local performer, drag queen
When did you become interested in performing?
I've been a little performer ever since I was a child. My dad used to pay me a dollar to sing "We Are the World" to his friends. It was embarassing, but I got a dollar.
What were you listening to in your house growing up?
A lot. My music tastes are very eclectic. My father likes a lot of '70s rock and soul. But there was also a lot of country in the house. My mother is from Cuba, so there was a lot of salsa in the house, but she'd listen to a lot of adult contemporary. My brother was very into rap, my sister was very into punk and rock. I was an 11 year old that listened to ABBA.
So when the family all piled into the car did you fight over the radio?
No, my dad turned on [country station] B93. You either listen or plug your ears.
How did you get involved performing as a drag queen?
I came out as gay at 15, came out as transgender at 16, started coming down here (Grand Rapids gay bar Rumors) at 18 and started performing at 19 ... I came here (Rumors) and saw all these girls doing this fun s**t and said 'I could do this better.'
What's a drag show like for someone not familiar?
More times than not, it's just a show, but it depends. ... There's a host, there's booze, there's fun.
What makes for a good drag show?
Number one: entertainment. The entertainer has to have a smile on her face and a pep in her step and of course, the glamorous hair and jewels and nails and shoes and costumes; it's all about the show.
What are some misconceptions people have about drag shows?
It's not a total misconception, because some drag queens are big f***ing bitches. But I like to squash that because most of us aren't. We're down-to-earth, cool people. Yeah, we have a little bit of a diva complex because nine years of people coming to see you, telling you how awesome you are and seeing your face on buttons, you get a little Whitney Houston.
You said you came out as trangendered at 16. Do you still identify as transgendered?
Kids ask me if I'm a woman or a man all the time. It's difficult. It's very complicated. I'm transgendered. I started living my life as a woman at 16 and stopped at 24 because it was getting very difficult. I'm 6'4", I'm 280 pounds, it's difficult shaving every day and it's difficult trying to be the woman you want to be and looking in the mirror and not being that woman. So I've just been playing around with the duality of my life and embracing this body, embracing this masculine curse and making the woman and the man coexist for a piece of mind.
What's the drag scene like now in West Michigan?
I think it's fun, I think it's growing. There are a lot of young girls that are coming in and taking control and taking over. ... It's very much like a family.
Do you think "RuPaul's Drag Race" has helped give drag more attention?
It's brought the art of drag entertainment to the forefront, definitely. Nothing overt, but I do believe on the whole, it's helping all of us. I don't necessarily want to go on the show, but RuPaul is making it possible for us to really make a living on this.
Can you make a living on it?
Oh yeah. Right now I don't have another job. In the back of my head I keep thinking, 'Bitch, you gotta get a day job.' But I don't want to.
Photo: Terry Johnston