According to allegations circulating on social media, the famous drag queen Heklina from San Francisco was discovered dead on Monday in London, where she had been performing in a traveling show.
Peaches Christ, a fellow drag queen and performing partner of Heklina’s who was touring with them in “Mommie Queerest,” a musical parody of the 1981 Joan Crawford biopic “Mommie Dearest,” was the one who first reported Heklina’s death via social media posts. Heklina was also known as actor Stefan Grygelko.
The post that Grannell published on the Facebook page for Peaches Christ and the page he maintains under his name said, “I am living in a real-life nightmare, so excuse me if I don’t have all the answers right now.” “I went to fetch my wonderful friend Heklina, who is costarring with me in a Mommie Queerest performance here in London, England, but I found out that she had passed away when I got there this morning. I currently have no information regarding the cause of death. I am completely startled by this news, but I wanted to tell people what has transpired because I know this is terrible news.”
The Soho Theatre shared Peaches Christ’s post on Twitter, which said that they were “in shock and extremely devastated with the news of Heklina’s passing.” The production of “Mommie Queerest” was currently taking place at the Soho Theatre.
Heklina was remembered on Twitter by Supervisor Matt Haney, who referred to her as “a drag queen, amazing performer, and pioneering community figure.” Haney also expressed his sadness over Heklina’s passing.
So shocking and sad to hear about the loss of Heklina, a drag legend, brilliant performer and trailblazing community icon. My condolences and love goes out to all of Heklina's friends, family, and loved ones, and the entire LGBTQ and drag communities.
— Matt Haney (@MattHaneySF) April 3, 2023
“My sympathies and love go out to all of Heklina’s friends, family, and loved ones, as well as the entire LGBTQ community and the drag community,” he continued. “Heklina will be missed.”
After disseminating the information, State Senator Scott Wiener issued a statement.
“I am devastated. Heklina was an icon in the purest sense of the word; she was outrageous, daring, humorous, and caring simultaneously. In the 1990s, when I was a young homosexual man and had just moved to San Francisco, I went to see Heklina perform. Through the years, I got to know her and assisted her in locating a location for Oasis. I’ve rarely had the opportunity to collaborate with someone who was simultaneously so aggressive, inventive, and dedicated, “Wiener stated. “Heklina developed gatherings and community spaces that infused a sense of belonging through the glitter, gargantuan wigs, and boisterous humor. She had no problem speaking her mind and staunchly defended her circle of friends and community. It’s difficult to picture San Francisco without her, as she was integral to the city’s culture and identity.”
He said, “Heklina was also a passionate protector of drag, which is under intense attack right now,” and that “Heklina gave possibilities for future drag queens to discover their space.” While we are mourning, we must honor her memory by recalling the happiness she provided to our lives and the significance of the artistic discipline to which she devoted her entire existence.
The San Francisco Pride Board President issued the following statement, Nguyen Pham, describing the unexpected death as “absolutely sad.”
“I consider it a privilege and a source of immense gratitude to have had the opportunity to interact personally with Heklina and to witness her breathtaking and unforgettable performances multiple times throughout the years. Her one-of-a-kind form of radically inclusive drag art has brought untold numbers of people within the community and allies so much unadulterated delight over many decades. She was unbeatable and a master on a level not matched by anyone else.”
Heklina was best known for being one of the co-founders of the long-running drag show “Trannyshack,” which began at the Stud in the middle of the 1990s. In addition to performing alongside Peaches Christ in various stage productions, she also appeared as Dorothy Zbornak in the San Francisco drag production of “The Golden Girls.” This production of “The Golden Girls” would regularly hold sold-out runs of its annual holiday show. Heklina was best known for this role.
More recently, Heklina was a part of the group of owners that revived the nightclub and theater known as the Oasis in San Francisco’s SoMa District. The Oasis held its grand reopening in 2014 once the renovations were completed. In addition, she would frequently take the stage as a host and emcee for various community events.