Friends and fans across LGBTQ Atlanta are mourning the death of Sharon Needles, who died Saturday after a long battle with cancer.
Needles (photo), whose legal name was Edward Smith, died in a hospice care facility in Covington, according to her partner David Jones.
Needles was a longtime member of camp drag troupe the Armorettes. She also performed with Ruby Redd’s Birdcage Bingo, according to cast member Anne Drogyny.
“Sharon spent over 40 years donating her time and talent to spreading awareness and raising millions of dollars for those living with HIV/AIDS,” Drogyny told Project Q Atlanta.
Atlanta drag queen Jealouse met Needles 20 years ago at legendary gay nightlife hotspot Backstreet.
“She always had a smile and was so kind,” Jealouse said. “Sharon supported so many performers. Sharon’s legacy of charity and always giving back will live on.”
Tyler Casper met Needles at a club in Monroe, Ga., in 2015. It was Casper’s first time performing in drag publicly.
“She had seen me outside the building hyperventilating and feeling sick to my stomach before my number and she asked me my name,” Casper said. “She said, ‘Well darling, I see something special in you that isn't painted on a beautiful face, but what's in your heart. That's passion and drive. Don't ever lose it, have fun and just twirl.’”
Casper, who performs under the name Freya Diva, called Needles his “drag aunt.”
“Sharon never steered you away from being something you're not,” he said. “Whatever you are meant to be is meant to be, and she encouraged that. I know that she was in life and is still to this day an angel.”
Details of a memorial service are still being worked out, according to Jones.
Here’s Needles performing at Ruby Redd’s Birdcage Bingo show at Midtown Moon in November. The show was a benefit for Pets Are Loving Support.