It’s been a challenging few months, but the tHOtlist 2021 is on her way! We got off to a late start, but end of December is a realistic publication date. And she’s going to be an extra large one this year, because there is too much to talk about in this landmark Year of Nightlife.
This will also probably be the last one.
I’ve always meant the tHOTlist to be a method of celebrating all the accomplishments in NYC nightlife of the year, and a necessary action to increase the traffic and interest to the site (and if I were a martyr *cough* I would remind you here that I make no direct profit from this site and it’s meant to benefit thousands of people). I don’t think anyone loves this scene more than I do, and I say that without irony. I love the art and the crazy personalities and the history and the changing trends, all of it.
But honestly, making this list it is so, SO much work for one person to do and the negative feedback it gets–a very loud minority–can be a bit overwhelming, especially in these times. Even though this list was extra large, I’m still leaving off tons of people I would’ve liked to celebrate and the idea that these people would take omission from this list so hard and be so negatively impacted is a burden that gets increasingly hard to bear, to the point where I have to wonder if it’s worth continuing.
So I dunno, we’ll see! I have some seeds of ideas of something that can replace this next year. And I may change my mind, because I’m gay and old and senile. But as of now, I think 2021 will be the tHOtlistFinale.
It’s GLAM Awards time again! But changes to the voting rules for the “Best Writer / Blogger” category has put me squarely in the role of the underdog this year, but this old hooker’s got fight in her! If you have love and support for what Thotyssey NYC does for the queer community, please consider giving Jim Silvestri of Thotyssey your vote! Literally everyone reading this can vote for this category, as it is now up to the public! There’s actually a number of fun categories that everyone can vote for now, so check it out! (Vote for Best Writer / Blogger, Scene Queen, Podcast, Video, etc. here)
And if you’re an Industry Baby (you work in nightlife and have a voting code from Cherry Jubilee), please also consider voting for Jim Silvestri as Best Event Producer, and my baby “Night of 5000 Thots” as Best Event! (Nightlife folks vote here). Thank you luvs!
Already developing a reputation for wowing audiences and peers alike with crowd-pleasing onstage antics in competition shows and guest spots, the musical theater-trained drag performer and trans activist Angel Au is someone we should all be watching in the New Year!
Thotyssey: Hello Angel, happy holiday season! It just snowed for 45 seconds, did you see!?
Angel Au: Wait, really? I didn’t get a chance! I’ve been in class all day!
You didn’t miss much, and I’m sure we’ll get a repeat performance soon enough! What’s your class, if I may ask?
It’s a class on how to act while singing music theatre! I really love it, as I’m learning a lot.
That’s wonderful! So many folks now have seen your amazing drag, but is musical theater your first love?
It is! I’ve always wanted to be on Broadway, but when I was little, there wasn’t much Asian representation… so my parents would tell me that it wasn’t a practical career for me, and it really got to me as a kid. But I found drag, which combined everything I loved: entertaining, theatre, makeup, and fashion.
There’s been much talk about the need to diversify Broadway, yet there’s been arguably little progress towards that end. In fairness, Covid certainly slowed down that progress. Do you have hope that representation will improve on stage?
Definitely! I think we’ve definitely seen a lot of growth in terms of diversity; Hamilton really broke boundaries, and now we have more diverse casts like Six: The Musical, Be More Chill, etc. But there’s also more work to be done in the entertainment industry. It’s a good start, though!
I’ve heard you rap a little… do you sing as well?
I do! I love singing and music in general. My aunt is a piano teacher, and I started playing the piano when I was maybe 7 or 8. I think it’s so beautiful that music serves as a universal language that can move people, even if they don’t understand the words!
The Broadway community sadly just lost one of its most important creators, Stephen Sondheim.
I was devastated to hear! He truly was a modern Shakespeare that evolved the idea of a Broadway musical. All his works are so powerful in their connection to humanity.
Do you have a favorite work of his?
In my performance class today, we just so happened to be working on Sondheim pieces, and I was assigned “The Worst Pies in London” (a song I love)! In high school, I was also very lucky to do two Sondheim musicals: A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum and Into the Woods. For me, Into the Woods holds a special place in my heart! I played The Witch (a role I never thought I would get an opportunity to play), and had the time of my life. Learning the music, hearing the score, it’s so brilliant: the repetition of musical themes to reflect characters, the lyrics, the story, the humanity. I love the show so much!
Where’s your hometown?
I am from a small town in central New Jersey, but I always knew I wanted to be the city– and now I am here for college! I think the many opportunities the city offers, and never getting bored of things to do, really drew me to the city.
When did you discover drag and become Angel?
I first discovered drag in sixth grade. I had always loved makeup and performing, and at the time I was exploring my feminine side more. I was watching a YouTuber by the name of Miles Jai, and they had a collab with Willam. My introduction to Willam led me to Drag Race! Drag was a combination of everything I loved.
And is there a story behind your name?
Angel is my chosen name now! The name comes from the character in Rent (who I love), and was reaffirmed with Indya Moore’s character on Pose.
I’ve seen you compete in Lady Liberty several times now, as well as a few other competition shows. You’ve served comedy, drama, stunts and horror! What’s an overall accurate description of the Angel Au experience onstage?
I love making people smile, and comedy is always a great way for me to do that! I also like serving a look (whether camp or fashion), and usually my looks are related to the number I do. At the heart of it, I’d like to think that I am a storyteller! Whether it’s me getting possessed (like in my “Roman Holiday” mix) or sharing my coming out experience, there’s a part of me (my life, my interpretation of things) that I want to share with an audience.
You’ve sported a lot of brilliant costumes in those looks. Did you make those?
A few of them I’ve made (like the Chinese takeout box and Polaroid dress), and sometimes I buy a few pieces thrifting. But I owe my most elaborate pieces to my good friend Rocket Ahuna. He’s a student at FIT, and he’s is honestly so incredible and talented and has helped me bring so many creations to life!
We’ll get to see you compete again this Thursday for Lady Liberty at The Q! You pretty much have always made the semifinals or finals for that one.
Haha, yes! I really enjoy Lady Liberty because of how organized the competition is. [Show producers] Vincent, Brita, and everyone backstage who helps run it are very professional. I honestly just try to compete as much as I can, just to get my name out there. Fun fact, though: I’ve never actually won a qualifying round of Lady Liberty, but I’ve made it to the semifinals or finals because Vincent and Brita ask me to come back as a wild card… which I am also so appreciative of! They’re so supportive, and have created a great space for newer queens to showcase their talents!
Ah, I’m so excited! Trish has also been a lot of fun! I remember practicing the lip sync song for my prelim round, which was “Lose My Breath,” the whole day on the day of the competition. This time around, I’m nervous (I feel like I’m always a little nervous though, haha) because I know both Bobby LeMaire and X-Emma are fierce performers, but I’m just gonna have a good time and bring what I offer to the table! At the end of the day, I want to do my best and have fun (hopefully win too, haha)!
Fluide Beauty is raising money for the Ali Forney Center with their “Homo for the Holidays” show. I love the brand message and the idea of giving back to the community, so I feel very honored to be a part of this show!
Yes! It’s a Christmas themed brunch, which will be a good time. I also get to work with some of the girls I’ve gotten close with like Prima Love and Stella Rise, so I’m very excited. I’m not sure what number I am doing yet, but I know it’s a family friendly show. Also, there is a meet and greet, which will give me a chance to feel like a Disney princess taking photos with all the families!
Have great shows, and good luck in the competitions! Lastly: what do you want from Santa this year?
I never know what to answer when I’m asked this, haha. Maybe a laser hair removal package!
Sounds great! Thanks, Angel!
Check Thotyssey’s calendar for Angel Au’s upcoming appearances, and follow her on Instagram.
We’ve really been enjoying the Drag Race All-Star’s latest collection of singles, which feature key elements rarely heard in RuGirl releases: melody, lyricism and form! This track’s giving us some disco drama (while another recent drop, “Wow,” is a pop punk / emo banger). Also, if you found yourself saying “Alaska should just put our beautiful local superstar Boy Radio in every video” the last time around, we think she might’ve heard you.
Local pianist, recording artist and Trixie Mattel collaborator Brandon is really showing off his chops with his solo release BULLIT, including this country fried rocking ode to a breakfast for nighltife champions.
A producer for and collaborator with many in the local music scene, it’s always exciting when Christopher drops music of his own. His recent release Work of Art is a pristinely polished pop dream, and we’re into the slinky soaring crescendo of this particular track.
With The Disco King of New York’s releases, you’re either going to dance and bop or vibe and groove, although sometimes–like here–you may do a little of both. Get into Freddie’s new album The Harvest his newly published book and his weekly show Redifine Radio.
Glam nominated this year for Best Bartender, The Q’s Danny Blu also has a prolific music career. Known for a throwback industrial sound, his latest song and video offer up Danny at his best: glamorously gothic, beautifully bloody and every other type of sexy.
New York queen and Drag Race alum Honey has largely been a West Coast star as of late, but that’s where the magic happens after all! Like this energetic track “Love is God” (from her forthcoming EP of the same name) that features a verse from RuLegend Manila and a gorgeously, colorfully directed video from Evan Zampella.
I mean, it is! Here’s a “bitch track” from one of New York’s newest and fiercest (yet nicest–omg that laugh in the beginning) queens that makes for a perfect “get ready to go to the club and be a star” anthem.
It’s not easy to describe Jack’s sound beyond “music to bang to.” His videos generally support this description with glimpses of sexy skin, writhing motion, deft choreo, leopard print, leather and faux fur. “Daddy Made It” checks all these boxes, plus offers appearances from folks in the scene like Ginger Ladd & Richard JMV.
Although his coquettish wail harmonizes in perfect sync with his n0t listed bandmates to gorgeously cold and clubby effect, Josh’s voice also stands alone as a powerful R&B instrument. PS, where can we get the balloon chains from this expensive-looking video!?
We don’t know too much about this Jersey-based artist yet, but he seems to have a long career in the recording and live performing biz. Like Danny Blu’s track, this throbbing single gives off a throwback industrial energy, and was one of the few true local Halloween-appropriate releases this year.
This single and video were released back in January (an acoustic version dropped more recently), but J.R.’s self-explanatory dance track is a particularly timely anthem for everyone during the holiday season.
It’s certainly great to hear a darkly soulful, heavy rocker tear through the still waters of diva-inspired dance pop in queer New York’s music scene! Proving that there is room for everybody (but y’all still gotta step the fuck back), the leather / bear scene’s Justice will be one to watch in 2022.
Brazilian-American multidisciplinary artist Nunan has a large following and solid musical reputation, so it’s really exciting to see our local queen Pietra (also Brazilian-American) throw down a verse in this vibrant track and radically Californian video.
Having just released her long-awaited EP Trannic Attack, new queer voice Mel 4Ever is using the proven production trends of new trans recording artists plus a sharply honest point of view all her own to create a vital, raw and wildly fun sound.
Another new single from Ms. Williams, where the video’s comically messy intro skit (shot at Rockbar!) gives way to great costumes, edgy lighting and fierce choreography. Pour us more tea and lemonade, Ms. Victoria!
This fringe Brooklyn drag performer got their first inspiration from an unlikely source, and has kept us guessing and gagging ever since. Thotyssey brings you Filthy June, In Living Color!
Thotyssey: Hiya June, happy holiday season! Are you going to stay in town these next several weeks, or will you be traveling anywhere?
Filthy June: Hi! I’m going to my hometown Fort Branch, Indiana, for a couple days around Christmas, but otherwise I’m here in the city.
Are you a fan of the holidays, a hater, or indifferent?
Definitely a hater of Thanksgiving–fuck all celebrations of white supremacy. But I love Christmas! It’s kitsch, camp, gaudy, and tacky. Everything the gays love. Plus I’m a Cancer, so I love some sentimental indulgence.
Are you planning any kitschy holiday looks for upcoming shows?
“In Living Color,” the show I produce with Junior Mintt and Juniper Juicy, is coming up next week and the theme is “HOLIDAZE,” so I’m hoping to do something kitschy and weed-oriented for that. But I’ll be figuring that out this weekend! And Sterling Tull and I are producing a show called “The Bible Ball” later in the month where I’m gonna play David and Goliath on stilts, which I’m very excited about–not holiday themed, but definitely kitsch.
You and several other Brooklyn girls served us a pretty unique show on Halloween weekend in a very interesting venue… the L Train! how did that go? Did passengers respond positively?
The train show was a blast! It’s the third time we’ve done it now, and every time there’s that little voice that’s like, “are people gonna hate us, are the other commuters gonna be pissed?” But so far they love it! There’s usually a little hesitation at first, but then the shows start and they’re won over: grandmas with their grocery cart filming on their phones, little toddlers tipping with money their mom gave them. It’s the best drag audience you could ask for.
Tell us, if you will, a bit about growing up in Indiana, and what your earliest creative interests were that may have ultimately put you on this path.
Totally! I grew up in a small farm town with like 1,500 people, home to two stoplights and a Dairy Queen. I honestly think a lot of my earliest inspiration came from my dad, who’s a high school football coach. So much of what I know about storytelling and crowd work, I learned from watching him coach. He knew that coaching was all about telling a story: helping a player, a team, a school, a town, understand that they were a part of the story of winning a state championship. By placing themselves in that story, they have a purpose, a role, something to belong to. And ultimately, the story is about empowering people by helping them see the power that they already have inside themselves. My dad’s just there to help them access that in themselves. I think my drag, and so much of the drag that I’m excited about, is doing the same things: telling stories, creating experiences, giving people something to belong to. And at all times, helping us empower ourselves.
And… football is all about spectacle! Marching bands, cheerleaders, half-time shows, spirit rallies. It’s shows, shows, shows across the board.
That’s the very last source where I would suspect you’d draw the inspiration for your counterculture drag from, but it makes perfect sense! What ultimately brought you to New York, and how did you discover drag?
I had done some drag in undergrad, while I was studying theatre. Shout out to my home gay bar in Indiana, Someplace Else–still some of my favorite drag performers I’ve ever seen. I did shows there from time to time just cuz I thought it was fun, and I loved getting dressed up and indulging in the drama. But I never intended to do it seriously; it was just a fun hobby.
Then I came to NYC, as so many of us do, to do theatre. Junior Mintt and I actually met in undergrad at a technical theatre conference, where we were both studying scenic design. Neither of us did drag at the time. Then two years later, we met up again in New York and she was like “I quit theatre and I’m doing drag; you should come do the open set at a show I’m starting, called ‘In Living Color.'” And it spiraled from there!
You, Junior and Juniper Juicy all have “Jun-” names! Is that just a coincidence, or did any of you name yourselves to match the others?
Total coincidence! We all had our names before we met each other.
How might you describe what your drag is like to the uninitiated, as far as your looks and numbers go?
I’d say it’s like Brecht directing Reba at an anarcho-communist rally. Kitschy country German agitprop, with some good old fashion showtunes thrown in!
Love that! And I believe the “In Living Color” shows began in a Brooklyn venue called the Gradient before moving to 3 Dollar Bill.
Yes, we started as a weekly at the Gradient–then transferred briefly to Macri before Covid. And now we’re thrilled to be at 3DB!
What do you think makes that show so durable, special and popular?
At the top of every “In Living Color,” Junior says that we empower her by showing her the power in ourselves, which I think captures exactly what makes “ILC” so special. It’s church, it’s a spiritual fill. You leave knowing a bit more of your personal power and our collective, organized power. And it’s killer shows. So that’s infectious!
Your next installment of “ILC” will actually be at another popular Brooklyn venue, C’mon Everybody, on December 1! It will include an open set for performers.
Yes! We had an open set at the Gradient, and it was so fucking fun. It’s where I met half my current drag friends. But it doesn’t work with the flow of the new show at 3DB, so we decided to make it its own show and call it “Open Set.” I’m so excited for it!
Werk! And you already mentioned that upcoming “Bible Ball” show with Sterling, what more can you say about that?
Each performer at the Bible Ball is bringing a number inspired by a different bible story. True vacation bible school fantasy. Pure sacrilege. Thank god for Sterling Tull.