“It doesn’t matter where you’re from, that has nothing to do with how far you can go. Never be ashamed of how you walk, talk, because that is going to be the key to your success.”
Chi Chi DeVayne walked into the workroom on the eighth season of RuPaul’s Drag Race back in 2016, then graced the show once again with her presence on the third All Stars season. The recent news of her passing has brought an immense amount of grief to all who fell in love with her, including myself. She was more than just a drag queen; she was a phoenix and a personification of what resiliency, talent, beauty, strength and compassion looks like in a queen.
On the show, she has gifted fans moments we’ll never forget. One of Chi Chi’s most iconic moments on the show is her lip-sync to “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going.” It was not only a beautiful testament to her extraordinary talent, but the song and her performance itself perfectly symbolized Chi Chi’s everlasting legacy as her memory is not going away anytime soon―her footprints made in the lives of those who knew her will forever persist.
There is no denying Chi Chi’s stage presence and passion. Let’s celebrate this beautiful Queen with this riveting lip sync to ‘And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going’ performed by Jennifer Holliday. Rest in Power, Chi Chi pic.twitter.com/coQAK3aXW7
— RuPaul’s Drag Race (@RuPaulsDragRace) August 22, 2020
Rewatching that lip-sync after hearing the news of her passing gave me goosebumps. There’s something about watching Chi Chi perform and knowing with great certainty how evidently clear it was that drag was what she loved to do. When she performed that song, you could tell she was fighting for her chance to stay and be seen.
As a Black small town country queen with worldwide aspirations, we learned through getting to know Chi Chi both on and off the show that her fighting spirit was something ingrained into her life. That spirit stayed with her until her final moments, and as she passes away, her resiliency lives on in her memory by inspiring the strength in so many of her peers, family and fans.
“I so desperately wish I could’ve told her what an inspiration she was to me,” one fan said while honoring Chi Chi on Facebook. “Seeing her make it on to drag race without much money and pursuing her dreams resonated with me as I live in a low-income area and struggle to find my path in life. She reminded me you can be successful without sacrificing what makes you happy.”
Beyond her remarkable talent and star power was her heart that we all fell in love with. Tribute posts from queens on the show have a recurring theme of acknowledging her unconditional kindness and loving spirit. In the face of all the adversity in her life, she remained a bright and loving human being and a sister to all those around her.
“I am heartbroken to learn of the passing of Chi Chi DeVayne.
I am so grateful that we got to experience her kind and beautiful soul.
She will be dearly missed, but never forgotten. May her generous and loving spirit shine down on us all.” –RuPaul (1/2) pic.twitter.com/iN3oT3R2dG
— RuPaul’s Drag Race (@RuPaulsDragRace) August 20, 2020
Yall I can’t. I loved this queen so much. One of the nicest people I’ve ever met. We used to get ready together on tour and just talk for hours about how much we love our mothers. https://t.co/J729rqZtOr
— Black Lives Still Matter (@thatonequeen) August 21, 2020
I am but one of many people whose lives have been touched and uplifted through Chi Chi DeVayne’s life. Her loss is more than just losing a fan favorite contestant on a television show, those who followed her journey on the show and off know she is much more than that. We lost a phoenix who supplied hope to so many through her story, shining her light for others to overcome the adversity that systematically and socially deterred them from being able to live. She gave all who watched her an example of what it looks like to, against all odds, fight for her rightfully deserved chance to be seen. We saw her, and as a result, we felt seen as well.
For young queer kids, especially those of color in small towns across the country, it was crucial to have seen someone like her. Chi Chi DeVayne is a reminder that no matter where we come from or how society or the world perceives you to be, we are all capable of pursuing the dreams we set out for ourselves and creating an everlasting impact in the world.
We lost a beautiful soul with unmatched talent and a fighting spirit, but I and many feel comfort in knowing that her legacy lives on through us all―and we’ll never forget our bayou queen.
Rest in power, Chi Chi DeVayne. Thank you.
Andre Menchavez is a GLAAD Campus Ambassador and rising senior studying English and Law at the University of Washington. Proudly queer and Filipinx, he is passionate about intersectional activism and journalism. He hosts an online series “Q&A: Queer and Asian” at Queerspace Magazine and previously worked as a GLAAD Junior Editor.