Drag superstar Heklina has died.
Peaches Christ posted the sad news today,
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 do not know the cause of death yet. 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.
I shall be in touch.
April 3, 2023
Michele Visage posted upon hearing the news,
Heklina you my friend, were one of a kind.
MASSIVE loss to SF and the entire Drag community.”
Coco Peru writes,
She was a wonderful friend and I told her often that I wish I had met her earlier in my life. We communicated nearly everyday and nothing made me happier than making her cackle. We visited recently in Palm Springs and I’m so grateful we spent some time together and that I saw her happy and laughing and excited about traveling and work.
Heklina, I loved and adored you and my only comfort right now is in knowing that I told you that often.
Rafael and I will miss you greatly.
Heklina, born Stefan Grygelko, was born in Minneapolis and moved to San Francisco after living in Iceland for a few years. Her drag name was inspired by Hekla, one of the country’s most active volcanoes.
Heklina was a luminary of the San Francisco drag scene who started hosting the long-running weekly series Mother, formerly known as T-shack, at the Stud in 1996 when she was just 28 years old. The gritty DIY punk drag party, which found a home at DNA Lounge in 2008, became one of the most popular drag shows on the West Coast and was visited by the B-52s, Charo, the Go-Go’s and more.
Heklina told the Bay Area Reporter in 2008,
When I moved to San Francisco, I fell in love with the punk style of some of the drag queens.
I never sat down and said,
‘I want to be a drag queen and run a nightclub.’
When it happened and took off, it was kind of like I was meant to do this.”
Heklina later co-opened the SoMa drag venue Oasis in 2015 and was an emcee of a number of popular city events, including Pride and the Folsom Street Fair. She moved to Palm Springs in 2019 but frequently returned to the city for Golden Girls Live! performances during the holidays and Daytime Realness, a monthly party hosted at El Rio.
The Soho Theatre, which was hosting the Mommie Queerest performances, has also posted about Heklina’s passing.