Tributes pour in for San Francisco drag legend Heklina, found dead in London, age 54: ‘An icon’


Drag Queen Heklina has reportedly been found dead while on tour in London. 

The San Francisco queen – real name Stefan Grygelko – was on tour in the UK alongside Peaches Christ as the pair were set to perform Mommie Queerest, a musical parody of 1981 film Mommy Dearest, at the Soho Theatre in London and HOME in Manchester. 

Delivering the news of the 54-year-old’s death on social media on Sunday (3 April), Peaches Christ said she was “shocked and horrified” to bring the news to fans. 

“I am living in a real-life nightmare so forgive me if I don’t have all the answers just now,” the drag star wrote.

“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.”  

Peaches Christ added that she did not know the cause of death at the time of posting. 

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“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, and focusing on what needs to get done next,” she said.

Sharing a further post via Facebook on Monday morning (4 April), Peaches Christ said she had not slept and was “praying” she would fall asleep and wake up from this “horrible dream”. 

Heklina was born in Minneapolis and moved to San Francisco after living in Iceland for a period, deriving her drag name from Hekla, a volcano in Iceland.

Heklina became a firm fixture of the drag scene in the Bay Area, and the reaction to her loss has been palpable, with tributes and condolences quickly pouring in for the queen.

The team at World of Wonder, the company that produces Ru Paul’s Drag Race, said they were “heartbroken” over Heklina’s passing and described her as a “beloved and iconic pioneer in our community and a legend of the San Francisco drag scene”. 

Responding to Peaches Christ’s announcement, All Stars 4 winner Trinity the Tuck said she was “so sorry to hear this”. Davina de Campo, runner-up in the first season of Drag Race UK, said the loss of Heklina was “such sad news”.   

Trixie Mattel said Heklina was an “icon and “legend”, adding she “was punk rock and made drag what it is today.”

Bianca Del Rio wrote she “will cherish every ROTTED moment we shared together,” and Cheryl Hole referred to Heklina as “a true drag legend.”

Author and screenwriter Abdi Nazemian called Heklina’s death a “loss to our whole queer community”. 

A joint statement released on Twitter by the Soho Theatre and HOME reads: “[We] are in shock and incredibly saddened with news of Heklina’s passing.

“Our thoughts are with Peaches, Mommie Queerest company, Heklina’s family, friends and their wider community.”

The Metropolitan Police were unable to confirm details of Heklina’s death to PinkNews.