She was a TRUE STAR and her legacy will live on forever.”
GLAAD remembered DeVayne as “an incredible performer and such a bright light” in a tweet Thursday.
“Our hearts are with all of Chi Chi’s loved ones today,” GLAAD continued.