Nashom Wooden — best known in the New York City drag community as Mona Foot — has died from coronavirus (COVID-19) at age 50, the New York Times confirms. Logo TV’s news site was first to report the news.
Wooden first began his career as a drag performer in 1989 at the now-closed East Village gay nightclub Boy Bar, which is where he created his famous Mona Foot drag queen persona. He also hosted Star Search shows in the ’90s at N.Y.C. gay bars Crobar and Barracuda.
He later joined the electronic dance band The Ones, appeared in the 1999 film Flawless alongside Robert DeNiro and Philip Seymour Hoffman and began working at N.Y.C.’s gay bar, The Cock, where he bartended and DJ’d. “I wear many hats,” he told PAPER in 2017. “Bartending allows me to run around and be busy and flirt with people and be charming.”
Project Runway season 18 winner Geoffrey Mac shared an emotional tribute to his close friend, breaking down into tears over the loss.
“Hi, it’s Geoffrey Mac. I lost my best friend today from the coronavirus, Nashom Wooden. And I just want to make sure that everybody out there stays healthy and takes care of each other because the virus is really real and I’m just so sorry,” Mac tearfully said in a video shared on his Instagram on Monday.
Wooden’s employer Mario Diaz, who owns the East Village gay bar The Cock where Wooden famously worked, also confirmed the tragic loss on Facebook. “This virus has taken our dear Nashom Wooden..aka Mona Foot. Part of our New York nightlife family. A beautiful gorgeous creature, an amazing artist and a friend for 25+ years,” Diaz wrote.
He continued: “When I think of you I will always see that beautiful smile. When I think of you I will always remember the powerhouse that was Mona Foot! Our years together at The Cock. Things feel very real right now. Please stay home and stay safe. We love you Nashom… always and forever.”
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DJ Lina Bradford shared an emotional video on Instagram after learning the shocking news of Wooden’s death. She said that he visited a hospital after experiencing symptoms of coronavirus, but was turned away because he was “not sick enough” and “shortly after passed on.”
“I can’t with the fact that Nashom is gone. I love you so much Nashom and I am so sorry that this happened,” she said.
Hedwig and the Angry Inch actor John Cameron Mitchell remembered Wooden with a post on Instagram. “It’s a really sad day today for friends of Nashom Wooden a.k.a. Mona Foot who was an amazing drag performer that I got to know in the ’90s and who ruled at Barracuda bar. She was a sweetie,” he said.
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According to the NYT, Wooden was in excellent psychical shape, and was seen working out with friends in Chelsea three weeks ago. Then just a week and a half later, he was sick at home with a “strange flu.”
The outlet reported that he was in touch with David Dalrymple, a costume designer who made many of Mona’s outfits, through text. “He told me he wasn’t having trouble breathing, but I’m guessing he just didn’t want to worry me,” Dalrymple told the NYT.
Dalrymple said Wooden didn’t tell any of their friends he was seeking testing or treatment, and last Thursday Dalrymple thought he was improving. By Saturday, friends couldn’t reach him and Monday Dalrymple found Wooden dead in his apartment.
The NYT also reported that Wooden had H.I.V. but was on medication and “undetectable” (which is when viral load drops to a level that’s undetectable in blood tests).
The first symptoms of coronavirus typically begin in the upper respiratory system and present as coughing and sneezing, much like a cold. But as the coronavirus progresses, symptoms will become more like the flu, and infected persons may experience a running fever, fatigue and body aches.
“You start to see a cold, and the reason it’s called a cold is because you don’t have a fever,” Dr. William Haseltine, infectious disease expert and Chair and President of ACCESS Health International, told PEOPLE.
“If it feels like it’s in your chest, and then deeper in your chest, that’s when it’s quite serious,” Haseltine said. “That’s when your body starts reacting to it. Your body overreacts to it and creates the damage in your lungs, and that’s when it’s the most serious. The moment it moves from a light cold to a chest cold, you’ve got to go see a doctor, immediately.”
As of Wednesday, New York currently has the most confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the country with 30,811 according to the New York Times database. There are now at least 59,502 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States, and 804 people in the country have died from coronavirus-related illness.
As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from CDC, WHO, and local public health departments and visit our coronavirus hub.