Friends of Nashom Wooden, the performer behind the iconic drag persona Mona Foot, say he recently passed from COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.
Geoffrey Mac, a designer who won season 18 of the reality show Project Runway, shared a video on Instagram cautioning everyone to stay healthy as the pandemic continues to upend communities across the world.
“I lost my best friend today from the coronavirus, Nashom Wooden,” Mac said through tears. “I just want to make sure everybody out there stays healthy and safe, because the virus is really real.”
Another friend of Wooden’s, DJ, talk show host, and trans activist Lina Bradford, also shared an emotional video responding to his death.
“I love you so much Nashom and I’m so sorry that this happened,” Bradford said. In her caption, Bradford said Wooden went to a hospital after experiencing COVID-19 symptoms but was turned away because his sickness wasn’t severe.
As news of Wooden’s death spread on social media Monday, tributes and remembrances of the performer, hailed as a “pillar” of New York’s queer community, poured in. He was perhaps best known for his drag alias Mona Foot, described as a “staple” of the nightlife scene by Out Magazine. As Wooden told Paper Magazine in 2017, he began by doing “tight” lip-synching of Aretha Franklin songs, eventually expanding beyond the iconic diva to play Mona Foot.
“I really became intoxicated once I did Wonder Woman at Union Square Park. I could see the power of it,” Wooden said. “No one saw that coming. To be not only a superhero, to be black and a man. I didn’t realize at the time I was feminine. The message was so powerful, performing ‘I’m Every Woman’ as Wonder Woman.”
Wooden eventually hung up his heels and retired his Mona Foot character (he told Paper that the role had threatened to subsume his identity), but continued performing. He sang for the electronic dance music band the Ones as himself, and contributed to the 1999 movie Flawless.
His impact could be felt as mourners posted heartfelt messages about his work. One image, in particular, was shared again and again: Wooden as Mona Foot, rocking a lush Wonder Woman costume with a gold crown and star-spangled cape, his arms outstretched wide and triumphantly.