Soulful singer Edwin became Sasha Pierce Davenport almost by accident. Now, while Edwin continues performing with the New York City Gay Men’s Chorus and auditioning for musicals everywhere, Sasha has a unique Brooklyn showcase and a major drag pageant to prepare for. Thank you Ms. Pierce Davenport, for finding the time to take Thotyssey to school.
Thotyssey: Sasha! I must first ask you, how are we feeling Lemonade? It’s been about a week now since its life-changing release, so we can be objective.
Sasha Pierce Davenport: Well, I’m officially obsessed. I literally set an alarm to wake me up in time for the premiere, and I must say it was worth the lack of sleep. I’m excited Beyoncé is using her celebrity to spread a very important message to the masses.
Some people are saying that Jay-Z was in on it all along, that the whole Becky business is just a marketing ploy, and that his production coda is very audible in the music. What do you think about that?
At the end of the day, it’s all a business. Beyoncé has never been one to be public with her personal life, so I doubt she would release an entire album about things she didn’t want the public to know. She’s an entertainer, and she has done exactly that, entertained. Becky is only helping her sell more albums. Some call it the Illuminati. I call it genius.
True. By the way,
you’re the life of the party every time I see you. Do you think you know how to have a good time better than most people?
Well, I smoke a lot of weed, so that helps…am I allowed to say that? If you’re not having fun and feeling like the life of the party while in drag, then you’re clearly doing something wrong.
Yes! Okay, so Sasha, you’re from Florida. Where exactly, and what was life like for you there?
I’m from Miami, bitch! Actually, I was born and raised in Fort Liquordale (Fort Lauderdale), Florida. I’m from the land of sun and denim cutoffs: the birthplace of Ractchedness. It was like growing up in a year-round Fire Island…with Spanish subtitles.
Sounds wonderful. Did you get a sense of Florida drag there? I always hear about how different and specific it is: very pageant and fish, not so much about performance, more about looks.
To be honest, growing up in south Florida, drag wasn’t really a big part of my gay upbringing. There are a few girls turning the party on Lincoln Road in South beach, but the pageant girls really reside in Orlando and Tampa. And anybody who’s anybody from Florida doesn’t want to be from Tampa.
Have you been singing your whole life?
For as long as I can remember. I grew up in a family of singers and musicians, so singing was always a huge part of my life. I’ve been doing musical theatre since I was child. It’s really the only thing I feel like I’m truly good at. If there’s any doubt, ask Sallie Mae. She payed for my education, and calls me everyday about it!
She’s good like that.
She’s the worst!
So when did you come to New York?
I finally got fed up with Sallie’s calls and decided to move to NYC six years ago, in hopes of taking my career to the next level.
Did you audition for a lot of Broadway gigs before you became Sasha?
For me, auditioning is still a full-time job. Sasha has only helped expand the range of skills I posses as an actor. KinkyBoots is at the top of my list, and I feel more prepared now than ever.
That would be perfect for you! So, when exactly did Ms. Pierce come around?
Sasha was born as a result of [when I became a member of] the New York City Gay Men’s Chorus. Lily Putian hosts an annual event called Lily Putian’s School for Girls, where she takes chorus members who are interested in drag and helps them create their character for the first time. The rest is history.
And Honey Davenport played a role in Sasha’s existence as well?
Honey Davenport is my drag mother. Can’t you tell by our striking resemblance? And by resemblance, I mean she lets me borrow all of her clothes.
You’ve done lots of shows, pageants, competitions and appearances all over the city since your drag debut. Are you too busy with other stuff now (day job, NYGMC, etc.) to commit to a weekly show?
Not so much too busy as it is that my priorities are different right now. I’m grateful for my past weekly shows. They forced me to learn how to sew and come up with new material on a regular basis. Right now, getting on Broadway is my only focus. I enjoy the freedom of performing in drag on my own schedule….which is always late [laughs].
When you perform as Sasha, I’m sure everyone just wants you to sing all the time, but you have to lip sync sometimes to get through a long set (and because some people want to see that). Victoria Chase has told me that usually lip sync is harder than live singing. What do you think?
Having done musical theatre all my life, singing live comes natural to me. I definitely find lip synching to be more difficult. When you sing well, people are automatically impressed. Often times with lip synching, there has to be some type of “extra” component to your performance. Whether it be a mix, a costume change, or a death drop…people are waiting on you to make them go “YAAAAAAAAAS!”
In the same vein, as a powerful solo vocalist, is it difficult to get lost in all those big group harmonies in the Chorus?
Well first off, I mostly do solos [laughs]. A great soloist should be able to be an even better ensemble vocalist. I really pride myself on this. However, at times the Diva does break through and takes over.
You performed in Big Gay Sing with the chorus at NYU in March. What’s next for them?
Our next show is It’s Complicated: Stories and Songs Celebrating Love in the 21st Century, Friday, June 7th at NYU Skirball Center for the Performing Arts.
Let’s talk about May 5th, when Sasha will be performing at the Sycamore Bar in Brooklyn as part of that venue’s Q Train monthly party/show. Your segment is called Thot Thoughts, and you’ll be singing what you describe as R&B cabaret. That should be an interesting set list! What inspired that?
The producer of the show approached me, and really wanted to put on a live singing show in the venue. I love opportunities to sing in different spaces, so I happily accepted the invitation. If one is going to sing in the basement of a whiskey bar in Brooklyn, throwback R&B just seemed like the obvious way to go. For the record, he came up with the name. He knows me very well.
And you’l have a live band, including Amanda Poupon, out of drag and on guitar! Amanda was the very first queen (and still one of the few) that I’ve seen play an instrument on stage. How’s she doing?
She’s barely making it, surprise surprise. Just kidding! Amanda is my sister. She is doing very well. She is living that rich white woman fantasy with her new boyfriend, who has a savings account and health insurance. Needless to say, we’ll probably never see Amanda again.
We also must mention Best in Drag, the FIT pageant and AIDS fundraiser on May 9th that you’re competing in. Are you ready to slay for that?
I Am. I love pageants! It’s just me bringing the highest level of drag that I can. I have every intention on doing what Sasha does best…SING!
Okay, one last question, and please be honest… are YOU in the Illuminati?
[Laughs] Y’all haters corny with that Illuminati mess. But yes, yes I am.
I knew it! Thanks Sasha!
Sasha Pierce Davenport will be performing her set ‘Thot Thoughts” at the Sycamore Bar in Brooklyn on Thursday, May 5th at 9pm. She will be a contestant in the Best in Drag pageant at the Fashion Institute of Technology on May 9th. Her alter ego Edwin will perform with the NYC Gay Men’s Chorus at the NYU Skirball Center on June 7th. Sasha can be followed on Facebook and Instagram.