Davenport, a.k.a. Antoine Ashley, was 27
"RuPaul's Drag Race" contestant Antoine Ashley, whose stage name was Sahara Davenport, died from heart failure, his representative said Wednesday.
Ashley, 27, died at Monday at Johns Hopkins Hospital, in Baltimore, Md. His rep did not immediately reply to a request from TheWrap for more information about the cause of death.
"I thank God for giving me an Angel Antoine Ashley to share with the rest of the world," said Ashley's mother, Angela Ashley Reddish. "My family and I would like to thank everyone for their condolences and support. We know that our Angel is now dancing in heaven. May God bless each and everyone."
Ashley's boyfriend of six years, fellow drag performer Karl Westerberg, who performs as Manila Luzon, added: "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. Thank you, hon, for bringing so much beauty to all of us. Your legacy lives on in me and all of us you've touched."
Tweeted RuPaul: "Shocled & heartbroken over @SaharaDavenport. Never occurred to me that we'd ever lose one of my girls. I see them as immortal."
Ashley learned to be a drag performer on the Dallas nightclub circuit while earning a B.F.A. in dance performance from Southern Methodist University. He then moved to New York, where he acted, modeled, and danced.
In addition to appearing on the second series of "Drag Race," he landed in twelfth place in the 2009 National Miss USofA pageant as Miss Gay New Jersey, and won a Glammy Award for Best Dance Performer in 2008. The awards celebrate New York nightlife.
As Sahara Davenport, Ashley also released the singles "Pump With Me" and "Go Off!" Besides "Drag Race," Davenport appeared on A&E Network's "15 Films about Madonna," Voom HD's "Magnificent Obsessions," and on ABC's "One Life to Live," among other TV credits.
Logo, which airs "Drag Race," plans a marathon of Davenport's season on Friday. On Oct. 22, it will also dedicate the first episode of "RuPaul’s All Stars Drag Race" to his memory.
A private funeral service is scheduled for later this month in Maryland, and a public memorial celebration, filled with tributes from Ashley's fellow entertainers, is planned for Nov. 2 at XL Nightclub in New York.
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