Tributes from across LGBTQ Atlanta are commemorating Monica Van Pelt, the drag mainstay who entertained fans for years. She died Sunday at the age of 46.
Van Pelt, who emceed several shows a week at Lips Atlanta, told manager Tyler King between shows on Saturday that she thought she was having a heart attack.
“I told her to go to the hospital,” King told Project Q Atlanta. “She went home. It kills me because to think there was a possibility that this could be avoided is so frustrating.”
Van Pelt died early Sunday. Longtime friends and entertainers paid tribute to Van Pelt and her giving nature.
“She would give everything she could to anybody without any motive just because it was needed,” said Myah Monroe, the show director at Midtown Moon and a friend of Van Pelt for over 20 years.
“She was one of the sweetest people I’ve met. She wanted you to prosper,” she added.
King said Van Pelt supported other entertainers and served as a mentor.
“[Van Pelt] would honestly give you the shirt off her back,” King said. “I’ve never witnessed anything like it before. She sponsored countless entertainers in pageants, she was a mentor to so many people and the consummate professional as far as I am concerned.”
“I could not ask anything of Monica that she wouldn’t give 1,000 percent to,” he added.
An online fundraiser for Van Pelt’s funeral expenses raised nearly $8,000, far exceeding its $5,000 goal. A celebration of life was held Thursday at Southern Cremation & Funerals in Marietta (watch below), and a tribute memorial is scheduled for Saturday at Midtown Moon.
‘She had a passion for drag’
Van Pelt was born on March 25, 1974 in Baytown, Tex., according to an online obituary. She was an avid collector of all things “Star Wars” and “Wizard of Oz.” She married Brett Van Pelt on July 18, 2017.
“To know Monica is to know how much she loved Brett,” Monroe said.
Van Pelt met King on the public access show “Mouth of the South” in the late 1990s, kicking off a 20-year friendship. Van Pelt got her first emcee job in 2007 at the former Burkhart’s (now Midtown Moon), according to King.
“She went on from there just through the stratosphere,” he said.
When Lips Atlanta opened in 2014, King hired Van Pelt right away. A tribute to Van Pelt will take place there at a future date.
“We want to give things time to settle down as far as this [COVID-19] madness we’re living in and then just do a blowout celebration for Monica,” King said.
Photographer Just Toby met Van Pelt at a photoshoot several years ago. They bonded quickly and became friends.
“She was full of energy and she had a lot of insight about the industry and knew a lot of history and things that I didn’t know per se,” he said. “She had a passion for drag that you don’t see a lot in the city. She came from old school drag, which I loved. There’s not a lot of that anymore.”
Just Toby noted Van Pelt’s positive energy and unwavering support.
“She would cheer me up so many times when I felt like I wasn’t worthy,” he said. “She was my biggest fan when I was not my own biggest fan. She would push you to do things. Or if you were upset, Monica would call and check on you.”
Monroe said Van Pelt was generous with hugs.
“She would call you or come up and hug you and say, ‘Just because I felt you need this,’” she said. “I never had to tell her something was wrong with me.”
Van Pelt matched that positivity with a strong backbone.
“She wouldn’t take no bullshit,” Monroe said. “It was always positive energy, being there for each other. It was just wonderful moments that I will cherish for the rest of my life.”
This story is made possible by a grant from Google News Initiative’s Journalism Emergency Relief Fund.