Growing stifled with a career as a music producer, this Rochester native reinvented himself as fierce queen Louvel, and marked her territory as a cabaret singer and bar performer all over the city. She tells Thotyssey about her wolvish ways, her monthly show in Brooklyn and a hint of big things to come this summer!
Thotyssey: Hi Louvel, thanks for talking with us! How are you doing today?
Louvel: I’m doing well! I’m just working on a little late dinner for my hubby and I. He works late, and I always like to have dinner ready for him when he gets home. I’m all domestic and shit!
That’s so sweet! Are you really married?
I guess, I use the word “hubby” loosely. We’re at the point in the relationship where we’ve lived together longer than apart, but haven’t gotten married yet… so, “hubby” just feels right.
That’s cute! So, where are you from?
I’m originally from Rochester, New York, but I’ve been shacked up in Brooklyn for about five years now.
Were you born a performer at heart?
I’ve pretty much always been a lover of music and singing. Ever since I was little. My parents said I’d never stop singing when I was a kid; eventually they put me into theater. I played Gavroche in a local production of Les Mis when I was seven. I haven’t stopped since! I’ve done so many musicals, and been a part of so many different choruses, I’ve lost count.
Did you come to New York to pursue Broadway?
No, actually! I had attended a private school for the performing arts, but it made me absolutely hate musical theater in the end.
I started writing my own music, and eventually got a job in a recording studio. For about two years I stopped performing and was just working on music in the studio, but I started getting depressed. I missed the stage. So, I donned a frock and a wig, and started performing my original music at whatever drag show I could find that would let me! Drag sort of blended all the parts of theater I still loved with the freedom to do whatever I wanted.
That’s really cool. How did you come up with “Louvel?”
It’s actually the name I’ve been using as a producer and musician long before I was a drag queen! It means, “little wolf,” in old French. I’ve always been drawn to canids, and if I had to identify with an animal, a wolf would be it. Independent, but fiercely loyal to the pack. Not afraid of being a loner and doing my own thing, but valuing support. And I can be a little scrappy, like a puppy!
Did any drag queens take you under their wings initially?
There’s a queen in Rochester named Wednesday Westwood that I’ve known for a really long time. I was visiting my parents, and we thought it’d be fun to put me in drag for the first time. I had never envisioned myself in drag before, but the second I saw myself in the mirror, I felt magical. Since then, she’s done nothing but support me, and I’ve even invited her to perform with me down here a couple times.
You can see the family resemblance in our very specific method of painting our lips
Did you know fellow Rochester-based queen JizzaBella from your time there?
I’ve known Jizzabella for a while now. I remember when she first started drag in Rochester, I was only a senior in high school, so I never got to see her perform until we worked together a few times in NYC over the past two years. She’s a really sweet girl, and I’m so glad she didn’t let that horrible attack bring her down.
So, you’ve done the drag contest route early in your career as Louvel, right?
Surprisingly, I’ve only done two! The first one I did was called “New York’s Next Top Drag Queen,” at a Cabaret Club called the Metropolitan Room. I came in second place, but got offered a show anyways!
“So You Think You Can Drag” was a little less successful for me, but I’m not much of a stunt queen. I’ve always been a musician and a singer, so I’d rather let my voice speak for itself. Maybe next time, I’ll hire back-up dancers [laughs].
How did you promote yourself in this town, in edition to these two contests?
Honestly, the best way I found to spread my seed around the city was to just offer to do shows for free. I’d say, “Hi, this is what I do, here’s some pics, I’ll perform for free, and if you like it you can hire me back and pay me.”
That’s a great way to do it. Is that how you started at Excelsior with your monthly show, Radio Blah Blah, in Brooklyn? They don’t host a lot of regular shows there, but you and Lavinia Draper are great reoccurring hits there.
Yeah, as soon as I saw that they were reopening down the street from my house, I reached out. It has been one of the best experiences in my entire drag career thus far. From the owners, Richard and Mark, to all the bar staff, I’ve managed to form a little family.
You’re there again this Friday, May 27th.
This week, another reoccurring act, Lailah Lancing and I, are doing a joint show. It’s going to be lots of fun. Lailah has become one of my best friends, and sharing the stage with her is going to be a pure delight. We’ve got hilarious chemistry.
Do you get to sing a lot of your original songs there?
It’s a big mixture! It’s a two-hour show, so there’s a lot of time to fill with some of my favorite covers and original works. My last show, I whipped out sock puppet versions of Hillary and Bernie, and sang a political parody version of the Heat Miser/Snow Miser song from that Christmas special [laughs]. You never really know what’s going to happen at Radio Blah Blah!
Sounds like a lot of fun, and a nice change of pace. Do you consider yourself to be part of the Brooklyn scene?
I go where the children want me! I’ve been fortunate to have gigs in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and other cities too! I have a very special place in my heart for the, “Brooklyn,” scene though. That’s where I started! Every scene is a different experience, I love my cabaret shows at places like Excelsior and The Metropolitan Room, but the standard bar gigs at places like Macri Park are fun too.
I see you just had a show at Macri Park a few nights ago… Slap-N-Tickle. You made a comment afterwards that the warm reception you got there was very life-affirming for you. In what way?
It wasn’t so much life-affirming, as much as it was a fresh reminder of something I thought I wasn’t a part of anymore. I had a really rough winter where I didn’t think that the bar scene was for me anymore.
For Slap N’ Tickle, Trey and I got back together, had a blast, and the audience was phenomenal (not to mention they were amazing tippers). It was also really great to see [Macri Park general manager] Steven McEnrue, who has always been a major support of mine. When you’ve been away from an establishment or scene for a few months, you wonder if they still care about you. It made me so happy to know that they did.
Of course they do! But do you like doing that bar queen stuff: lip syncing, dancing, games, etc?
I like lip syncing for its own purposes. I like that you can build skits and bigger ideas with lip syncing. It’s easier to make a scene, but it’s hard to want to do it when I’d rather be opening my mouth and belting something out!
Have you ever recorded any of your own music?
Yeah, I’ve got a rough EP out from a long time ago now, when I was first starting to work on music by myself. Since then, I’ve come out with a few singles, but I keep changing my mind on the direction of my next album. I think I’ve finally got something to stick though – I’ve been working on a pretty consistent body of work.
Since becoming a cabaret girl, I’ve been inspired to write somewhat of an alt-rock opera. I’ve already written half of it, and recorded a couple songs, so I can’t wait to finish it and perform it.
Oh that sounds amazing, keep it up! Anything else in the works?
I’ve got my monthly at Excelsior right now, a birthday show with Witti Repartee in July, and another huge secret event I have coming up in June, as well for Pride, but I have to wait for the event to announce it first! Other than that, there’s a whisper of another monthly someplace else, but I don’t want to say anything until it’s confirmed.
Very cool! That birthday show with Witti at Rockbar is for charity, right?
Witti is an amazing queen who does so much good for the community, so I’m stoked to be joining a really fun cast to raise money for HIV programs at the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center! She’s the kind of old school queen that really appreciates us greenhorns. It’s always a delight to kiki with her and get some advice.
Okay, final question: One of your favorite divas invited you to sing one of her songs for her __th anniversary as a performer. In your wildest dreams, who’s the singer, and what will you sing for her?
I have an intense love for Angela Lansbury. I even have a tattoo of her as Jessica Fletcher on my arm… so, definitely her. As far as the song goes, I’d probably want to dress up as Mrs. Lovett and sing, “The Worst Pies in London.” Sweeney Todd appeals to my darkest humors, and no one has been able to top her as Mrs. Lovett since!
Maybe you’ll be the girl to do that someday! Thanks for talking to us, Louvel!
Louvel will perform with Lailah Lancing at Excelsior in Brooklyn on Friday, May 27th (and every last Friday of the month) at 11pm. She’ll be part of Witti Repartee’s birthday fundraiser showcase at Rockbar on July 19th, and her other summer appareances are to TBA. Louvel can be followed on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.