Latrice Royale and a legion of Drag Race legends are hosting a special tribute to Chi Chi DeVayne, celebrating her life and incredible legacy. PinkNews spoke to Latrice about her friend to find out how she’d want to be remembered.
On August 20, it was announced that Chi Chi DeVayne, the Southern Bayou princess of RuPaul’s Drag Race, had passed away from complications of scleroderma. She was just 34 years old.
Her friend and co-star Latrice Royale remembers Chi Chi (real name Zavion Davenport) as a fierce performer who would “terrorise the stage” and captivate a room with her voice, as well as a kind and caring confidante who could make her laugh like no other.
Two months after her passing, Latrice, along with Kennedy Davenport, Ongina, Chad Michaels, Trinity the Tuck, Thorgy Thor, Cynthia Lee Fontaine, Honey Davenport, Shangela, Aquaria and Morgan McMichaels, are celebrating Chi Chi’s life with a virtual tribute, raising funds for the Scleroderma Foundation.
Streaming on Twitch Friday (October 16) at 8pm EST, the show will feature conversations and performances in honour of Chi Chi, as well as a sit-down chat between Latrice and a doctor to educate people on scleroderma.
#2020 has been a rough year on so many levels, but one of the most difficult challenges I faced was the loss of my good friend and #sistagirl #ChiChiDeVayne to #scleroderma. I watched her struggle behind the scenes, and felt inspired to do something to celebrate her and many of pic.twitter.com/uL0VK54bbe
— Latrice Royale Inc. (@LatriceRoyale) October 13, 2020
“Chi Chi was really positive as her health started to decline,” Latrice tells PinkNews. “She wanted people to be educated, and learn about what she was going through.”
“We felt like the best way to honour her was to continue her legacy, to educate people about her condition, and to raise some funds so that research can continue. The main goal is to celebrate her life.”
Latrice recalls how the pair met after Chi Chi appeared on season eight of RuPaul’s Drag Race. The Louisiana native became a client of Latrice’s management company, and they soon became firm friends.
“Getting to know her and work with her… she was always just a positive ray of light,” Latrice says.
“We had a lot in common, we could just talk and laugh. She was very shy for the most part, she kept to herself. I would call her and make her talk, because she’d keep it all to herself. But just a tonne of fun and the ray of sunshine to be around, a ball of energy. And when I tell you she would terrorise the stage…”
Latrice recalls a time when the pair were booked together on a Christmas tour. Chi Chi and another queen both wanted to perform to the same track.
“Of course Chi Chi was the bigger girl and was like, ‘OK, I’ll sing live’.
“And that day, for the first time, she sang in front of a live audience and captivated us all. Just sang the hell out of ‘Silent Night’. It was beautiful, she blew it out the water. Baby had pipes!”
It was 2018 when Chi Chi first revealed publicly that she was living with scleroderma, a rare condition caused by the immune system attacking the tissue under the skin and around internal organs and blood vessels, which can cause scarring and thickening of the tissue in these areas.
She’d hidden the diagnosis for the best part of a year because she was afraid of “losing out on jobs and facing criticism from friends and fans”.
“Bottling this up has had me in a state of depression,” she said at the time. “It has made me hate my appearance… and also made me stray away from the public eye but I’m no longer hiding and living in a state of fear.”
After the initial shock, it seemed that Chi Chi was back to her normal, effervescent self. Latrice says she was determined not to dwell, and even after she was twice hospitalised – first with suspected kidney failure, then with pneumonia – remained positive right until the end.
“We had spoken to her when she first went into the hospital the first time,” she says.
“We checked in and she had a positive outlook on things. All she could talk about was how she wanted to eat. We chatted a little bit and told her how much we loved her, and that we had to do better with checking in and all that kind of stuff.”
Seeing her decline was “hard to take”, Latrice continues, “but I know that Chi Chi was strong willed, and I know she wouldn’t want nobody fawning over her, crying over her, so I try to keep a celebratory attitude about her life. That’s what she was about, celebration.”
A Tribute to Chi Chi DeVayne: Celebrating her Life and Legacy will stream on Latrice’s Twitch from 8pm EST Friday (October 16).
A fundraiser for the Scleroderma Foundation, which supports those living with the disease, promotes public awareness and stimulates research, is open for donations.