As news spread quickly throughout the region an entire LGBT community across our nation has been left in complete and utter shock –– mourning the death of one of our very own: "The Legendary Wanda" a.k.a "Sally Mae" of Tampa, Florida murdered on Tuesday, May 28.
Tampa police are investigating the shooting that took place Tuesday afternoon in a home on the 3900 block of Genessee Street. Wanda, who's legal name is Anthony Jerome Lee, was rushed to Tampa General Hospital where she was later pronounced dead.
J. Martelle Knight, sister of the deceased, has confirmed it to be a home invasion that occurred while Wanda was visiting a friends home in which she was allegedly shot and killed, yet it is still not clear if this was an act of hatred towards LGBT's.
In a media statement released late Tuesday night, investigators said that they are not yet releasing any further details about the incident – other than that it happened inside the home located at 3911 E. Genessey Street.
According to Knight, the family is understandably grief stricken and Tampa police do not have any suspects at this time and the shooter remains on the loose.
Messages of love, sympathy, and disbelief rolled in from all over filling Wanda's Facebook page –– "SoBe Wanda" –– as people from all walks of life have come to remember the legendary drag icon.
An especially emotional Tiffany Aerieagus said, "Words cannot express the grief I am feeling now at the loss of my dear friend Wanda (Sally Mae). Now she is gone and my heart is forever broken. I know she touched so many lives all over the country. Some good, some funny, and even some fighting. That was our Sally Mae!!"
There are still so many unanswered questions as so many of us begin to grieve and our hearts continue to weep. Wanda was a legend in our community here in Florida and beyond. She was an "over-the-top," –– "one-of-a-kind," –– "unique" personality that can never be replaced.
She was unusually tall, colorfully loud, obnoxiously funny, outrageously entertaining, and feared no one and nothing. It was her towering height as the seven foot tall drag queen in size 18 heals who impersonated Whitney Houston that we all grew to love, and just like Whitney, she has left this earth far too soon.
Wanda entered the Miss Florida F.I. Pageant more than any other contestant in the history of the pageant. Her last appearance came just shy of winning as first runner-up to Miss Florida at Large 2007, Miss T.P. Lords.
Messages continue to pour in from all over the world as so many try to makes sense of such a senseless and heinous crime.
World famous DJ Tracy Young posted this statement: "Miss Wanda ... No one deserves such violence and nobody deserves such hate. Especially YOU. You always tried to lift everyone's spirit and made our days brighter, vibrant, and FEROSH! I will miss you Wanda! Rest In Peace."
The word ‘legend’ gets thrown around a bit too much in the drag industry now days. That being said, today we lost a legend, a friend, and an icon. Whether you liked her or loved her, we all grew to know and respect her. She was a character and personality who will live on in infamy. There can never, and will never be another Wanda!
Wanda came into our world 49 years ago on February 14, 1963 (Valentines Day) and is now survived by seven brothers and sisters in the Tampa area, and an entire LGBT community in which her memory will live on.
Red velvet ropes would open at Miami's hottest nightclubs as Wanda was the life of the party wherever she went. Her famous slogan:, "I Came To Decorate!"
Coincidentally, Wanda's death comes just one day after Memorial Day, a day that will be etched into our memories each year to follow.
Since I am your reigning Miss Florida F.I. crown holder, I want to personally tip my crown to Wanda on this very sad day and express my deepest heartfelt sorrow to her family, and our community in mourning.
Monday June 10th: A special Memorial to celebrate the life of the Legendary Wanda will be held on Monday June 10th starting at 8pm at Boardwalk in Ft Lauderdale with an amazing showcast of the biggest drag entertainers in Florida. Free drinks and h'ordeurves from 8-9pm. Please come out and bring your favorite memories of Wanda to this event as we take a trip down memory lane.
Those red velvet ropes have dropped one final time for our beloved Wanda, as she takes one final walk down the red carpet to the fair well tune of Whitney Houstons, "I Will Always Love You." And we will always love you back Wanda.
A signature name she will always remain engraved in our hearts forever, "The Legendary Wanda."