RuPaul's Drag Race Stars You Might Not Know Died

Legendary drag queen RuPaul Charles had a historic career in the 90s, hitting the Billboard charts with "Supermodel," acting in movies including the cult classic "To Wong Foo, Thanks For Everything, Julie Newmar," and hosting his own talk show on VH1. (Ru uses male and female pronouns interchangeably, famously quipping, "You can call me he. You can call me she. You can call me Regis & Kathie Lee; I don't care! Just as long as you call me.")

However, Ru's stardom rocketed to new heights in 2009 with the launch of "RuPaul's Drag Race," a competition show that aims to find America's Next Drag Superstar. Part "The Apprentice," part "Project Runway," part "America's Next Top Model" and part something all its own, "Drag Race" has gone on to launch the careers of more than 150 drag queens on the flagship series, minting genuine pop-culture sensations out of queens like Trixie Mattel, Bob the Drag Queen, and Shangela, among many others. And that's not to mention the show's ever-increasing number of international spinoffs; as Ru's song "Phenomenon" says, "Drag is all over the world."

Unfortunately, with so many competitors over so many years, not all of RuPaul's astounding acolytes are still with us. These are the "RuPaul's Drag Race" stars you might not know died.

Sahara Davenport

Fans met Sahara Davenport (born Antoine Ashley) on "RuPaul's Drag Race" Season 2. A member of the legendary House of Davenport, which also includes queens Monét X Change and Kennedy Davenport, she quickly became a fan-favorite, winning hearts through her fierce, classically-trained dance skills. Sahara was even the first queen in the show's history to win a mini-challenge and a main challenge in one episode, having wowed the judges with her pole-dancing.

After being eliminated, Sahara released a song called "Go Off." "Music's been a big part of my life ever since I was a little boy, singing in church," she told Monique Jones. The song was a hit, reaching #35 on Billboard's Hot Dance Club Songs chart.

Sahara Davenport passed away from heart failure in 2012 at age 27, per The Hollywood Reporter. RuPaul said she was "shocked and heartbroken" over Davenport's passing. "Never occurred to me that we'd ever lose one of my girls. I see them as immortal," she tweeted. Season 2 co-star Pandora Boxx told Boy Culture of Sahara, "She leaves a great legacy behind, and a lot of people who will remember her for always."

Sahara was in a high-profile relationship with fellow "Drag Race" contestant Manila Luzon. On the anniversary of Sahara's death Manila described her late love in a touching Facebook remembrance: "It's been a year since we lost Antoine / Sahara Davenport. ... He was a bright light that we looked to, we feed from his amazing light and energy even today!"

Chi Chi DeVayne

Chi Chi DeVayne (born Zavion Davenport) first appeared on "RuPaul's Drag Race" in Season 8 and later returned for "RuPaul's Drag Race All Stars" Season 3. Though her storyline involved her not having as much money as some of the other girls, Chi Chi nevertheless displayed ample charisma, uniqueness, nerve, and talent, carried far by her undeniable wit and showmanship. The showstopper gave one of the most iconic "Lip Sync For Your Life" performances of all time, to Jennifer Holliday's version of "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going." Who can forget the moment when she stood up during the climactic moment of the song, and her heel caught on her long necklace, sending diamonds and rhinestones cascading to the floor?

Per Variety, Davenport had scleroderma, an autoimmune condition. She passed away in 2020 due to complications from pneumonia.

RuPaul wrote, "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." The Season 13 finale included a segment honoring Chi Chi. Season 8 winner Bob the Drag Queen recalled that "everyone who met Chi Chi truly loved her energy," while Kim Chi remembered her energetic performance style, doing "ten backflips and cartwheels" shortly after waking up.

Kennedy Davenport, fellow "All Stars" Season 3 competitor, also memorialized her sister. "I love you always chichi," she said. "My dancing angel."

Cherry Valentine

Cherry Valentine, whose legal name was George Ward, competed during Season 2 of "RuPaul's Drag Race UK." Ward's boisterous personality, during a promotional video for the competition, quickly won over viewers. "For those who say I've not been doing drag long enough, take a look," they said as they motioned towards their body, "I've been doing it as long as I need." Ward also described their stage persona in their own words. "Cherry Valentine, she is everything," said Ward. "She is glamor, she is club kid, she's dark, she's gothic. Look at me. I look like a queen." Although Ward didn't win their season, they made the most of their growing fame by using their platform to promote their music career and spread sexual health awareness.

Unfortunately, Ward passed away on September 18, 2022, according to Deadline. He was 28. Ward's family announced the sad news in an emotional statement. "It is with the most heart-wrenching and deepest sadness to inform you that our George —Cherry Valentine — has tragically passed away," read the statement in part. "This will come as a profound shock to most people and we understand there is no easy way for this to be announced." At the time, Ward's cause of death was unknown. In February 2023, Page Six reported that Ward, who'd previously battled depression, died by suicide.

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