Both performers were in London together starring in “Mommie Queerest,” a self-described “wild drag parody” of the 1981 film “Mommie Dearest.”
“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,” wrote Peaches Christ, a.k.a Joshua Grannell, on Facebook. “I do not know her cause of death yet. I know this is shocking news and I am beyond stunned.”
A social media post from the London theater where the show was playing confirmed the death of Heklina, whose legal name was Stefan Grygelko.
“Heklina is not just my best friend, but a beloved icon of our community,” Grannell continued. “I am a mess.”
Heklina was 54 years old, Variety reports.
Tributes began to pour in as news of Heklina’s death spread.
“So shocking and sad to hear about the loss of Heklinka, a drag legend, brilliant performer and trailblazing community icon,” tweeted San Francisco Supervisor Matt Haney. “My condolences and love goes out to all of Heklinka’s friends, family, and loved ones, and the entire LGBTQ and drag communities.”
“We are shocked and devastated to learn of the passing of Heklina today,” read a tweet from Oasis, the club Heklina co-owned.
“I first saw Heklina perform at the Stud as a young gay guy in the 1990s,” tweeted State Sen. Scott Wiener. “I then had the honor of working with her to identify a space for Oasis. Her imprint on San Francisco was deep.”
“We are heartbroken and saddened to hear of the passing of San Francisco drag legend Heklina,” the SF Gay Men’s Chorus tweeted. “From her activism, to her role in keeping SF nightlife alive, to her contributions to Drag as a whole, it is impossible to overstate the impact she has had on the queer community.”
“Absolutely devastated. Heklina and I have been friends and worked together for more than 20 years,” tweeted drag performer Sista Roma of the long-running drag advocacy group The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. “She is one of the funniest people I’ve ever known. This is a nightmare.”
Heklina was also a frequent guest on Nexstar’s KRON.
“She came into the studio full of good energy and ready to have fun and I really enjoyed hanging out with her and playing on the set,” said Kyla Grogan, who interviewed the performer. “The Bay Area and the world has lost a wonderful performer and a very good soul. My deepest condolences go out to her many fans and friends worldwide.”