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Chi Chi DeVayne, Popular Contestant on ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race,’ Dies at 34

That moment captured a paradox, Jenna Wortham wrote in The New York Times. “Queer and gay culture has been so widely co-opted and incorporated into mainstream popular culture that it can feel commonplace, embraced by default,” she wrote. “Yet, pop culture has barely started grappling with more complex and ugly contemporary narratives, ones that make clear that universal acceptance is still a fantasy.”

Zavion Michael Davenport was born on Sept. 24, 1985 in Shreveport, La.

In a 2017 interview with The Shreveport Times, Ms. DeVayne described her early, pre-fame life. There were lessons on ballet, West African and modern dance and gymnastics, she said. There were also days spent with friends in empty fields during which they would “turn flips all day long,” she said.

“And once I started doing drag I had to incorporate that into my act because everybody likes a dancing queen,” she told the paper. But there were also setbacks. “I was tired of working two jobs and I felt like I didn’t have time to go back to school because I had to work to pay bills and I was in bankruptcy,” she told the paper.

She started performing at a club and gained a dedicated following for her eccentric shows.

Then came “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” where Ms. DeVayne’s Southern charm, acrobatics and candor would find its biggest audience. “Girl, I’ve seen people shot,” she said on the show. “I’ve smelled, like, the smell of brains. When I tell you I come from the streets, I’m not kidding.” In another interview, she spoke about joining a gang and carrying a gun. “‘Drag Race’ definitely helped me heal from a lot of things from my past,” she told The San Diego Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender News.

She finished in fourth place on Season 8 of “RuPaul’s Drag Race” and found a global audience. Ms. DeVayne performed in shows around the world, telling The Shreveport Times, “Outside of the United States, the fans are wild.”

In 2018, Ms. DeVayne returned to compete among the show’s all-stars. Though she was more experienced, so were her competitors. She finished eighth. “I’m so sorry,” she tearfully told the judges in one episode, admitting that the other competitors’ high skill levels made her question her own worth.

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