A man made to make shoes. The king of the Congolese dance hall. A novelist in exile. In the first of an occasional series, The Associated Press takes a look at figures in arts, entertainment and culture who have died after contracting the coronavirus.



Sergio Rossi learned shoemaking from his artisan father when Italy was in the throes of World War II.

He would go on to become one of the most revered fine shoe designers ever to emerge from the country famous for them.

A skilled shoemaker by 14, he began selling his designs in Bologna in 1966, then launched his brand in 1968, reaching global prominence in the 1970s in part for his collaboration with young clothing designer Gianni Versace, one of many renowned designers he would work with. He would sell the line to the Gucci Group, later renamed Kering, in 1999 for about $96.2 million.

“His was the story of an unconditional love for shoes,” his family said in a statement.

He made luxury footwear for both men and women, but the latter was his real specialty, and shoes like his Cachet heel were popular with Ariana Grande, Paris Hilton and Lupita Nyong’o.


“He had an incredible flair for what is current, he produced wonderful things,” shoe designer Manolo Blahnik said in a statement to Footwear News. “It’s an enormous loss for the shoe industry.”

His company has preserved thousands of his drawings and papers in an archive honoring his legacy. He also trained his own son, Gianvito Rossi, in the craft, and he has his own thriving shoe brand.

Sergio Rossi died April 3 in Cesena, Italy. He was 84.


Chang Kai, a director and executive at China’s Hubei Film Studios, was forced to play nurse in his final weeks as his father, mother and sister died from the coronavirus in Wuhan, the city first ravaged by the global outbreak.

The financial magazine Caixin published a note written in classical poetic Chinese shortly before his death that was given to them by a friend of Kai.

The note read, “As I draw my last feeble breaths, I say to my family, my friends, and my son in faraway London: All my life, I was a filial son, a responsible father, a loving husband, and an honest person! Farewell to those I love and to those who loved me!”

He died Feb. 14 at a hospital in Wuhan, his film company said in a statement. He was 55.



They called Aurlus Mabele “the king of soukous.”

The Congolese singer and composer took the dance music style that originated in his home country in the 1960s and made it popular for a global audience.

His uptempo dancehall blend of West African, Caribbean, pop and soul music styles was especially popular in France, where he moved in the 1980s.

There he formed the Congolese supergroup Loketo, along with Diblo Dibala and Mav Cacharel.

He died March 19 in Paris, his daughter, Liza Monet, said. He was 66.


Luis Sepúlveda was imprisoned for his political activism during the dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet in Chile, and driven from his home country in 1977.

Like other renowned writers, he did his most beloved work in exile.


He became an international literary star with the 1988 novel “The Old Man Who Read Love Stories,” based on the months he spent in the Amazonian jungle in Ecuador among the Shuar people soon after he was exiled.

Sepúlveda also wrote “The Story of a Seagull and the Cat Who Taught Her to Fly,” about an oil-slicked bird who convinces a house cat to tend to her final egg.

“Your books have taught many people to fly, to consider, to reflect, to have respect,” said Lynda Albertson, one of many Sepúlveda fans who took to Twitter to praise his work after his death. “Thanks for reminding me that real love, real friendship can come from where you least expect it.”

Born in Ovalle, Chile, in 1949, Sepúlveda bounced between South America and Europe in the late 1970s and 1980s. He spent the 1990s in Germany before moving to Gijón in Spain.

He had recently returned from a literary conference in Portugal when he became among the first in Asturias, Spain, where he resided, to be diagnosed with the coronavirus.

The regional government of Asturias confirmed his death on April 16. He was 70.



Chef Floyd Cardoz took Indian food to new heights in the United States.

A committed advocate of making the food industry more sustainable, Cardoz ran thriving restaurants in New York and his native India and gained greater fame when he competed on the cooking competition show “Top Chef” and won “Top Chef Masters.”

Cardoz trained as a chef in Mumbai and honed his skills in French, Italian and Indian cuisine in Switzerland before moving on to the kitchens of New York. There in 1998 he opened Tabla, a restaurant that critics and foodies said brought an unprecedented level of craftsmanship and quality to American fine dining.

After Tabla closed in 2010, he headed kitchens in New York restaurants including North End Grill and White Street.

He authored a 2016 cookbook aimed at American home kitchens, “Flavorwalla.”

Cardoz also had restaurants in Mumbai, where he traveled shortly before his death to celebrate the anniversary of his Bombay Canteen and the opening of a new store, Bombay Sweet Shop.

“Top Chef” host Padma Lakshmi said on Twitter that Cardoz had “an impish smile, an innate need to make those around him happy, and a delicious touch.”

Cardoz died March 25 at a hospital in Montclair, New Jersey, his company said in a statement. He was 59.


Associated Press Writers Leanne Italie in New York and Aritz Parra in Madrid contributed to this report.