The Bangkok bombshell with the high kicks and a Hart of gold, Pattaya opens up to Thotyssey about her evolution from shy Thai girl, to cruise ship dancer, to drag showstopper, to pageant darling. She’s got tons of news, stories and advice to share.
Thotyssey: Thanks for making time for us, Pattaya! So, let’s begin at the beginning… what were you like as a kid in Bangkok, Thailand?
Pattaya Hart: I was a very nerdy art kid. My dad is an architect, so I was inspired by him with all the drawing, painting and all other craft works we had around the house.
You went to a pretty exclusive high school there, where you were part of a group that was like a very elaborate cheerleading squad. Was that a good experience for you, or was it sort of Mean Girls?
I was accepted to Thailand’s number one most prestigious high school… and was selected to join the cheerleading squad, where all the pretty & popular kids are. That’s when I was coming out of my nerdy shell and started attending school activities and doing some fun, exciting stuff. It’s literally me as Lindsay Lohan in Mean Girls, minus the burn book . But they weren’t mean to me.
Your red hair is much prettier than Lindsay’s! So, as Pattaya, you’re known as a top dancing queen in the city. But you weren’t always a dancer… you started after you graduated high school. What made you want to dance?
I started dancing when I was a freshmen in University (in Thailand) … I was chosen to be the president of my faculty activity board, and I was trying to show my spirit by putting on a show for our faculty’s big event (because no one volunteer). Luckily one girl, who was working part-time as a dance teacher, felt bad for me, so she volunteered to perform with me. She dragged me to take dance classes and taught me.
Back then, dancing was just for fun, like a past-time hobby.. After I graduated from University and worked for a marketing company for 2 years, I decided I wanted to be a dancer. So ,I quit my day job and moved to NYC for a 2-year intense dance training.
I booked my first cruise ship job right after I finished my first year course.
What’s it like, being a cruise ship entertainer?
A cruise ship job is an amazing opportunity to learn and grow, especially for newbies like me (back then)… Besides the fact that you get paid to travel the world with free food and accommodations….. you get to dance and meet so many people.
It’s a great push because it forces you to dance and perform professionally in front of the real audience right away after four weeks of rehearsals.
I was lucky the company and shows that I was in required all the dancers to train and perform aerial works.. and I was best friends with the acrobat/specialty acts during the contract, so they also helped train me with another set of special skills besides dancing 🙂
I bet! So, when did you create Pattaya Hart?
Started in June 2012; My first night was at Peppermint’s show, Cattle Call at Therapy.. I showed up on the week they were having a live singing contest, but Peppermint and the manager let me go on anyway. It was a lot of fun! I went back the week after to do another number and won.. so that was a good encouragement to keep doing it.
You always seemed like you had your look together. How much do you think your look has changed since your debut?
I don’t think my aesthetic has changed much from when I first started… better wig, bigger lashes, cleaner silhouette and more personality are what I’ve grown into. Cleaner makeup as well! I used to work for a fashion magazine and as a fashion event organizer in Thailand, so I have a high standard on the definition of clean, pretty, good.
You’re also a daytime dance teacher. What styles of dance and age groups do you each?
I trained in almost every dance style, but I mainly teach jazz, musical theater and lyrical jazz. My students are ranged from an 11 year-old girl to a 75 year-old ex-flamenco dancer!
Omg, bring that one to your show.
The older ladies had been to my show [and on stage] many times. One of them rolled off the stage backwards!
Do you ever wonder if you’re teaching everybody to dance like drag queens? Not that that’s necessarily a bad thing.
I teach different styles all the time, so sometimes when the song is very girly.. I explain to them how to WERK like a queen! I’ve gotten feedback from my students who are professional dancers/actors/singers, that they booked the job [they auditioned for], and during their callback, they pictured they were Pattaya, because they had to portray this wild, confident, diva character.
That’s really wonderful, I love that! So, when and how did you start working at Lucky Chengs?
It was my 4th time in drag competing at Star Search.. It was Disney night.. It was me and Kizha for the final two. Kizha was super amazing and very funny… after the show she told me to come audition for Lucky Cheng’s.
That night I met so many drag queens for the first time, and those queens have become great friends up to these days, and some of them played great parts in my drag career.
The first time I saw you perform was there. You did Lady Marmalade with Yuhua Hamasaki and two other girls during that pageant they used to do there.
Oh yes, Miss Asia NYC 2012, in November. That was an epic night too! I got to meet the reason I do drag: Manila Luzon. Well, it was Manila and Raja from season 3 (but back then I was more team Manila).
Yes, Manila hosted that night! She seemed like a really lovely person.
I didn’t get to know her much… she gave me her purse that night.. I still keep it somewhere in my storage, lol! A little Asian purse. She’s super sweet and lovely.
It would be awesome if you brought it to the runway of your season of DragRace! So, Cheng’s was only open in the huge 52nd Street location, where that pagreant was held, for about two years before it closed in 2014 after the owner Hayne Suthon passed away from cancer. But I’ve heard tons of crazy stories about what was going on there during those two years, everything from prostitution to embezzlement. What was the experience of working there like for you?
To be honest, I wasn’t aware of any of that stuff. I had a blast working with a bunch of experienced queens that I looked up to, like Thorgy Thor, Sister Mary Helen, Kizha Carr, Bob, Paulina, Lailah, Delilah, and many more.
Hayne was such an amazing human being, she was a trip! She loves to come in during the night, and me and Pusse Couture would be talking with her all night. Hayne made sure we were happy working there. I didn’t get involved in any politics, nor did I even know there were any.. For a baby, three month-old drag queen, it was a pleasure and opportunity of a lifetime!!!
(Above: Cherra Secrett, Delilah Brooks and Pattaya)
Was Laverne Cox working there, too, when you were there?
Yes. Laverne was working there when I was working there. Another sweetheart.
And what about Cherra Secrett, did you meet her at Chengs too?
I first met Cherra at Star Search, that same night I met Kizha Carr and other queens.. Cherra was so sweet, and offered me to come guest at her Thursday show at Boots & Saddle, and that’s when I met [Boots DJ and fellow Thai] Natazu.
Natazu helped convince Cherra that I was the best guest she ever had, so she should have me more often.. and that’s how Cherra and I become great friends. She joined the Lucky Cheng’s family when I was out of the country performing on the cruise ship for a year, in 2013. When Cherra knew she was booking a Broadway show (fancy, I know) she told me to come guest at her show every single week, so that I could learn how to talk on the mic and perform in longer sets instead of just a number or two. So I was in training for almost 3 months before I finally took over her show in July 2014.
What were the challenges of creating material and adapting to those long sets (1.5 to 2 hours) the Boots queens have to work?
It was very nerve-wrecking for me, the first 3 months to be honest… coming from a person who doesn’t speak [native English] and now I had to do an entire 2 hours of communicating and cracking jokes in a foreign language!
I knew coming in to do Tuesday,… when people are still either recovering from the weekends or saving up to party out on the coming weekends… is a hard da.y I have an amazing supporting system/base. My dancing friends, either friends from dance classes, shows we did together or students … they came out to support me whenever they could.
After Ari Kiki joined the Tuesday night family, we started hanging out more.. all 3 of us [including Brenda Dharling] .. so that’s when we started to build teamwork. And to find out that all 3 of us are the same age is super hilarious, and explains a lot why all 3 of us have the same work ethic and perspective for drag.
The Tuesday night lineup at Boots & Saddle had become quite successful and gets a lot of good press. It was your show Herro Tuesdays at 6, followed by Ari Kiki at 8, and then Brenda Dharling at 10. What do you think it was about those three shows that worked so well?
Thank you.. We’re Adults and Professionals (in the words of Brenda Dharling)! We worked hard to get the word out, and tried to bring in people as much as we could. I mean, it’s common sense, if the bar doesn’t make money.. how are they gonna pay us?
Good point! Speaking of doing a great job: You came in second place at the national Miss’d America pageant this year, which is an extraordinary achievement for your first pageant. What was that whole experience like?
Amazing experience! I got to meet and learn from all the other contestants, whom I admired for quite a while. I was very nervous and didn’t know what I was getting myself into.
Coming from a dancer / performer / fashion / showgirl background to the pageantry world is totally different. I was fortunate to have my dear sister, Serenity Lopez, who is a fabulous queen, show me around and let me follow her when she was getting herself together for Continental. a week after that show, I chatted with Brenda Dharling, who helped me be more confident about my package. Well, that came out wrong.. my pageant package, lol!
Did you design and sew any of your own looks for it?
No. I have them custom made.. I designed some of them, and bought some and had them altered.
Do you have your eyes on any other pageant crown this year?
I do want to get into national pageantry, but my boy job has becoming a little busier these days, so I’ve put those thoughts on hold for a while. But I’m actually gonna be returning to do a pageant again next month. I’ll be competing in Miss Industry at Industry bar (duh) Sunday April 10th.. I’m so nervous, because I have A LOT to prepare and I’m so busy with work …and the lineup of queens is FIERCE!!!!! So it will be another tough competition for me.
So, during the course of this interview, some changes were made to the Boots & Saddle lineup.
The management decided to cancel all weekday happy hour shows (Monday through Thursday), so that’s that.
That’s a sad loss, but the timing could’ve been a lot worse, because Now you have a BRAND NEW weekly show with Ari Kiki, WasaBitches, which debuts 10pm Friday, March 25 at Bamboo52. How did this come about?
The promoter of the new, hip Saturday night party there came to see my show, and he had an idea of bringing me to Hell’s Kitchen. I thought it would be fun to do a duo show with Ari Kiki, because we did our 4-hour show together on New Years and we had a blast, and our followers had been asking and suggesting we do a duo show again. And since we both are fairly green to the HK drag scene in terms of recognition, it would be an interesting adventure together. Like the sisterhood of the traveling wigs!l
What sort of things can we expect to see from you two?
That’s all I needed to hear! Can you also tell me a little about the event in April in the Poconos you have with Screaming Queens? I see you’re with Peppermint, Sherry Vine, Phi Phi O’Hara and some others.
It’s a production drag show/special event at the Cove Haven honeymoon resort. Last year was a circus theme, I did it with Ivy Winters, Peppermint and Maria Kent. And this year they want us back to do another one, with a new theme/show. It’s like showgirls in space, lol.
You rocked a sci-fi look at your last pageant, so this show should be amazing. Speaking of pageants, let’s end with a pageant question… How can drag queens save the world?
I think “drag queen” is representative of acceptance and blurring the line, whether it’s about gender, race or political beliefs. So with what’s going on in the world today I think drag queens would be a great advocate for that.
Give this girl all the crowns!
Pattaya Hart’s new show with Ari Kiki, WasaBitches, debuts 10pm Friday, March 25 at Bamboo52 in Hell’s Kitchen. Her revue “Vegas in Space” will be at Cove Haven in the Poconos on April 8th & 9th, and she will be a contestant in the Miss Industry pageant on April 10th. Pattaya can be followed on Facebook. and Instagram.