Erica Kennedy, author of the novels Bling and Feminista and an inspiration to thousands of Twitter followers, was found dead in her Miami Beach home on June 13, according to reports. She was 42.
Kennedy's work spanned several fields: fashion publicist, journalist, blogger, novelist. But she may be best remembered for her interactive, supportive presence in social media. Twitter erupted with grief, disbelief, and condolences to Kennedy's loved ones when news of her death broke over the weekend.
The cause of death has not yet been reported.
Kennedy got her start in fashion publicity; in a piece for xojane.com, she recalled convincing a Puff Daddy-era Sean Combs to swap his early-2000s wifebeater-and-baseball-cap look for a swank Tommy Hilfiger suit. Eventually, she evolved into journalism, writing for the New York Daily News, InStyle, and Vibe.
In 2004, Kennedy's first novel, Bling, debuted. It tells the story of an Ohio girl who gets discovered by a music mogul and enters the bizarre world of mainstream hip-hop. Her next book, Feminista, was a big departure. Kennedy told the Root in 2009:
My first book, Bling, was this raunchy hip-hop satire where every other sentence contained a 'nigga' or a 'muthfucka' or a 'suck my ...' and everyone wanted to buy it, make a movie about it, and write a cover story on it. I was the toast of the town. Then I write a chick lit [book] with a strong female character and every editor was like, "Oh, I don't know about this!" I would LOL, but that shit isn't funny. It says a lot about the world we live in.
Kennedy was undoubtedly a talented writer, but her greatest strength might have been in forming and sustaining friendships. She maintained relationships with some of the biggest names in entertainment, counting herself among Russell Simmons's circle. Roger Ebert named her one of his favorite Twitter personalities.
And you didn't have to be an A-list celebrity to catch her attention. The blog Dr. Goddess has catalogued dozens of Kennedy's tweets, as well as responses to news of her death, by friends from all walks of life. As Afrobella put it:
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Erica's legacy is so much bigger than I think she would have realized. Just from the immediate response on Twitter -- check out Dr. Goddess' amalgamation of tweets -- there's an incredible diversity. Such a wide variety of people, from celebrities to bloggers to authors to regular folks. Spanning ages and accomplishments, genders and races.