This Jamaican-born dancing queen can school all of us on how to be Everything: she keeps it as real as it can possibly be, she puts 100% of her creativity and effort into her drag, and somehow is able to devote tons of time into charity and fundraising for LGBT issues–including a showcase she’s presenting on May 8th. And now she’s branching out into photography… but not for the reasons you might think. Detoxx Bústi-ae gives you, and Thotyssey, LIFE!
Thotyssey: Hi Detoxx! I know you just got back from Washington, DC recently. Who were you performing for there?
Detoxx Bústi-ae: I was performing and hosting at a [charity] event called Women’s Empowerment: We Will Rise (IN’amorata of Mixology).
Another great cause! I’m gonna ask you more about your charity work in a bit, because I know you do a lot of it. By the way, congrats on placing runner-up in Miss Stonewall recently! I was talking about it with Florence D’Lee, who also placed, and she told me how refreshing and freeing it was that the pageant had so many newer contestants this year. Did you feel the same?
I had a great time competing, and with such talented and creative girls. Also, for me it was refreshing to see other queens competing in pageants in NYC, and not the same five girls who always do.
I hear that. So let’s get to the heart of you. You are a proud and beautiful Jamaican-American. Were you born and raised there, here or elsewhere?
Thank you. And yes, I was born in Jamaica and grew up there until I left at the age of 7 to come to the US.
From what you know, do you think the social stigma against homosexuality is still very severe in Jamaica?
I think It is very severe. On Facebook, I have seen videos of people who are LGBTQ getting beaten, stoned to death, and burned alive, which brought me to tears and made me wanted to give up being Jamaican… not as if that it is something I can change . Also, I think the Jamaican culture is very back-in-time, and most Jamaicans don’t allow themselves to see and accept change.
I hope they will come around someday. So, what came first for you, dancing or drag?
Well, for me, I always wanted to be a performer no matter if it was dancing, singing or acting, ever since I was a child. Then I found myself putting on a t-shirt over my head (pretending it was a wig) and putting on my mother’s heels, and dancing around to songs by Beyoncé JLo, the Pussycat Dolls and Britney.
For some time, I couldn’t understand what it meant… until I saw the first season of Rupaul’s Drag Race, which showed me what it meant to be a drag queen. It was just a form of entertainment, self-expression, creativity, and talent. And for me, that’s when I understood I didn’t want to be a girl, but I wanted to be a drag queen, and it was okay.
Did you have a drag mother, or mothers?
When I first started, YouTube was my drag mother because it taught me drag skills such as sewing and doing my makeup. Then, two years in, Honey Davenport agreed to be my drag mother.
When you selected your drag name, were you worried that people might confuse you with Drag Race alum Detox Icunt, or were you unaware of her at the time?
At the time I did not know there was anyone else with that name. I was a part of the ballroom scene, and I was looking for a name (this was before i started drag full on). I was in the Lower East Side, and I was passing by a club with the name Detoxx–with 2 X’s–and I just thought it stood out to me because it was different. I did not learn about the other Detox until she got on Drag Race, and I started to get a bunch of [social media friend] requests because people thought it was me on the show.
The two Xs makes it unique! Speaking of unique, you have such a colorful array of costumes. Do you make a lot of them yourself? I’m thinking right now of a beautiful & exotic Pride parade look I saw you in about three years ago. And also, that stilt look you did for Halloween.
Yes, I do make almost everything thing I wear. I find it easier this way, because I know what I want and how I want it. I think the stilt costume was my favorite one of them all, because it was something never been done before in terms of the other costumes.
Lots of guys who frequent the scenes of Hell’s Kitchen, the West Village & Brooklyn are quite unaware of the thriving African & Caribbean-American gay culture that expands throughout the city. You’re a very prominent figure in those worlds, having competed in Caribbean drag pageants and performed in festivals and venues that represent those populations. Do you think it’s a shame that so many gay men in this city limit themselves to the same places and activities, when there’s so much more to explore?
I think one of the reasons so many gay men do not expose themselves or to explore these other activities is because the Caribbean culture is not known for being open and/or accepting to the LGBTQ community–whether it is through the music, or the people. I think it is that fear that limits people, no matter the race, even if you’re from a Caribbean background. I often work with and support an organization called the Caribbean Equality Project, which has an overall goal to promote the love and acceptance of the Caribbean culture amongst each other and the LGBTQ community.
Aside from the CEP, you’re involved in many other charity organizations such as Chutney Pride, and you also do fundraising work for the Imperial Court of New York. On top of that, you have a day job, you’re a nightlife photographer, and you have lots of gigs and pageants, and looks and routines to create for them. How do you find the time to do all this AND have a personal life?
Honestly, sometimes I don’t even know. Sometimes it does get overwhelming. But because drag and being Detoxx are such big parts of who I am–no matter what–I still have to make sure I find time for that part of my life.
Also it helps very much that I have a partner who is supportive of my drag. This way, it makes things much easier to have a personal life outside of it all.
Tell me about DETOXXMAGE. What made you decide to break into the photography biz?
Photography has always being a passion of mine. There is just something I love about how a single photo can speak so many words by just looking at it.
Another reason why I got in to photography is mainly for nightlife, and for drag queens. Back when I first started to go out, I knew photographers who would only take photos of the more pretty people, and/or the more polished drag queens. There was a time when i was not polished, and I would notice photographers taking photos of queens right next to me, and asking me to step out the photos. For me, that was one of the worst feelings, knowing that I spent so much work trying to look my best… only to be asked to step out the photo because I wasn’t good enough, or even pretty enough. Now it’s a different story, in which I get asked to pose in photos and I see other queens being asked to step out… and I think, that is just not right.
Another reason is, often I would get asked to send in a photo for an event flier, and I would never have high-quality photos to send in–which was always a problem. I did not have the money to pay for these expensive photo shoots. So i went out and invested in my own camera, backdrop and lights, so that I could do my own photoshoots. And I know this is the issue for most new queens as well. I have helped out with taking high quaintly photos in which they were able to use on their flier.
And, I know what I am looking for in my photos, so it makes it easier to give myself directions and not someone else. DETOXXIMAGE is my baby, I can’t wait to watch it grow!
We’re seeing your photos popping up everywhere, so grow you shall!
Yes, the show will be a benefit for the CEP AIDS Walk team. This is my way to introduce and merge the CEP and its supporters, and to active outside of Queens–which is where they are based–and also to bring together different groups, races and genders to support the AIDS Walk of New York.
Looks like a nice diversity of performers sharing the stage with you, from familiar NYC queens like The Countess Mascara & Lola Michele-Kiki, to non-drag acts. You have someone named Keone Dent performing; who’s that?
I wanted to bring something different to the Stonewall stage for this night, and Keone is someone I met back in February at a CEP event they had in Queens. He did a spoken word piece which moved me, and I felt it was right that I have him there for my event. Also, he is from a Caribbean background as well. He has recorded music, acted on many stages in a professional theatre career, and danced in various troupes.
Should be a great night, and it’s for a great cause. Looking ahead, I see you’ll be back in Stonewall for Yuhua Hamasaki’s Invasion on May 15th. You two have performed together a lot over the years, haven’t you?
Yes, Yuhua is like a big sister to me. She was one of the first people who ever reached out to me and asked that I be a guest at her show. She has given me many tips on makeup, performing, and how to do drag and be successful in the art.
Also, I will be performing [for a showcase benefiting the LGBTS Alliance at KCC] at Kingsborough Community College on May 25th, and Yuhua will be hosting. It will include [performances by] Brenda Dharling, Jiggly Caliente, Honey Davenport and more.
What else for the summer?
I have a few more event plans with the Caribbean Equality Project for June as well. [I’m scheduled to march in the Queens Pride Parade with them on June 5th.]
Yes, its going to be a great show.
Got it. Okay, last question: What does the world need to know about Detoxx Bústi-ae that it might not know already?
I think the world needs to know that DETOXX BÚSTI-AE is more than just a drag queen: it is now my brand and business, which is evolving one step at a time. #DETOXXIMAGE, #DETOXXMUSIC, AND #DETOXXDESIGNS.
We look forward to seeing more of you everywhere, Detoxx! Thank you!
Detoxx Bústi-ae’s showcase fundraiser for the Caribbean Equality Project (CEP)’s AIDS Walk team will be held at Stonewall on Sunday, May 8th (tomorrow) at 8pm. She will be back in Stonewall as a guest performer for Yuhua Hamasaki’s Invasion on May 14th, and on May 25th she’ll perform at the LGTBS Alliance concert fundraiser at CUNY Kingsborough. On June 5th, you can catch her marching in the Queens Pride Parade with the CEP, and on July 16th she’ll perform for Witti Repartee’s birthday fundraiser (for the LGTB Center) at Rockbar.