[UPDATE, 10/3/2012: According to a family statement, Sahara Davenport died of heart failure]
It is with a heavy heart that I report that Sahara Davenport (aka Antoine Ashley), the seventh-place finalist of "RuPaul's Drag Race" Season 2 and longtime boyfriend of Season 3 "Drag Race" runner-up Manila Luzon (aka Karl Westerberg), shockingly passed away over the weekend, at the age of 27. No cause of death has yet been revealed, but "Drag Race" television network Logo released the following statement on Tuesday:
"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."
GLAAD spokesman Rich Ferraro also said in a statement: "In addition to being a talented performer, we also remember the great work of Antoine Ashley, known to many fans as Sahara Davenport, in support of LGBT youth organizations and GLAAD. This is a saddening loss and our thoughts are with Sahara's friends, partner and family."
Since the news of Sahara's unexpected death was confirmed on Tuesday, there has been a massive outpouring of love from the mourning, tight-knit drag and LGBT communities. "Shocked & heartbroken over @SaharaDavenport. Never occurred to me that we'd ever lose one of my girls. I see them as immortal," tweeted RuPaul.
"A beautiful angel has been added to Heaven. Rest in peace my sweet friend. We will miss you, Sahara Davenport," Sahara's Season 2 castmate, Jujubee, posted. "RIP @SaharaDavenport I will miss your humor and bright soul. My heart weeps I am deeply sad. I love you sister," tweeted Season 3 "Drag Race" winner and Manila's friend, Raja. Season 3's Mimi Imfurst posted a series of anguished tweets, saying: "Please don't ask me about anything right now. Broken. I'm going to try and sleep now for a few hours... maybe i can wake up and today will have never happened. I still can't say anything... it would be too real. I'm hurting too much for that right now."
Other messages of grief and support for Sahara and Manila were posted by "Drag Race" cast members Sharon Needles, BeBe Zahara Benet, Chad Michaels, Willam Belli, Delta Work, Latrice Royale, Tatianna, Morgan McMichaels, and Michelle Visage, as well as by electropop singer Sam Sparro, rapper Khia, and "American Idol" Season 9 alum Todrick Hall.
But of course the most haunting and heart-breaking tweet came from Manila Luzon (who is set to return to Logo on October 22 as a competitor on "RuPaul's Drag Race All-Stars"), who simply wrote on Sunday evening: "I love him so much."
In addition to being an established drag star, Sahara was also a recording artist, releasing the dance music singles "Pump With Me" and "Go Off." Sahara and Manila also recorded a 2011 holiday duet, "Baby It's Cold Outside," the cutesy video for which is now kind of hard to watch.
My thoughts, prayers, and well-wishes go out to Sahara's friends, family, and loved ones--especially Manila. Everybody say love.