Sources report [See press release below] that Sahara Davenport, who competed on the second season of Logo's RuPaul's Drag Race, has died at age 28, according to Queerty.com . No cause of death has been reported.
Davenport was partner to fellow Drag Race participant Manila Luzon.
Davenport was born and raised in Dallas, and attended Southern Methodist University (as Antoine Ashley), majoring in dance. She moved to New York, appearing on the TV serial One Life to Live and the video for David Guetta and Chris Willis' "Gettin' Over."
Drag Race judge Michelle Visage confirmed the death, tweeting, "It's true and I have no words. Have to sign off for now kids, can't handle this. XOXO."
According to NewNowNext.com, Logo released a statement reading, "Logo is profoundly saddened by the passing of Antoine Ashley, who fans around the world knew and loved as Sahara Davenport. He was an amazing artist and entertainer who'll be deeply missed by his Logo family. Our hearts and prayers go out to his family, especially his boyfriend Karl, in their time of need."
Press Release: Sahara Davenport passes away
New York, NY - 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.
Antoine's mother, Angela Ashley Reddish, spoke on behalf of the family. "I thank God for giving me an Angel Antoine Ashley to share with the rest of the world. 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."
Boyfriend of six years and fellow drag entertainer Karl Westerberg (aka Manila Luzon) had this to say: "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."
Antoine learned the art of drag on the Dallas nightclub circuit while earning a B.F.A. in dance performance from Southern Methodist University. Upon graduation, he moved to New York City where he began modeling, commercial acting, and professional dancing. He soon launched his successful drag career in the NYC nightlife scene. In 2008 Antoine received a Glammy Award for Best Dance Performer (already a 2007 nominee and Miss National F.F.I.) and competed in the top twelve of the 2009 National Miss USofA pageant as Miss Gay New Jersey USofA. Known for his high energy dancing, arguably the most spectacular "Lip Sync For Your Life" performed on ballet pointe shoes, this popular contestant on RuPaul's Drag Race has credits in cabaret, television, and music. Recent milestones include Sahara's debut single, "Pump With Me" as well as "Go Off!", a dance song that reached Number 35 on the Billboard Hot Dance Club Songs chart, and an appearance in Manila Luzon's "Best XXXcessory" music video released on September 18.
Though best remembered for his work on Logo TV, Antoine did stints with MTV, CW, Bravo, Oxygen, Sony, A&E, and Voom HD.
"Logo is profoundly saddened by the passing of Antoine Ashley who fans around the world knew and loved as Sahara Davenport. He was an amazing artist and entertainer who'll be deeply missed by his Logo family. Our hearts and prayers go out to his family, especially his boyfriend Karl, in their time of need."
The network has planned a tribute on October 5. "We'll be running an all-day marathon of Sahara's season along with Untucked, with her final episode airing at 10:00 p.m. EST on Friday. We'll be airing Sahara fan tweets all day long in conjunction with the marathon." -Jason Shumaker, Director, Communications and Public Affairs, Logo/VH1-
Logo will also dedicate the first episode of RuPaul's All Stars Drag Race to Sahara's memory on October 22. Please tune in.
RuPaul tweeted, "Shocked & heartbroken over @SaharaDavenport. Never occurred to me that we'd ever lose one of my girls. I see them as immortal."
A private funeral service is being scheduled for October 12 or 13 at Snowden Funeral Home, 246 North Washington Street, Rockville, MD 20850.
A public memorial celebration, including tribute performances by Sahara's industry friends and entertainers is planned for Friday, November 2, at XL Nightclub in NYC. More information will be provided soon on Sahara Davenport's Facebook Fan Page.
In memory, Sahara asks that you, "Live, love, and believe."
Donations to the Ashley family can be sent via PayPal to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Flowers, condolences, and checks can be mailed to Antoine's mother: Angela Ashley Reddish at 1013 59th Avenue, Fairmount Heights, MD 20743.