I was devastated to read reports that Sahara Davenport had died on Oct. 1. The details of his death have yet to be released. I first met Sahara Davenport (real name Antoine Ashley) a few years ago when I was writing for the production company that produces RuPaul's Drag Race. I remember the first thing that came to my mind when I first laid eyes on Sahara. I said to myself, "That one is a star." Sahara was a classically trained dancer, and although he did not win, his talent served him well in his quest to become a champion on RuPaul's Drag Race Season 2. I come from a dance background myself, and perhaps that was part of what drew me to him, but there was much more to Sahara Davenport than just talent and a pretty face. Sahara was a kind and caring soul, and I think that was his greatest attribute.
I kept up with Sahara after his turn on RuPaul's Drag Race was over. We corresponded through email and would meet up at events in New York City. And even as he supported his boyfriend, Manila Luzon, who was a contestant on RuPaul's Drag Race Season 3, Sahara never rested on his laurels; instead, he kept striving to achieve that "breakthrough moment" where his talent and skill as a preeminent drag artist would finally be recognized. He collaborated with popular New York City DJ Gomi and released several energetic dance tracks, such as "Pump with Me" and "Go Off" (which debuted at number 50 on the Billboard Hot Dance Club Songs chart). Sahara also continued performing live at club gigs around the country. And it was during one such live performance that I believe Sahara finally achieved his "breakthrough moment." And in tragic irony, his moment came when Sahara paid tribute to his fallen idol, Whitney Houston, in one of the best drag performances I have ever had the privilege of witnessing.
Fly free and fly high, Sahara. You will always be a shining star.
The beautiful Sahara Davenport
Sahara Davenport at RuPaul's book signing party, New York City, 2011
Sahara Davenport (center) holding court at Michael Musto's Village Voice party
Manila Luzon and Sahara Davenport
Sahara Davenport and Manila Luzon beguile with their beauty
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