Valencia Prime (Photo via The Philadelphia Gay News).
By Michele Zipkin
PHILADELPHIA — Valencia Prime was “that beacon of light,” said Asia Monroe, the sister of the much-loved drag performer who died suddenly while performing at Tabu Bar and Lounge on Sept. 12. “I called her the voice of the people. She really was an advocate, especially to newer queens.”
Prime was a staple in Philly’s drag scene, having marketed herself as “Philadelphia’s Plus Size Dancing Diva.” She and Monroe performed at Level Up, as part of Brittany Lynn’s Drag Mafia, and at Tabu, where Prime hosted her own show, Prime Time. She also performed at Xfinity Live! and for Out and About weekend, which returns in a couple of weeks and will be dedicated to the late performer.
“I say to a lot of girls that [Valencia] is the kind of queen you would want to meet on your first drag show,” Monroe said. “That first night you’re performing it can be very scary, but Valencia always made you feel like home. She always cared and nurtured you. She was the type of girl who would give you the clothes off of her back if she could.”
An outpour of social media posts showed that Monroe was not the only drag performer with whom Prime forged a connection.
“I’m trying to be strong and I’m trying to be brave because you were the one that taught me how to be strong and brave,” Aloe Vera, whose non-drag name is Anthony Veltre, wrote in a Facebook post. “The pain I feel right now is something I wish on no one. You are and will forever be my light. I wish I knew how to keep going without you. I wish I knew how to be inspiring to others that are hurting right now… but a piece of my soul has been taken from me and I’m struggling to pick myself up off the ground without you. I love you with everything in my heart, Valencia. Rest in Power.”
Timaree Leigh, sexuality educator and burlesque performer, tweeted, “this community has suffered so much loss in the last few years. Valencia Prime was a talent and a delightful person. Rest in power, babe.”
Drag performer Brittany Lynn remembered Prime’s stamina and her eagerness to work.
“She was a big powerhouse performer – very high energy,” Morrison said. “It’s hard for people of our height – we’re both six foot, five inches. In heels, even taller. You don’t see too many people of our stature doing what she did. She brought the energy each time. She brought the flips, the kicks, the drops. She was always very eager and excited to perform.”
In terms of performance style, Prime loved a dance number, Monroe added. “She could move, she could dance, she could twirl. She was famous for her hair whiffs. She was a fierce entertainer; she just lit up a room. Once she started performing, you couldn’t take your eyes off her.”
WHYY-FM reported that the Philadelphia medical examiner attributed Prime’s death to Atherosclerotic Cardiovascular Disease, a type of heart disease, and that she died of natural causes.
Prime’s drag family organized two benefit shows in her honor – one at Level Up on September 18, hosted by Monroe and Tina Montgomery, one of Prime’s drag mothers; and a Dragarama show at Tabu on September 19, a show that Prime used to co-host, this time hosted by Monroe, Nikita Sinnn Monroe and Aloe Vera. Performer tips and bar proceeds went to Prime’s family.
“Today we mourn the loss of a very bright and rising star in the performance community and a person who was always full of life and positivity,” Tabu staff posted on the bar’s Facebook page. “We say goodbye to Valencia Prime but we will not forget the light you brought to the stage.”
Nikita Monroe is also accepting donations via a GoFundMe campaign to help Prime’s family pay for a memorial.
Monroe said that she fondly remembers the laughs and kikis that she and Prime had together.
“She really was a good sister of mine, she was a true sister,” Monroe said. “It’s not just one memory, it’s so many memories. I was just so in awe of not only how far we’ve come together, but also what she did with her own career, watching her on some of these big stages we have around here. That fun camaraderie and that sisterhood is just what I’m gonna miss most about her.”
Michele Zipkin is a reporter for the Philadelphia Gay News, where this story first appeared.
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