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Milwaukee LGBTQ community mourns death of ‘drag icon’

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MILWAUKEE — Many in Wisconsin’s LGBTQ+ community are mourning the loss of a performer they’re calling a drag icon.

For the past 20 years Tempest Heat, a drag persona of Johnathan Carthell Hughlett, has stood out both on and off the stage, most notably as an advocate for Black queer inclusion.

“Right away I was like wow,” friend and fellow performer BJ Daniels said. “It comes really once in a lifetime. It’s one of those rare things, people that have this magnetism, that star quality.”

This week’s news of her death, following a battle with kidney disease has the tributes online pouring in. Many took to Facebook to share their stories around the love and support Tempest offered.

Daniels, who also serves as a board member with the Wisconsin LGBTQ History Project, said Tempest’s knowledge of local queer history was unmatched. He said many of which were acquired through personal experience.

“She would say: ‘Girl, I remember being over at Barbie Dolls you know on Atkinson Avenue” he recalled. “I was like, oh my god I don’t know these places.”

Daniels said more than her talent as a performer, he’ll remember Tempest for being always willing to ask the tough questions around equality and diversity.

Questions he said paved the way for so many other artists looking to follow in her footsteps.

“In my heart I was sad but in my head, I thought wow, what a great legacy you are leaving behind,” Daniels said. “What a life that was so well lived by your own principles and by the things you believed in.”

Tempest’s family has set up a GoFundMe asking people for help to give the advocate and performer a farewell “second to none”. The service will be held on Jan. 19.

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