At age 23, Donnell Phillip, also known as Top Dog Donnell, is among the youngest to die from COVID-19 in this country.
The social media sensation, who was well-known for being humorous, outspoken and sometimes raunchy, despite his Down Syndrome diagnosis, succumbed to the virus on Sunday after battling it for a few days.
Donnell’s videos were shared hundreds of thousands of times, not just locally but across the world.
His sense of humour won him much affection and attention.
His disability never held him back. In fact, it earned him millions of views and propelled his career.
Donnell lived most of his life in Santa Cruz and this is where he met Elvis Julien, a man who would remain his friend to the end.
Julien told Guardian Media yesterday that Donnell was popular in the village and was known for being outspoken.
Julien said a few years ago, he decided to make a video with Donnell for his birthday and when it was posted to social media it went viral.
Soon after, Julien created a page for Donnell much to the delight of his new fans.
As time went by, Top Dog Donnell quickly became a hit on social media and was a source for entertainment for his over 60,000 followers on Instagram and the many others who shared his videos.
With his growing popularity, Donnell received endorsements from clothing stores and was even sought out to promote events.
He also used his fame to help charitable causes as well.
But three days ago, Donnell revealed that he was COVID-19 positive via a post to his Instagram page and almost instantly, the prayers came pouring in. A host of familiar names were among those wishing him well.
But their worst fears were quickly realised when it revealed on Sunday that the 23-year-old had succumbed to the virus.
Friends and fans devastated
A shaken Julien was heartbroken.
“He know I love him, and I sure he loves me.”
Julien said his friend might have still been alive today had he not moved to Malick to stay with relatives a few months ago.
He said since Donnell left Santa Cruz they weren’t in regular contact as they usually had been. He said they spoke once, maybe twice a week.
“So I didn’t really know too much about what was going down there. I wish he was with me still you know, probably he might have been alive today, because if he was with me, no way he would have been outside in this COVID time,” he said.
Julien said when he heard the news that Donnell had contracted COVID, he feared his friend’s body would not be able to handle the virus.
Although there is no blood relation between them, Julien said he and Donnell shared a special bond.
“I feeling like my own brother die, so it very very painful right now. It is hard to deal with.”