Many mourned Saturday when they heard the news that a beloved drag artist and entertainer in South Bay had been killed in Milpitas the day before.
Natalia Smüt, 24, an Afro-Rican trans woman from San José, was known for her “motivational and creative spirit, engaging achievements, and love of community advocacy,” according to LGBTQ advocacy and advocacy organization Project More.
“She was always an actress,” said Kiara Ohlde, a long-time friend who said Smüt was like family to her. The couple grew up together. Even in childhood, said Ohlde, Smüt loved putting on shows and delighting her family and friends.
“She would dress Christina Aguilera or Britney Spears, put on shows, and make sure people were watching,” Ohlde said. “She’d do a whole show and jump into the split.”
She is also known to be confident and honest, said Ohlde.
“She wasn’t afraid to speak up,” she said. “She was amazing.”
At least 100 people gathered for a vigil organized by friends and community leaders at San Jose City Hall on Saturday and placed candles, flowers, and other works of art or memorabilia on the steps in honor of Smut.
Nathan Svoboda, president of the Project More Foundation, described Smut as a “compelling” artist and a person who appeared to have a “positive, really bright star”.
“We lost a gem in our community,” he said.
SAN JOSE, CA – APRIL 24: Jackie Brookins leaves a candle at a vigil for Natalia Smut outside San Jose City Hall, Saturday, April 24, 2021. The beloved South Bay drag artist and entertainer was killed in Milpitas on Friday . (Karl Mondon / Bay Area News Group)
The police did not provide many details about Smüt’s death. A report of the murder published by the Milpitas Police Department said Elijah Segura, who lives in Union City, called the police around 2:30 a.m. on Friday and said he was responsible for injuring a 24-year-old woman from San Jose in charge.
Police took 22-year-old Segura into custody, while officers saw Smüt lying on the ground with “serious injuries”. Rescuers took her to a hospital, but she was later pronounced dead.
According to police and family members, Segura and Smüt were together; Authorities described the case as an “investigation into domestic violence murder”.
The circumstances left the community in shock and sadness.
“The first time I got down on my knees, she told me how proud she was of me and she made me so enthusiastic,” wrote Cindy Campbell on Twitter. “Every time after this meeting there were big hugs.”
SAN JOSE, CA – APRIL 24: Friends of Natalia Sm ?? üt mourn the beloved drag artist and entertainer from South Bay, who was killed in Milpitas on Friday, at San Jose City Hall, Saturday, April 24, 2021. (Karl Mondon / Bay Area News Group)
Svoboda said Smut was the 16th person in the United States to be killed this year as a result of violence against transgender or non-compliant people. This is evident from the latest figures followed by the human rights campaign. Four of them were killed this month.
Last year, the organization tracked a total of 44 transgender and non-compliant deaths. This is the highest level since the prosecution of such crimes began in 2013.
They were killed by acquaintances, partners or strangers, according to a report by the human rights campaign which found that while circumstances are all different, “fatal violence disproportionately affects transgender women of skin color – especially black transgender women” .
Ten of the 16 transsexuals killed that year were black.
Svoboda said that in honor of Smut and the other 15 transgender victims of violence in the United States, the lights of the Qmunity District in San Jose would be changed to the trans flag for the next 16 days.
SAN JOSE, CA – APRIL 24: Cordelia Larsen holds a candle for Natalia Sm ?? üt at San Jose City Hall, Saturday April 24, 2021, where a vigil was held for the beloved South Bay drag artist and entertainer who was killed on Friday in Milpitas. (Karl Mondon / Bay Area News Group)
Sera Fernando, who met Smüt through Silicon Valley Pride events, said Smüt’s willingness to speak about her life or experiences on stage was remarkable.
“It spoke to my heart,” said Fernando.
While Fernando is used to facing the tragic statistics on violence against the trans community – she reviews them frequently in her job as the senior management analyst for the Santa Clara District LGBTQ Affairs Office – she said the death of someone crushed in the trans community of San Jose.
“Natalia is so brave, so brave to live in her authenticity,” said Fernando. “How is it possible that someone is as brave and brave as you – how do we not protect that?”
Ohlde created a GoFundMe website to raise funds for funeral expenses and hospital bills.
“She was fabulous,” Ohlde wrote on the side. “She would enter a room like fireworks. Everywhere she went she brought energy, wild looks and a personality that shone like a diamond. “
Milpitas police encourage anyone with information on the case to call them at 408-586-2400. Information can be provided anonymously by calling the crime tips hotline at 408-586-2500 or by visiting the Milpitas Police Department website at http://www.ci.milpitas.ca.gov/crimetip
Employee photographer Karl Mondon contributed to the coverage.
SAN JOSE, CA – APRIL 24: Family and friends of Natalia Sm ?? üt gather at San Jose City Hall on Saturday, April 24, 2021 to remember the beloved South Bay drag artist and entertainer who was killed in Milpitas on Friday. (Karl Mondon / Bay Area News Group)