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Antoine Ashley’s Boyfriend: What He Will Miss Most

updated 10/07/2012 AT 11:00 AM ET

originally published 10/06/2012 AT 6:00 PM ET

When Karl Westerberg found out that Antoine Ashley, his boyfriend of six years, died Monday of heart failure, he was devastated. But it also made him appreciate their time together even more.

“I’m left cherishing his memories and carrying out his legacy,” Westerberg, also known by his stage name Manila Luzon, told PEOPLE on Thursday. “I was lucky enough to have time with him.”

Still, he says, losing the fellow RuPaul’s Drag Race contestant is a struggle.

“I’m hanging in there, but it’s hard because I have to deal with more than just grieving someone so close,” he says. “I have to deal with telling everyone all the information. We’ve been together for such a long time, so it’s surreal because it just happened. At least I have a lot of support from friends and family, so that’s good.”

When Westerberg first met Ashley – also known by his stage name Sahara Davenport – at a local bar in his neighborhood, he instantly knew this was someone he’d be connected to for a long time.

“We just really hit it off,” he says. “And when we both found out we were drag queens, it was such an enlightening moment. I was starting a relationship with someone who shared a passion for something I did. It was a lot of fun.”

“Antoine and Sahara Davenport were really able to help me learn about drag,” Westerberg says. “We really fed off each other. Together, we just clicked. We were both part of RuPaul’s Drag Race, so we both got to go through this experience together.”

Now, Westerberg relies on mementos to feel like Ashley is still here. Granted, some of which he even considers “superficial” – but special, nevertheless.

“She left me a whole bunch of shoes,” Westerberg says, adding that there should be a museum devoted to Ashley’s creations. “She would design these amazing outfits and have them made for her.”

Karl Westerberg and Antoine Ashley

But it wasn’t all fashion for the pair. Music played a big role in their romance.

“I can say that my love for Toni Braxton is so much bigger because of my boyfriend,” Westerberg says. “Sahara was always trying to sound like Toni Braxton.”


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