Tributes have poured in for ground-breaking San Francisco drag act Heklina who has died aged 54 while on tour in Britain.
Heklina, whose real name was Stefan Grygelko, 54, was iconic among the San Francisco drag community and performed under the persona Heklina, was found dead Monday by her friend and tour partner Peaches Christ, Joshua Grannell, in London.
‘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,’ Peaches Christ wrote.
The pair had been touring with their stage production Mommie Queerest, which parodies the 1981 drama film Mommie Dearest, starring Faye Dunaway. It was set for a two-week run at the Soho Theatre.
No official cause of death has been released for the performer.
Pictured: Heklina performs onstage at the Roast Battle at the 2019. Stefan Grygelko, 54, who was treasured amongst the San Francisco drag community and performed under the persona Heklina, was found dead Monday in London
Tributes were paid by Peaches Christ on social media. Heklina was found by Peaches Christ, fellow drag performer Joshua Grannell, on Monday morning
American singer, actor and drag queen Trixie Mattel posted: ‘Icon! Heklina was punk rock and made drag what it is today. Legend.’
The Soho Theatre also confirmed Heklina’s death in a statement. It read: ‘Our thoughts are with Peaches, Mommie Queerest company, Heklina’s family, friends + their wider community.’
Heklina was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota. She moved to San Francisco after time spent living in Iceland.
The name Heklina originates from the volcano Hekla in the south of Iceland.
Heklina ensured legendary status in the San Francisco drag community in 1996 when she started hosting the popular weekly series now known as Mother, which attracted stars such as Lady Gaga and Charro.
The institution launched several drag careers, with RuPaul’s Drag Race: All-Stars’ winner Alaska Thunder**** also a fan.
Pictured: Heklina onstage during Wigstock 2018 at Pier 17 on September 1, 2018 in New York City. Heklina was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota. She moved to San Francisco after time spent living in Iceland
On Monday, Heklina’s fans took to social media to pay tribute to the performer
American singer, actor and drag queen Trixie Mattel also paid tribute
‘Heklina is an institution,’ Alaska said in 2020. ‘The seedlings of drag that she has planted and watered over the years have grown into innumerable gardens and bouquets of drag excellence. I continue to admire her work ethic, her tenacity and her heart. And her mole.’
Heklina co-opened the San Francisco drag venue Oasis in 2015.
She also emceed and performed numerous times across the city’s Pride events and assorted fairs.
Heklina also appeared in the 2010 independent parody feature Baby Jane? and frequently starred in productions of the city’s popular show Golden Girls Live.
Heklina performed with Peaches Christ in several stage productions.
She also appeared as Dorothy Zbornak in a highly popular San Francisco drag production of The Golden Girls.
Heklina was one of the co-founders of the long-running drag show Trannyshack that started at the Stud bar in the mid-1990s.
She was part of the group of owners that relaunched nightclub and theater the Oasis in the city’s SoMa District, with the grand reopening taking place in 2014.
On Monday, Heklina’s fans took to social media to pay tribute.
‘I will miss you, thousands will miss you,’ one person wrote on Heklina’s last Instagram post.
‘The memories we have and laughter we were given by you are the most treasured gifts. Thank you for being so good to our community, Heklina.’