The Ritz’s adorable Saturday night hostess and fairly new queen has already seen it all, and has a lot to chat about: Jean Grey, coke and blowjobs, Beyonce, orthropedic surgery… y’know, everything! Thotyssey presents this exclusive interview with Robyn Ya’Man.
Thotyssey: Hi Robyn! My first question must be about “Lemonade,” cuz I know the world HBO premiere was aired at the Ritz a few weeks ago. Did everybody lose their shit?
Robyn Ya’Man: I wasn’t at the Ritz the night it was aired, but I know now when DJs play it at the Ritz. they go nuts and scream in excitement. Everyone loves some new Beyonce, or at least I do [laughs]. I was at the Ritz after it aired. I was painting my face while it was happened, so I was a little late to the bar that night [laughs].
What did you think when you eventually saw it?
When I saw it, I was like, “Uh oh, she is spilling the tea/lemonade about everything!” [laughs]. I thought it was great, to be honest. I thought it was very well done and well thought out. Even if it was not all true, she is one great businesswoman, and knows how to sell herself (as a brand) and her music.
As I was watching the film, I kept on thinking in my mind about how different remixes are going to be done, and be great for the club. So naturally when the album was available on iTunes, i bought it [laughs]!
So what’s your story, Robyn? Where are you from, and when did you get here?
Well, I guess my story starts with me moving to New York. I graduated college from Mississippi State University, and then moved here as kind of a spur-of-the-moment decision for a boy I was dating for five years… and who is now my ex / best friend [laughs].
When did you discover the Ritz?
Once we broke up, I really started going out and meeting new people. One of my favorite places to go was the Ritz on Fridays and Saturdays. It was a very dark time in my life back then, so going to the Ritz to dance and also to see Bianca del Rio helped raise my spirits, relieve anxiety and stress, make me laugh and not think about life. From there, the Ritz really became like a family to me!
When did you become Robyn?
DJ Xavier Auza became my best friend, and was a big part of encouraging and supporting me to go for drag. I use to watch Xavier do a smokey eye when he would go DJ, and so I thought I would give it a shot.
Then the look kept evolving! [laughs] It went from smokey eye, to smokey eye boy in heels, to androgyny, then to full out throwing a wig on! Once the wig went on, I just kept learning and evolving into the Robyn I am today [laughs]! I officially became Robyn about a little over two years ago, I guess I would say.
So, you were born in the Ritz! And that was your first gig?
I do not have any other earlier gigs than the Ritz. I have a 9-5 weekday job where I manage an orthopedic surgeon’s office, so it is hard for me to do drag during the week. Hence why I host sometimes Fridays, and then on Saturdays at the Ritz.
And when/how exactly did they hire you to host there?
Well, I would go out in drag almost every weekend, Friday and Saturday, before I got officially hired to host. This lasted for about a year and a half. Then I started doing coat check, and would sometimes do it in drag. Then I got asked to be the email girl on Thursday, and sometimes Fridays, in drag.
I guess from getting to know a lot of the regulars that came into the Ritz, whether it was to see me or just for the atmosphere, they asked if I wanted to host. And so they added my name to the flyer, but didn’t have photos till a lot later. By then, hosting has become more and more successful. I think people like to come dance, and have fun being silly, and have quick little dance-offs with a drag queen on the dance floor.
Hosting at the Ritz seems like a unique challenge, because it gets so crowded and loud. And here you are, this tiny queen, having to meet and greet all these folks. Did it take you a bit to find your groove?
There is a moment when I arrive to the bar, and everyone is already drinking, and my anxiety is high. So first thing I do is grab a drink. Then once the first drink is done, I am ready for the night to begin [laughs].
It does get crazy, but I always have a blast interacting with everyone. It can be very entertaining to say the least [laughs]!
What’s the craziest thing you’ve seen there?
Well I have been tipped with bags of cocaine [laughs], and I was like, “Umm ….thanks…. “ [laughs].
There was this one time early in the night, one guy was giving a blowjob to a guy sitting on the gogo box. It was so visible, and they obviously didn’t care [laughs], but it was awkward (because I wasn’t invited, of course [laughs]! Just kidding!) So we had security kick them out.
How long does it take you to get drag-ready, normally?
I like to take a good three hours to get ready. Since I don’t do it that often, during the week I really like to enjoy the creative and paint process. It’s a lot of fun to get ready for me!
By the way, I was skimming through your Facebook pics, and I found your 2015 Halloween Phoenix/Jean Grey costume. You looked amazing! Was everybody a fan?
I feel all of my friends are comic book fans, especially X-Men–so it was a huge hit! A lot people say I look Famke Janssen so I obviously thought of Jean Grey and the Phoenix.
Any plans for the future?
I mean, I definitely want to perform more, so stay tuned for more appearances! Also, I definitely want to give auditioning for Rupaul’s Drag Race a shot, Probably for season 10, since the deadline has passed for season 9. The worst they can say is No [laughs]! But they wont stop me from doing drag.
So, speaking of Real Deal Wednesdays, that’s over now! Do you know what was happening at the Ritz when that decision was made?
I have no idea. And I see as of now it changed to TURN(t). It was a big shock to me, as well as to see Ivana Taupe leave. She is my Ritz sister so its sad to see her go. That night has had a lot of changes since it first started. It was also very sad to see Jada go as well! Jada has always been someone who has helped me transform my drag into what it is today.
[Editor’s Note: The Ritz’s Maddelynn Hatter has since explained how Real Deal evolved into TURNt.]
Any finally: Let’s say you’re on Drag Race, and you’re lip synching for your life. What’s the song you need to kill the other bitch?
And that’ a lot of personality indeed, Robyn! Thanks for talking with us!