Community remembers pioneering drag performer Heklina following her untimely passing

The performer has been described as "a true & good friend” who was “consistently humble, wise, generous, forgiving, hysterical, & filthy”.

Heklina posing wearing a black wig in front of a yellow background.
Image: Twitter: @trixiemattel

The community is paying tribute to American drag legend Heklina, who sadly passed away on Monday, April 3, aged 54.

Born in Minneapolis, the queen was raised in New York, England and Iceland, before moving to San Francisco, where she established her career. She became a fixture of the city’s drag community in 1996, hosting a popular weekly series now known as Mother.

Throughout the years, the trailblazer has emceed and performed at events across San Francisco and beyond, and in 2015, the trailblazer co-opened Oasis, a dedicated drag venue in the city.

Known off-stage as Stefan Grygelko, Heklina was found dead in London by her friend and fellow performer Peaches Christ. The pair were in the process of touring their show Mommie Queerest, a parody of the 1981 cult film Mommie Dearest. It was slated for a two-week run in the Soho Theatre from April 12 to 29.

In a social media statement, Peaches Christ said: “I am shocked and horrified to bring this news to you. I am living in a real-life nightmare so forgive me if I don’t have all the answers just now.

“This morning, in London, England I went to collect my dear friend Heklina, who is costarring with me in a Mommie Queerest show here, and found her dead. I don’t know the cause of death yet,” the performer, also known as Joshua Grannell, continued.

“I know this is shocking news and I am beyond stunned, but I wanted to let folks know what has happened. Heklina is not just my best friend, but a beloved icon of our community.

“I am a mess. Given this crisis, please do not try to contact me as I am utterly heartbroken, stunned, focusing on what needs to get done next. I shall be in touch,” she concluded.

The Soho Theatre also confirmed the news, saying it was shocked and “incredibly saddened”, adding: “Our thoughts are with Peaches, Mommie Queerest company, Heklina’s family, friends + their wider community.”


Tributes have been pouring in on social media, with RuPaul’s Drag Race winners Bianca Del Rio, Trixie Matter, Jinkx Monsoon and Shea Couleé all offering their sympathies.


Heklina has been remembered by the Boulet Brothers as “a true & good friend” who was “consistently humble, wise, generous, forgiving, hysterical, & filthy”. Others remembered her as an “icon”, “legend”, and “force to be reckoned with”.

Praised for her contribution to drag, Heklina will be missed dearly by family, friends and fans. Rest in power.

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