‘A great journey’ cut short: Deshayla Harris, victim in Virginia Beach shooting, was 29 with big dreams

Jonathan Edwards, The Virginian-Pilot
·3 min read

Deshayla Harris was a girl who hadn’t quite found her power as a young teenager but would “blossom into a queen — the most beautiful, the most poppin’, the most loud and fun and free,” her childhood friend said.

“She was the one that came with the energy” that would catapult her from a student at Norfolk’s Lake Taylor High School to a “hometown celebrity” who won a spot on the Oxygen channel’s reality TV show, “Bad Girls Club,” 32-year-old Laniqua Taylor said.

“And now she’s just a memory,” Taylor added.

Harris was one of two people who were shot dead on Friday night at the Virginia Beach Oceanfront. Eight others were injured during a series of shootings that turned revelry on an unseasonably warm night in late March into terror and chaos.

Virginia Beach Police Chief Paul Neudigate at a Saturday night press conference described Harris as “truly … an innocent victim that was probably struck by stray gunfire.” Three young men have been charged in the firefight that started everything, but no one has been formally accused of killing Harris.

Harris, 29, grew up in the Berkley area of Norfolk and went to Lake Taylor, said her friend, Taylor. She was raised by a single mom and was the second youngest of four daughters.

Taylor said the two met when Harris was 12 or 13 and Taylor a few years older. Taylor and her two sisters had recently moved to the Berkley area with their family. Because Harris had three sisters, the two groups meshed well. But Taylor said she and Harris were especially drawn to each others’ “superstar energy.”

“We were just friends from then on out.”

But Taylor said they drifted apart in adulthood and she hadn’t talked to her childhood friend in at least a couple years.

Harris’ godmother, Katina Wilkins, said in a Facebook message that she worked at Da Notty Roots hair salon on Newtown Road. She also loved to model. “(She) was a beautiful person who didn’t bother nobody.”

Outside Hampton Roads, Harris — who still lived in Norfolk — was best known for appearing on “Bad Girls Club.” Harris and Kandyce Hogan were on different seasons of the show, but the drama that comes with being on a reality TV show brought them together.

Hogan, 29, said she reached out to Harris after her season aired and gave her advice on interacting with fans on social media.

“When I saw the type of person she was — timid, calm — I knew I needed to reach out to this girl,” Hogan said.

She did, and became an ally.

“I told her, don’t let these people bother you because it gets very frustrating,” she said.

They formed a bond because both knew what it was like for their lives to be shown on TV.

Though the two never met in person, they texted and talked on Instagram and talked on FaceTime.

“We had deep conversations, regular life conversations,” Hogan said.

She said she knew Harris went through beauty school and was working at a salon and had big dreams. She loved doing hair and really wanted to travel.

The women talked about visiting each other — Hogan lives in Chicago — and traveling together.

“When I replay those conversations, it makes me think about how important those conversations were,” Hogan said. “We just let time slip away.”

Hogan will miss her friend’s soft voice. “It’s a calm I can’t explain,” she said.

The fame of “Bad Girls Club” was not it for Harris, Taylor said. She had a “dominant” energy and a willingness to fight for what she wanted that most people don’t. She found out what she wanted and set herself on a path to get it.

But now she won’t get to.

“It’s just sickening to know that you can set out to have a great journey,” Harris said. “Then you go outside and someone murders you.”

Jonathan Edwards, 757-739-7180, jonathan.edwards@pilotonline.com