Renowned drag performer Heklina has passed away. She was 54. The San Francisco native, whose real name was Stefan Grygelko, was found dead in London on Monday, April 3. The drag icon was in the city for the stage production Mommie Queerest.
The official cause of death has not been revealed yet. Heklina rose to prominence in 1996 when she started hosting Mother, a weekly series at the Stud. Over the years, she became one of the most well-known faces in the drag scene in the country.
Drag Icon Heklina Dies at 54
Heklina was found dead by follow-performer Peaches Christ on Monday. The two were in the city for a run of Mommie Queerest, a parody of the 1981 film Mommie Dearest, at the Soho Theatre. Peaches announced the shocking news on social media.
“I am shocked and horrified to bring this news to you. I am living in a real-life nightmare so forgive me if I don’t have all the answers just now. This morning, in London, England I went to collect my dear friend Heklina, who is costarring with me in a Mommie Queerest show here, and found her dead,” Peaches wrote on Facebook.
“I do not know the cause of death yet. I know this is shocking news and I am beyond stunned, but I wanted to let folks know what has happened. Heklina is not just my best friend, but a beloved icon of our community. I am a mess,” the performer added.
Soho Theatre also released a statement following the tragic event: “Soho Theatre, @HOME_mcr and Tim Whitehead are in shock and incredibly saddened with news of Heklina’s passing. Our thoughts are with Peaches, Mommie Queerest company, Heklina’s family, friends + their wider community.”
Heklina’s Institution Launched Several Drag Careers
Heklina was born in Minneapolis and spent several years of her life with her mother in Iceland. She got her drag name from Hekla, an active volcano in the country. After moving to San Francisco, she founded the drag club Mother in 1996, which gave a platform to many drag artists and hosted celebs, including Lady Gaga and Charro.
“When I moved to San Francisco, I fell in love with the punk style of some of the drag queens.I never sat down and said, ‘I want to be a drag queen and run a nightclub.’ When it happened and took off, it was kind of like I was meant to do this,” Heklina revealed in an interview in 2008.
In 2014, she re-opened the drag venue Oasis in San Francisco. She also starred in the productions Baby Jane? and Golden Girls Live and appeared in the television shows Trauma, The Cho Show, The Ricki Lake Show, and Playing It Straight.
Friends Mourn Heklina’s Death
The drag queen’s death is being mourned by several celebrities and fans. RuPaul’s Drag Race star Shea Couleé tweeted, “Heklina was so incredibly kind and warm. Such an incredible supporter of fellow queens, and she made me feel like family anytime I came to Oasis. My deepest condolences.”
San Francisco Supervisor Matt Haney wrote, “So shocking and sad to hear about the loss of Heklinka, a drag legend, brilliant performer and trailblazing community icon. My condolences and love goes out to all of Heklinka’s friends, family, and loved ones, and the entire LGBTQ and drag communities.”
May Heklina’s soul rest in peace! Stay tuned for more news and updates.