A truly colorful drag performer for the new age, Boxa Crayonz serves the real Rainbow Connection.
Thotyssey: Hello Boxa! I see that you recently won a competition in your native Connecticut, hosted by Mia E Z’Lay!
Boxa Crayonz: Yeah, it was surreal! I started drag in Connecticut and competed several times in “Chez Legends” last year. When I went into the competition this week, the goal was to show how much I’ve grown in NYC and make my Connecticut drag family proud. To win in the bar, Chez Est, where I started my drag career in front of my Connecticut drag family was truly a full circle moment.
Do you still go back there a lot for drag, or was this a rare exception?
I go back when I can. I’ll definitely be going back more frequently in the summertime. It’s nice sometimes to get a break from the hustle and bustle of NYC. Plus the drag scenes in Hartford and New Haven are very fierce.
How did you begin as an artist and performer?
I come from a musical theatre background, and about 18 years of dance experience. I always knew I wanted to perform and express myself, but could never find the right outlet. Plus, my hometown was not very welcome to queer stories and voices. I was first exposed to RuPaul’s Drag Race in high school, and have been hooked ever since. So much so, that friends would cheer me on to do death drops at every party! I did drag one time for fun at my college’s “Drag Night,” and was in love with everything about it.
However, before I knew more about my gender identity and the local drag scene, I did not think there was a place for AFAB, cis women, or femme-presenting people in the drag industry. I knew of one or two such as Creme Fatale, but I considered them anomalies in the scene; little did I know that was not really the case. When I came to terms with my trans identity last year, I focused on asserting my masculinity as much as possible. It was empowering; however I neglected my femininity in fear that it would delegitimize my trans-ness.
Around that time, I reconnected with a friend from college who was also beginning an exciting adventure with their gender identity, but was also doing drag at the same time. That person was Kanga Roo. I came to see her, Misty Meaner and Mocha Lite perform at a brunch for Pride. I was so in awe of their energy, outfits, and storytelling that I was motivated to find a stage in Connecticut that would welcome new drag. I found an open stage night in Hartford, and started drag one month later in July 2021.
Is there a personal significance regarding your drag name?
Yes! I am an art teacher by day. Also besides performing, illustrating and painting are other forms of art I really appreciate.
A drag teacher is a double hero! How might you describe the types of numbers and looks you serve today? I see you do both queen and king looks, for one thing.
A lot of my numbers these days are either love letters to media or art that shaped the artist I am today (I have mixes based on characters from video games, movies, Broadway shows, etc.), or dance numbers where I let the music take over my body. I determine my looks based on the type of my number I do, and how I would like to present. I don’t limit myself to drag queendom or kingdom; gender expression is a crucial part of my drag, but I don’t want to be defined by it.
Do you have a favorite number?
It changes from time to time! Right now, I love doing the song “I Know You, I Live You” by Chaka Khan. I have been a huge Chaka Khan fan since I was a kid, so I love dancing to a song where I know every drum fill is, or I’ve memorized the breakdown from horn section. It’s also just a really good song!
What’s been your favorite aspect of being a drag performer for you thus far? And what’s something about drag that all folks need to know?
Hmmm…I think the ability to tell an entire story with your body and face is so powerful. The ability to make somebody smile, laugh, or cry without words is incredible to me. I’m neurodivergent, so communicating verbally is constantly a challenge for me. I love that drag has an unspoken language. I think that’s crucial for performers and audience members to know. While making a mix is its own art form, truly interpreting and embodying a song is much harder. Connecting with music is always more impressive to me than stunts or reveals.
I’m so excited! I adore Stella D’oro. I met her at “Star Search” this past fall, and have seen her many times since. The wonderful light that is Stella D’oro should be convincing enough to do this pageant. However, I was also motivated by the prospects of representing the trans community as an advocate for HIV vaccine research. They are beginning trials for trans women, which is a huge step towards inclusivity! Expect to see peak Boxa Crayonz, which will be lots of energy, dancing, and an outfit celebrating body positivity!
When a young drag performer is winning or placing in every competition out there, it’s time take note of a true queen on the rise. And this Bronx-born dancing glamazon and new crown winner is definitely proving to be one to watch, with an excellent attitude to boot: the lovely Lanyé Armön!
Thotyssey: Hello Lanyé! Thanks for finding time to chat with us… we know that this has been a busy month for you so far! How’s May treating you now?
Lanyé Armön: Amazing! It’s been showering me with multiple opportunities that I can’t be more grateful for. It may get hectic at times, but it’s all worth it!
So this is my third pageant in total, but my first title win. I’ve done Miss Hornitos in C’mon Everybody in Brooklyn, and was third runner up; then I did The Ultimate Diva Pageant in Brooklyn hosted by Janelle No. 5, and placed first runner up; and last Sunday, I finally gained victory! I competed in prelims, only doing a number and Q&A portion, and swept the competition against four other talented, fabulous divas. Now I’m heading to nationals in November… I’m super excited. And I’m preparing for the DragNet finale and Polish the Queen finale in the same time frame of preparing for this pageant.
You’re a favorite presence of many in the competition scene, both as a fierce performer and a gracious competitor. I even saw DJ Nicky Boom Box post recently about how you sat out the much-discussed “Drag Wars” season premiere so that other girls could get a chance to compete / win!
Yes, I adore the “Drag Wars” family! I believe if you’re hungry for this life we call drag, then you should have a chance at the stage and spotlight! Also, the sign-up is closed by 8:04pm and sign-up opens at 8pm. So yes, if I have a spot, I’ll always give it to a new queen… especially if it’s a drag debut! The more the merrier. Competitions truly aren’t about the winnings or the battle between sisters, but a time to build lifelong friends and drag sisters that’ll be with you forever.
You have the absolute best attitude for a long career in this biz!
Thank you so much!
Where are you from originally, and what were your earliest creative ventures and interests?
I’m from the Bronx, and I have been dancing commercially for 16-plus years in music videos, street festivals, and dance company tours. I got tired of being the background dancer, and wanted to be the main… and drag happened to be just the perfect way to do so! My early ventures in drag started back in March 2020 on an app called BIGO after the world shut down; I had no competition to attend, so I went on this app where you get paid to livestream. I met some great friends and drag queens who helped me with makeup skills, and conveying my emotions and skill of lip sync.
Who or what inspired your drag name?
Originally I went by Shibinto Hellenback (“she been to hell and back”) — ’cause I have been! But I was working with Morgan Royel at The Ritz for “Do The Right Thing Thursdays,” and she said “Niecey, that name doesn’t fit your brand! You not doing a comedy number or nothing funny! You come in here every week and you dance, so you need a new name. I’m not saying that on the mic!” So we sat upstairs and I said, “why not use my real name, Lanyé?” And that how it came about. So now I tell people I’m “Lanyé: like ‘Kanyé,’ but I’m less controversial!”
For those who haven’t seen you perform yet, they should know they gonna get a house down dance performance with fierce looks! Do you make your own drag outfits, or do you just have a keen sense of what works for you?
Ooh, they call me “The Bodysuit and Pump Queen” ’cause it’s just what works for me and my padded little figure, lol! But more recently–especially for this Polish finale–I’ve been working with a very close designer / drag queen bestie Adrena Lynn. She knows what works for me, so I follow in her lead on all my latest looks. She’s truly an amazing seamstress, and fashion genius.
You’re one of the few queens who started in digital lockdown-era drag that’s really making her mark onstage today. I’m guessing that performing in front of so many live audiences in a week is quite different then livestreaming on BIGO!
Performing in person is so much harder, honestly. Gays have the attention span of fish, so you have to keep them entertained. But the beauty of it is connecting with people, and making them feel whatever you may be performing! Online, you must never forget that though it’s maybe two dimensional, you still have to perform as if they’re in front of you… so they can become infatuated with your art.
There are so many post-lockdown drag performers in New York (and everywhere else) today. Do you ever worry that there are too many, or do you think there’s room for everyone who wants to do it?
The more the merrier! We all have different styles, and different stories to tell. No one person’s message is bigger or better than the other… so I truly feel we can all succeed at drag, if we put our minds to it! But I’d also like to say that drag’s like college: not all the people you entered with will be at graduation!
True that! As we’ve mentioned, you are quite busy this month. For one thing, Lori Lu and yourself are hosting a weekly brunch show at Fusion HK,”Das Locas Brunch!” How’s that going?
We love Fusion HK! From our guests that we like to call our “repeat offenders” to the food, it’s always a good time! Lori Lu is an amazing co-host to work with, and one of my best friends. The people read our energy, and love what we do! Very thankful for Lori Lu, my little imported good!
Wednesday brings us a fun 80s show you’ll be a part of called “Ladies Who Mean Business” at Nicky’s Unisex in Brooklyn! Are you down with an 80s vibe?
Oh, I love the 80s! I think the first time you saw me perform at XOXO Bar was to Taylor Dayne’s “Tell It To My Heart.” It’s the music my mom played to clean… it’s all I know!
Yes, I remember that performance! Aw, RIP XOXO, LOL (that’s a lot of capital letters)!
Ha! Good Times!
And you mentioned that you’ll be competing in the 10th anniversary edition of Merrie Cherry’s “DragNet” competition at Metropolitan in Brooklyn this Thursday, May 19th. That should be epic!
Yes, I have some amazing things planned… super excited! The venue is perfect, and so intimate for what I’m going to do for this finale. Also, who doesn’t love a good night with Merrie Cherry on the mic?
And when is the Polish the Queen finale again?
May 25th! [Show producer] Phil Chanel and the Polish family have truly set the tone, and are bringing it to this finale… so they asked the same of us! The theme is “Thought Provoking Pieces,” so expect the unexpected.
And I’m thinking you might be partaking in the “Lady Liberty” competition at The Q, which I co-judge? That is, if we get our shit together for the expected new season launch at the end of the month, lol!
Yes! I was supposed to do the Cinco De Mayo May Queen special [that got cancelled due to the venue’s technical issues]. But I know Lady Liberty is the competition of competitions; I’ve seen big queens like Lady Celestina and Victoria Williams doing these comps, so I know I have to bring my A-game and then some!
Looking forward to it! Anything else coming up for you?
I’m working on building a new drag house / collective with some other newbies! It’s in the works–it’s going to be epic, but just know that you’ll have the first exclusive on who exactly, and what our name will be!
That’s gonna be an exciting reveal! So here’s my last question for all the girls this month: Drag Race All Stars 7! Who’s team are you on for the win?
I’m Team Monet! She’s my biggest inspiration. Her drag is the epitome of where I want to be: looks, face, humor.
Westchester drag continues to be a force to be reckoned with… thanks to gals like this lovely songstress, who makes her Mount Vernon debut this week. Get your treats out for Kitty Ka’Boodlez!
Thotyssey: Hi Kitty! How’s your May so far?
Kitty Ka’Boodlez: May has been a great month for me! I just moved from the Bronx to Yonkers, and I am settling very well into my new home. My family and friends are healthy. The flowers are in bloom. And I now have two weekly shows, and so much more coming down the pipeline! So far, so fabulous!
Yay, many things to play with in the litterbox!
Yes, indeed! It’s a much bigger litterbox, that is for sure!
So, you were a Bronx girl.
I’m originally from southern Westchester County, from a town called Eastchester… but I’m moving from Woodlawn, right by the world famous cemetery. I loved the neighborhood and what it had to offer, but I am not far [from there now] at all!
Tell us a bit of your origin story: were you always into performing and turning looks while growing up?
I grew up in an Irish Catholic household, so being gay and extra and all that jazz was not always encouraged. However, that did not stop me from turning it out in the slightest! I loved dressing up, and entertaining friends and family in any way possible. I provided people with a fantasy and comedy that allowed them to forget all their problems and anxieties.
I grew up a musical theater kid, and I was very much influenced by the living legend Mariah Carey, and of course, Britney, Christina, and the Spice Girls. I always wanted to be an actor, and hopefully be in the Harry Potter movies. I’m still holding out hope for that, if they make another one!
Harry Potter and the Witchy Women of Westchester!
How and when did you become Kitty?
Truth be told, I was given the name “Kitty” in eighth grade! Long story short, one of the incoming seniors gave me the nickname after looking deep into my eyes–they are green, and have a slight yellow tint in them if you look closely–and he said, “you have eyes like a cat! I’m gonna call you Kitty!” I initially disliked it because I was figuring out who I am, and high school can be brutal. Nonetheless, I embraced the name… and Kitty grew into her own fearless, ferocious, and fabulous feline self!
Meow! When did you become a performing queen?
The first official time I performed in full geish was at Guapo Mexican and Cuban Cuisine in Yonkers. I googled “drag shows near me” into my phone, and a show on Tuesday nights came up. I strutted over there with a shake-and-go, ripped jeans, cheap hooker pumps, a bikini top, and a dream. Then, these two fabulous queens named Angel Elektra and Shay D’Pines walked over and asked if I wanted to perform the following week. I said yes, brought a crowd… and the rest, as they say, is history! My first official performance as Kitty was September 23, 2019!
And what’s the best thing about drag?
There are so many incredible aspects about drag that it is really hard to pick just one. If I had to choose, it is the ability to connect emotionally with the audience through performance. Whether it’s a Mariah number or an Iggy Azalea verse, I want people to say that “I felt this feeling, and I have someone who gets it. Someone who may not go through the same steps of life, but can relate the same emotion in some way.”
Since Angel and Shay moved to Florida, you and Sasha Renee have taken over the Tuesday drag show at at Guapo! Tell us what the show is like, and how you enjoy being a hostess there!
Thank you so much! Sasha and I took over “Dining with Divas” in October 2021, when Angel and Shay moved to the 305. It has been an ah-mazing experience hosting with Sasha, who is not only a great mentor, but an even better friend. She has taught me a lot about drag, and the importance of presentation in all aspects. She has seen my growth from the beginning alongside Angel and Shay, so I am blessed to co-host alongside her.
The show is very much family-oriented, and the crowd is different each week–but always incredible! We feed off the energy from the crowd, and connect with the audience on so many levels. We always make sure that no matter your sexuality, gender identity, country of origin, race, or walk of life, everyone is welcome! And I love hosting so much because I grow each and every week. From my makeup skills to my wardrobe to my performance, I am always looking for ways to improve and optimize my artistry!
Angel and Shay will be back for a visit in June, and you’ll all be doing a show there at Guapo together on the 10th.
Yes, along with Sasha and a couple surprise guests!! It is going to be a kiki and a half, trust and believe!
There aren’t a lot of venues in Westchester for drag… that must mean that when you find something that works up there, it’s all the more special and important, right?
For sure! Guapo is my home bar and restaurant, so it has an extra special place in my heart! It’s where it all began! Everywhere I perform, I aim to make it an inclusive, fun, and entertaining show that will allow people to not only see my talents, but also enjoy what the venue has to offer.
This Friday, you’re actually premiering a new show of your own in Mount Vernon. Tell us about Mazzy’s Bar, and what the night’s gonna be like there!
The bar is at the heart of the Fleetwood neighborhood of Mount Vernon, so I’m pumped to get to know a whole new crowd and bring my friends and family there! It’s owned by a high school friend’s family; her name is Cheyenne, and she asked me if I would do a drag show there… and of course, I said yes! We just went over some logistics of the show and it will be super campy, fun, a tad raunchy, and intimate. I’ll perform some throwbacks (cue the seventh grade dance party playlist) and be the DJ, which is new for me. I can’t wait to feel the crowd and take it all in, and go on a journey for the show! Plus, I’m very excited to bring something new to the Westchester LGBTQIA+ community!
You’ve also done some songwriting.
When I was doing musical theater, I became inspired by the use of songs to tell stories. I thought, I’ll write my own songs to tell my own story in my way. So, I started writing poetry in middle school, which then became rap verses and pop songs in high school and college.
I use it as an outlet to help articulate my coping process with various events in my life, whether joyful or traumatic. Writing became my therapy when I was going through changes in my family, as well as my personal life, a few years back. In fact, I have almost a whole album written in my diary! I recorded my first single “Stunt Queen” back in 2019 on my phone. Then I recorded “Gay Like Christmas Morning” this past December, with legit production and a fabulous producer team, Mason and 808 Annie.
We have new music coming out early next month, and I plan on releasing an EP and a full album in the future… hopefully by next year. Keep your eyes peeled, because it will be epic! I want to consistently reinvent myself through music and performance. I love to perform my original songs in drag, but the creation of them is constant!
What else is coming up for you?
I have lots of projects and events coming down the pipeline! I’m excited to announce that I will be part of Drag Queen Story Hour in Westchester / Lower Hudson Valley, which includes Rockland, Orange, Putnam, and Dutchess Counties! I have a reading on May 18th in Chappaqua, as well as several in June in various places through the county. I love reading and teaching people more about the community, and what it means to be your true, authentic self… so I will definitely be in my element.
I will also be at several Pride events in Westchester, and the lower Hudson Valley, and the tri-state area, so keep your eyes and ears peeled! And I will be performing in the city at competitions and hopefully at other venues as well!
Have a great Pride season! Finally, I’m still asking all the girls: who are you rooting for in Drag Race All Stars 7?
I have to pick one!? They are truly all so great at different aspects of drag artistry! I am very much rooting for Miss Monét X Change, as well as Shea Coulee. I love them both, and they are very effortlessly funny and on cue with their drag. Long live the sponge! And Shea’s All Stars Snatch Game was a definite chef’s kiss!
A dynamic star of a new era of drag and a (T)winner of a recent high profile Brooklyn competition, ShowPonii has our full attention as he slays the scene with lewks and numbers.
Thotyssey: Hello ShowPonii, thanks for chatting with us today! So this past weekend you performed in “Yes Homo” at C’mon Everybody… how did it go?
ShowPonii: It was amazing, and a big bestie spiral between me, Andramada and Jay [Kay]. I think our goal was to make Mini [Horrorwitz] regret putting us all in the same cast… but then I remembered she’s just as unhinged as us.
Lol! C’mon Everybody became The Place To Be in Brooklyn post-lockdown. What is it about the space that appeals to so many folks now, do you think?
Honestly, it’s my favorite bar, period. Amazing show production aside, the staff there are so nice… and I felt right at home. I’m definitely always taken care of there (also thank you Ian for putting up with me harassing him every week behind the bar), but! I also love how warm it feels every time I walk in. I feel like I can talk to anyone and make a new friend or connection, and the staff and other performers are amazing at cultivating that community.
Belated congrats on co-winning the March season of Zavaleta’s “BitchFest” competition alongside MissMa’amShe! How did you enjoy that whole experience?
Ah yes my beloved twinner! BitchFest was the jump start I truly needed to feel creative again in drag. I had been doing a lot of gigs, and started to feel burnt out from doing the same money-making numbers, and not really proud of how I was performing in general. Then I started coming to BitchFest to support Jay [in the premiere February season] and I was feral over how much I wanted to be in it! It pushed me, and really made me look forward to creating performances that would test my own limits. That, and I honestly was not expecting to walk away with a whole new group of friends. The cast is so fun, and I was so excited every week to see what they brought!
So where are you from originally, and how did you begin as an artist?
I’m from Newburgh, which is about an hour and a half away upstate. It used to be really not queer friendly, but now there’s drag shows popping up everywhere! I actually started performing in New Paltz, which is a little further up. At the time I was trying to find a queer community–and just somewhere I could feel like I fit in–because I was starting to try and really figure out my gender identity. So of course I did that by going to a drag show, lol! From the moment I saw those queens I wanted to perform, and started coming up with ideas immediately. I’m lucky enough that some of them became my close friends and sisters, and specifically my sister Evangeline gave me my first few gigs! I was hooked on how amazing I felt, and haven’t stopped since. I think it’s mostly spite now that drives me, lol!
When did you start performing in Brooklyn, and how might you describe the ShowPonii stage and looks experience today?
Brooklyn has always been my favorite place to be since I saw my first show here years ago, which was “STR8 to DVD,” and I fell in love with the scene immediately. I wanted to perform as much as possible, but more so recently this year I’ve been lucky enough to be booked in a bunch of different shows with some of my favorite performers!
ShowPonii first and foremost is just a big fag who likes to prance around and show off, with a violent amount of hand flourishes. At least, that’s most of the time. The other half is being half-naked, rolling around in blood, pulling a surprise out of whatever hole. So honestly, you don’t really know what you’re going to get when I perform… minus a good time!
Your makeup lookbook on Instagram is stellar! How did those skills develop?
Growing up I was always drawing and creating art, so it translates very easily to what I do on my face! I tend to draw out most of my more complicated faces, but honestly I just like having fun and doing whatever comes to mind!
We’re definitely in a boom of “drag kings and things” finding their place and slaying the nighltife game. We obviously still have a long way to go, but isn’t it great to see more gender diversity and types of drag on more stages?
Oh, absolutely. I am so happy to see more shows booking performers that aren’t just drag queens. Honestly, I think The Cake Boys had a huge hand in helping that with their competition! I was so happy to see the performers who competed in it were popping up all over getting booked! I definitely want to keep the momentum going, though. While it is nice to see diversity, I am getting tired of seeing one token king in a line up full of cis queens. There’s no shortage of talented drag kings in Brooklyn, and in the community, period; so don’t be shy book at least more than one, lol!
Oh, I’m so excited! I can’t wait to be a little gremlin running all around Metro with a stage to myself!
And then Saturday, May 14 you’ll be back at C’mon with a special “STR8 to DVD” event highlighting the Glam-nominated fashions of DJ Ten Yards! Will you be modeling as well as performing?
Yes, I will be cracking my petite little bones up and down that stage. I haven’t seen what Ten Yards has made yet, so I’m extra excited to see what he makes for me. I know it’s going to be absolutely buck!
Saturday’s actually a Two Ponii show night; after STR8, you’ll be part of a Lady Gaga edition of “Be Cute” at Littlefield!
Yes! We’re celebrating Charlene’s birthday, so it’s going to be another wild show; I may black out, I fear!
Then the following Thursday (May 19), you, Andramada and MissMa’amShe are heading up to Beacon for a show at the Happy Valley Arcade Bar! That’s near your hometown, I’m guessing.
Yes, that’s actually my monthly show that me and Andramada started! We still perform in our hometown a lot; the community we’ve cultivated with our shows has grown. It makes me so happy to be able to perform in front of friends and family, and open that space up to new local performers as well! Also, the money is real cute up there… honestly truly.
Next up, on May 26th you’ll be with The Cake Boys for their weekly show at The Q in Manhattan.
I was lucky enough to see one of their shows recently, and it made me vibrate with how excited I am for my run of it! Also, an all Latinx show is always my tea.
And at the end of the month, you’re back into competing… this time for the Mx Nobody pageant at Purgatory on May 28! Exciting!
“BitchFest” ruined me because it made me realize I am a competitive little bastard, so I am very much looking forward to seeing what everyone brings.
Is there anything else coming up?
June 1st is my show “BUCK” back upstate featuring myself, the bestie Andramada, and Zavaleta in her full gremlin glory. It’s going to be a spiral, and I can’t wait for her to see what the scene is like where we’re from!
We will look forward to that! And finally: if you’re following Drag Race, All Stars S7 is gonna premiere any minute. Whose team are you on?
Serving edgy fashions, exciting numbers and slapping original tracks, young queen Zaraiya Yōkø is now part of an exciting new drag house making its family show premiere this weekend.
Thotyssey: Hello Zeraiya, how is May treating you so far?
Zaraiya Yōkø: Hello Thotyssey! May is treating me really well so far, actually. A lot of promising opportunities… and of course the excitement of summer around the corner never fails to make this month a happy one for me!
Summer’s good and all, but… not the best drag weather, lol! Are you worried about melting?
Haha, you are not wrong! And mostly no, as I try to wear as little as possible to avoid a complete meltdown! But on those really hot days… honestly I just send a prayer, carry some final seal for insurance, and hope for the best, lol!
That’s the spirit!
How long have you been doing drag, by the way?
To make a long story short, I’ll say a little less than five years ago.
Oh wow! So are you a New York native?
Yup! Born and raised! I’ve actually lived in every borough for a period of time too, lol.
And we’re you always into stuff like fashion, music, performing etc. while growing up?
Actually, no. Believe it or not, I was a huge introvert growing up. I had terrible stage fright, two left feet, sucked in all things musical, and my fashion sense was out of wack as I struggled to find myself in my pre-teen youth, lol!
No way! Then how did you ultimately evolve into the lovely Zeraiya Yōkø?
By the time I was in college, I had already been experimenting in hair, fashion and makeup for many years… so naturally, drag felt like the next step. “Zeraiya” as a name came to be thanks to my two forever muses: Zendaya and Rihanna. They impacted my drag so much back then, that my name is actually a combination of theirs. The addition of “Yoko” wasn’t planned, actually; I wanted to be a mononymous queen. But then I decided to tack it on to show my love of foxes, anime and mythology — “Yoko” was taken from several animes, and means “monster fox.” Foxes in mythology are known to shapeshift into beautiful women.
How might you describe the “type” of drag you do these days, as far as your looks and numbers go?
I would say, sexy and fashion-forward. I market myself as a high fashion “It Girl,” and I’m definitely praised for it… but I’m not afraid to get a little out of pocket. I’m very “current” so to speak, but I try and keep it fresh by pushing my boundaries in presentation and what / how I perform. The girls have been saying I’m becoming something of a comedy queen too, so I guess that means I’m showing versatility!
And you’ve got original music to boot! “First Place” is slaps!
Oh, thank you! The reception I received to my new single was really warm and positive! I’m glad y’all love it as much as I do. The experience was definitely novel, but super fun… and I’m very open to stepping further into the music world. Nothing planned yet, but who knows… NY might have another rapper in their hands!
Yes! It was literally inevitable. I met Bussy back during her first day of drag while I simultaneously celebrated my one year anniversary, and we hit it off immediately. Islaya I met through the scene, and also instantly bonded. She’s always been a sweetheart, and such a support to me. I was supporting one of her shows this year, actually, when after her set she popped the question… and bitch, I froze. Not out of shock, but because it just clicked–it felt right. After I happily accepted, Bussy caught wind and instantly felt like we needed to form a unit, and we were more than happy to do it; ergo Haus of Official!
The Haus, in short, is a house full of bad bitches. We’re all really strong personalities… and what we do, we do it fully, to the best of our abilities And when we do it, we shut it down. Officially.
This coming Sunday, you all will be making your official-Official onstage debut together has a Haus, care of your very own Stonewall Invasion! What do y’all have in store for us?
Oh my God, we are so excited for that… you cannot even imagine! To have an Invasion so soon after our Haus reveal is just so cunt! As for what we have in store: my girls have my lips sealed. If you really wanna know, you’re gonna have to come to the Invasion and find out.
Yes! Shoutout to my divas casted, it’s gonna be so much fun.
Do you have an all-time favorite Tyra Moment?
To be honest, I don’t even know where to begin… she is just so unhinged. All her moments in America’s Next Top Model feel like a fever dream, lol. I guess if I were to choose one, it’d have to be the infamous fainting bit where she was gonna teach the girls about acting. I mean, talk about dramatic!
Anything else coming up for you?
Yes! I do have a couple shows coming up for the rest of this month as well, that I’ll be announcing on my socials very soon. So stay tuned for that, divas!
How long I’ve worked there: 5+ years…which I just realized is about a fifth of my entire life.
What are my shifts: Thursday, Friday, Saturday nights and Sunday day
What makes this bar great: There’s a reason I’ve been here so long; Phoenix is an institution since 1999 and, if I may say, is the preeminent gay bar on the LES. Down here it’s not the same circuitous promenade you get in HK or Christopher Street, so our crowd is very neighborhood local with a grungy late-night East Village flare. What makes Phoenix unique is how it’s now owned and operated by the very bartenders that have worked there for years. Our matriarch Brenda, who also owns 3 Dollar Bill, has instilled a brutal work ethic and loving commitment in each of us to this bar. We ran Phoenix for almost two years through Covid with our core crew of just three staff–and that’s the vibe of Phoenix. It’s a small, hardworking and fiercely driven family, and that includes our patrons. No one can really call themselves a Phoenix regular unless they’ve been drafted in to help along the way.
Best drink I make: French 75. People think it’s a bad idea to order cocktails in a neighborhood bar, but that’s the trick: I don’t have some hibicus-infused agave oil to hide behind, just the basic ingredients… so the technique and delivery on those classic cocktails has to be off the fucking charts.
I love it when customers: Know what they want. The entire order in one go, no pauses, don’t worry I will remember.
I hate it when customers: You are a fully grown male… why are you shyly whispering your order into your friend’s ear for them to relay to me? Also, you are not a celebrity. If there’s any diva here, it’s me–this is my party at my bar that I am hosting. Please calm down on all fronts! I’m very responsive to the energy you’re giving me, and believe me I’ve been doing this long enough that I can spot a complete cunt from the way they walk in the door… so just chill and imagine your favourite grandparent is standing behind you.
Look, entering a bar is to enter a social contract: you agree to behave politely and tip appropriately, and I agree to serve and entertain you. And if everyone just sticks to their side of the contract, I guarantee everyone will have fun and go home with great memories.
Craziest thing I’ve seen here: I can’t even think of a single incident that doesn’t incriminate anyone. Basically nothing shocks me anymore, and I have no innocence left.
Other places I’ve worked: 3DB, and before some pubs and gay bars not worth mentioning. Truly, there is no “before.” Life begins at Phoenix.
My hometown: Dublin, Ireland. The accent is mostly gone.
Stuff I do when I’m not bartending: My days off are incredibly unsexy. I rarely go out partying, because my job is basically being out partying. I like to go to the theatre, and I spend a lot of money at restaurants that I’m neurotically particular about choosing. Most days I just go the gym, watch tv and play video games.
Single or Taken: Every decent bartender should at least tell you they’re single.
Who/what turns me on: BDE.
Favorite music: Gregorian Chant. Nah, literally anything. Whatever the vibe is and whatever gets the crowd going. If in doubt, I’ve always thought Azealia Banks has the right words to fit any situation.
Favorite movie or TV show:Mad Men, hands down greatest show in the history of mankind. It touches every topic and theme imaginable. It is a thesis on gender, race, parenting, identity, American Capitalism–and how all the aforementioned relate to it. The dialogue and acting are unmatched. I watch a lot of tv, and I have yet to see anything come close to this perfection. And the character of Joan Holloway is loosely based on myself.
Favorite drag queen: I like drag queens who are irreverent, tongue-in-cheek and self-aware. Right now I think Boyish Charm is the hottest young queen on the scene; she is a phenomenal host, and can get any crowd going. She has this way of making everyone feel like they’re at a fun house party. Alotta McGriddles is a queen in the same vein who can work a mic and crowd like no other; she has this hilarious natural sarcasm, and leans in to the absurd.
My drag name would be: Mike Hunt.
Favorite gogo boy: The straight stripper from Staten Island who asked me what “that big park in the centre of Manhattan is called.”
Favorite DJ: T-Boy and Mannie Petty are ambitious DJs that know how to read a crowd while also putting their own spin on a night. Most of all, I like DJs without obnoxious egos that are easy to work with.
Other stuff you need to know about me: I have terrible eyesight, I’m not being rude I literally cannot see you.
The Grammy-nominated “Body Positive” singer / songwriter / producer is ready to unleash new music upon us.But are we ready for J.R. Price!? (Spoiler: yes, def!)
Thotyssey: Hello J.R.! We just saw you on Saturday at The Q where you were helping to hand out free Uberlube samples at Tym Moss‘ 60th birthday party, and then you performed! That was a really fun night… any backstage Tea, lol?
Honestly, handing out the magical Uberlube–that works for sexy time, and also adds sheen to your hair as a styling product–was the most “Tea” of the evening! Everyone involved with the event in celebration of Tym Moss was nothing but professional and supportive of everyone else involved. I haven’t been a part of such a drama free event in NYC–my closest experience has been with “Vinyl Fantasy,” run by Vegas Valentine, Marcel the Artist, and Andrew Leonard! But everyone at the 60th birthday bash of one of the greatest men I’ve ever met, was nothing short of loving, caring, and uplifting. It was a magical night! Thanks for asking! I was just honored to perform at the Q… it was exhilarating!
Have you had a personal favorite venue or showcase you performed in, here in NYC?
Stonewall has been my all time favorite venue. I perform there with DJ Chauncey D‘s monthly show “Freak-Out!” I love it so much for the history; without the Stonewall Riots none of us would be able to be out and proud like we are today, let alone singing about our gay lives. As a performance venue, legends like Taylor Swift and Madonna have graced the stage. It was electric, and continues to be everytime I sing there. I am filled up by the history, and the promise of a brighter future. It’s magic! I fully recommend checking out any “Freak-Out” show, found one Thursday a month with Chauncey. He only books quality talent!
Where are you from, and were music and performing always a part of your life?
I was born in West Virginia, and moved around a lot growing up; I lived in several states, and went to a lot of schools. I went to the University of Kentucky, and studied theatre, vocal performance, dance, musical theatre and composition there. So I do feel like Kentucky is home… but don’t ask me to drink bourbon or talk about horses or basketball!
I have been writing songs since I was six years old–the first song I ever wrote was called “One Step at a Time” about how I would achieve all of my dreams by taking it one step at a time… I was in the first grade. So I’ve always been dramatic, and chasing the dream.
I am a professional actor, singer, and songwriter. I have been featured on an episode of Pose, in a national commercial campaign for the Blue Man Group, called back for Broadway shows, and worked in dozens of outdoors theatres. But the only time I’ve felt really authentically me is when I’m doing these performances of my original music.
I have performed at bear events, including North American Bear in Lexington, KY and at the Underground in Ptown during Bear Week, and recently have been enjoying sharing my music with so many people in NYC! Such an honor. [Performing] in person is always preferred by me, thanks to my musical theatre background. Singing live is all I have right now, and I am grateful no one can take that away!
I understand that you were a recent Grammy nominee as well!
Yes, as a co-writer of the brilliant song “I Am Not Afraid” by Feathers Wise, which was officially nominated in the Electronic Dance Recording Vocal category. I have trouble acknowledging that because it doesn’t feel real, but Jeff Jones (who is mixing and mastering my album) from the Grammy board confirmed it is true–I am a Grammy-nominated songwriter! Of course, it’s all because of the magical Feathers Wise; I am grateful to just be credited for the small part I took in helping her tell her story in this iconic trans anthem.
There is definitely a thread of anthemic positivity in your original music, notably in the single that you often perform locally, “Body Positive.” Is it your goal to inspire people with your music, or is this messaging more of a self-affirmation?
I mean, it started as an anthem for everyone. I haven’t always been comfortable with my body; I actually attest all of my confidence to one of my producers Freddy Freeman, who teaches a workshop called “Loving Our Bear Bodies.” I originally took it to feel confident enough to be naked on stage in a production of the musical Hair, but the experience changed my life. It’s about affirming your sexual energy, and honoring your shape and size with a room full of encouraging and supportive men. I actually help facilitate the workshop from time to time, and we have traveled to share that message. Freddy actually recommended I write a bop about it.
I of course hope that everyone is inspired by any message of any of my songs; they are all personal journeys, and lessons I have learned. I am glad that my body journey is helping others. I always hear feedback after shows–most recently a woman told me she was crying in a department store about her body earlier in the day ,and my song made her change her attitude. That is power. And I am grateful just to be the messenger. We are all beautiful. And we all have the ability to think positively! I’m just glad my music is sparking joy in people, and helping in some small way. It’s all I dream of.
Absolutely! I met Jackie at Tym’s birthday, and we bonded over our love of classic melodies and disco dreams. I am so excited to perform with her! Such a joy, and Mother of the Den vibes! I am also in love with Sitanya Face; her book of poetry The Unicorn that Discovered Self-Love is so inspiring in so many ways. My favorite quote is “creamsicle skies melt because they feel appreciated and seen.” A word genius! I’m honored to be included in such a powerful lineup! And of course I have been hitting Thirst with my main Judy Marcel the Artist to support Casa de Galindo when he DJs at this up and coming spot!
Tell us about about the music you’ve released, and the new songs on their way.
My first album, available on all platforms, is called Daydream. I wrote this album pre-pandemic, so it’s full of hope and positivity… and naivety. My next album Nightmare, which is what we are celebrating [at the upcoming release party], is coming after two years of heartbreak, abandonment, and loss. The five song album is based on the five stages of grief after all that heartache. It’s a five song EP as opposed to a full album, because I hope that everyone’s daydreams always last longer than their nightmares.
The album release party, aptly called “Daydream or Nightmare,” will be at Brooklyn’s newly-reopened Macri Park on Sunday, June 5th (7pm)!What can we expect to see and hear?
I am so excited to perform at Macri Park, all thanks to my dear friend R0zegld who runs an event with my other close friend Danielle Cardona, called “Torch”–which I’ll also be performing with soon as well! They have really taken me under their wing, and taught me a lot about nightlife. I am soaking all of that up, and am also immensely grateful to have these strong women helping me.
People can expect a jam-packed setlist with Ricky Allson, producer of my new album and the sweetest and kindest man of all time–I would not be here without him. He saved my life by helping make this album. Other performers include icons like Danielle Cardona, R0zegld, Marcel the Artist, Tym Moss, Vegas Valentine, Coby Koehl, Cassie Nadeau, Kyle Motsinger, Robert Garcia and the amazing DJ Flo-Pilot… with some more great surprises. I hope everyone comes out!
What else is coming up for you?
I am performing at “Vinyl Fantasy” for the Katy Perry: The Complete Confection performance of “Teenage Dream” on May 23rd at 3 Dollar Bill. I’m also booked for “Torch” June 10th at Macri Park, and I’m at Pangea for Pride with Coby Koehl! Any more info can be found on my socials! Follow me, I love all friends! I love you all! Remember, in a world full of nightmares, be a daydream!
To conclude: Kim Kardashian in Marilyn’s dress at the Met Gala! Yay, Nay, or Who Cares, lol!?
I am just heartbroken that she obviously had to alter it. There is a quote from the cult classic film 27 Dresses: “today, you’re just a bitch who broke my heart and cut up my mother’s wedding dress!” I think that applies here! Love Kim usually, though–I am very pro-sex workers!
What makes HYPE at Hardware different from any other drag show on a Tuesday night?
“Well, first of all, it’s two Black girls in Hell’s Kitchen,” says Jax.
“One of the only shows with two Black girls in Hell’s Kitchen,” adds Islaya. “Shockingly!”
Every Tuesday night at 8pm, Jax and Islaya take the stage for HYPE, named because both queens are known for their high energy performances. The show, which debuted in October 2021, also sheds a spotlight on both of their individual styles of drag: Jax, with her jaw-dropping stunts and choreography, and Islaya, with her theatrical background and hilarious storytelling.
“I always joke and call Islaya my auntie, while I’m kind of the young, rebellious, punky Black girl,” says Jax. “I love that about us because it’s going to remind you that there’s not one way to be Black.”
The two queens never worked together before HYPE, but quickly found that they had excellent chemistry – like the “Raja and Raven of Hell’s Kitchen,” as Jax describes it.
“If we’re not building off the crowd, then we’re building off each other,” says Jax. “Tuesdays are always the show where I come in and it’s easy, because no matter what, I know I have someone that’s going to feed back the same energy I’m giving.”
And the audience felt that energy during their show on April 26, 2022: a night that, in addition to their incredible numbers, also included stories about their grossest Grindr hookups, tips for jumping the subway turnstile, and their hopes for who will win Drag Race’s All Winners season (the consensus: Hardware legend Monet X Change).
It was rainy outside – one of the grosser evenings tucked between several gorgeous NYC days. But those who came out to HYPE knew it was worth getting wet for these two queens.
“Baby, we’re just talented as fuck,” Islaya says. “You’re not going to find other queens that do what we do…and every time you come to the show, you’re going to see it. It’s just who we are. It’s in the name!”
All videos and photos by Jeremy Grossman.
Jeremy Grossman is a writer, content creator, drag fan, and a resident of Hell’s Kitchen. Follow Jeremy on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.