Raised in a cloistered Jewish Orthodox community on Long Island, Lady SinAGaga has emerged this year as a breakout star in the world of NYC drag! The winner of 2016′s NY Best in Drag pageant, Lady’s been making appearances all over the city. And now, she finally has her own new weekly show in Hell’s Kitchen to tell us about! Thotyssey kvetches with Lady SinAGaga about her amazing life as both a drag superstar and a Nice Jewish Girl.
Thotyssey: Hi Lady SinAGaga! What do people call you for short, by the way… Lady?
Lady SinAGaga: [Laughs] Yeah!
So Lady, I’m guessing it was fun substitute-hosting at the Ritz this past Friday during Memorial Day Weekend.
Yes, totally. I love hosting, it gives me a chance to interact with people in a way performing can not.
I saw the sailor pic! Are you a “men in uniform” kinda gal?
I mean, how can I complain [laughs]?
You kinda fascinate me. You were born and raised into a Jewish Orthodox community on Long Island. I live in a part of Queens now that’s very orthodox, and it’s such an insular and closed-off population that I can’t imagine anyone in it even knowing what a drag queen is. What was it like growing up in a community like that?
Well to be honest, when you are living in it, you don’t really feel the difficulties of the community. I feel like I definitely had the same struggles as every other boy in the closet. Those difficulties are magnified by being in a strict religious community.
In some gay bars, it isn’t uncommon to see older orthodox men sneak in and try to proposition someone, usually the drag queen. I’m guessing that there are pretty big closets in those communities?
Yeah. I mean, religious communities look to the past for guidance, instead of the future. Fifty years ago, the closet was bigger than it was now. Highly orthodox communities are the same. Hopefully, communities like mine will catch up to the rest of us.
I feel like, from my casual observation, there’s actually a lot in common between the orthodox and gay communities. They look out for each other within the community, behave like an extended family, make sure the younger generations get the history and culture, are suspicious of outsiders, etc. Also, wigs. Is that right in any way?
That’s a very interesting observation. I would have to agree with you. They both share similar core values. And trust me, when you get into the gay Orthodox Jewish community, it’s magnified [laughs]!
So, I’m guessing you loved Broadway and fabulous things when you were younger. Were you actually able to perform anywhere at a young age–school plays, community theater, etc?
Not really. Being a little orthodox boy, there aren’t really that many opportunities to express that side of one’s creativity. That is why, after I came out, I was so attracted to the art of drag.
How did you even know about drag, and gay culture? The media?
Well, I really didn’t know anything about it growing up. We didn’t have a TV or internet in my house growing up, so after I came out and moved to NYC to go to school, I had a lot of catching up to do!
Where were your first hangout places?
Queen at Industry was the very first drag show i ever saw. But I made my way around to all the hot local spots.
Is that when you decided to do drag yourself?
Not quite. It took me a little more than a year to actually start drag. It did inspire me to do it for Halloween, though! (I know, basic, right?)
That’s what Halloween is for! So, when you first heard of Lady Gaga, were you like, “this sounds like ‘Synagogue.’ That’s it! That’s my name!”
[Laughs] No, actually. I was hanging out at a local bar with some friends, and we were throwing around “Jewish drag names,” and it came to us and I was like, “DIBS!” It was still another few months before she was born [laughs]. But as they say, “It started with a name.”
And a brilliant name it is! How would you describe Lady SinAGaga as a performer? Are you a comedy queen, a dancing queen, a drama queen, a look queen?
I don’t like classifying myself into a specific style. I know what my strengths are, and what I don’t do so well [laughs]. Lady SinAGaga is definitely a performer. She’s entertaining and funny. I do love doing numbers that make people think, and are a little more meaningful. i do love pushing myself in terms of looks as well. I just try to always evolve and push myself.
Did you have a drag mother?
Nope, I’m an orphan [laughs], There have definitely been some amazing NYC queens that I look up to, and have been helpful and welcoming to me when I started.
The first time I heard of you, I guess over a year ago, was from drag king Gary Carmichael, who said you were a great performer, and he was looking forward to a duet number with you. Did that ever happen?
Yeah, we did a duet together at Star Search a while back!
Ah, that’s what it was! So you did Star Search. Did yo do any of the other big competitions? So You Think You Can Drag?
Yes, I did Star Search a lot when I was first starting. It is really where i started performing, and where I really got comfortable on a stage. Then I did this past season of SYTYCD, and placed third.
Good job! And I guess right around that time, you participated in the Miss Not Safe 4 Werk online pageant?
They actually overlapped at the end, so i had a few crazy weeks!
I was moved by your dramatic performance in the Miss Industry 2016 pageant.
Oh, thank you.
You ended the number in a flesh-colored bodysuit covered in printed slurs and insulting words, lip syncing a balled. Was that a very personal performance for you?
Yes, I would have to say that number is one I’m most proud of. Telling your story in under four minutes is not easy, and to really move an audience to tears is an honor. I love having the ability as a performer to really take an audience to an emotional place that they weren’t expecting. And to bare a piece of my heart on the stage where I saw my first queen performing was an amazing full circle moment for me.
And your big pageant win was NY’s Best in Drag last month at FIT. Congratulations! What was your winning talent, and what was the whole experience like for you? Holly Box-Springs said all the contestants were very sisterly and supportive of each other.
It was such an amazing experience. We raised so much money for an amazing cause. I met some amazing queens, and spent the time with some queens I consider dear friends. And winning was, of course, so great.
My winning talent was my mix about NYC and the MTA, which the directors actually cast me to do. Overall it was an amazing experience and winning was just the crown on top of that!
What do you mean, you were cast to do that?
The people putting the pageant together saw me do that number, and were like, “We want you to do that at our pageant,” and it seems as though their intuition paid off!
Hebro is really what gave me the confidence to reach for the stars when it comes to my drag. Jayson Littman, the founder of Hebro, really took a chance on me when he let me host High Homo Days two years ago, and we have had an incredible relationship since then.
When you’re performing at an event that is both Jewish and gay, what’s the mood of the room? Do people check their thot-ness at the door and treat it like a religious event, or is it mostly gay fun?
Hebro is definitely a gay event. Hot guys, sexy gogo boys, and the Jewish American Princess of Drag. Can’t get gayer than that! I guess you could say the Hebro parties are just incredible parties, and once you go to one, you go to all, religiously!
Yes! Vodka Soda/Bottoms Up is the hottest new place in HK. They have an amazing atmosphere, and have five rooms that get filled up with the hottest guys in NYC.
We have an amazing lineup of queens, with some new exciting things coming your way. But this Thursday is the debut of PLATINUM! We are going to be featuring the platinum hits from every decade, so I better see all my 80s lovers out there on the dance floor.
We are starting the party off at 9, and then I’ll be joined by the hilarious Chaka Khanvict and the gorgeous Andora Tetee. Then we are gonna give you a fabulous show at 11, and they are gonna keep the party going with a late show and contests all night long! It’s gonna be the only place to be on a Thursday night! And, I mean, don’t forget the FOUR DOLLAR DRINKS all night long!
What’s your favorite era of hit songs aside from today?
Well I hate to say it, but I am a top 40s queen [laughs]. If I’d have to pick an era, it would be the 80s (only because my bf would kill me if i didn’t pick it!) I mean, drag is all about being over the top and in your face, so the 80s is kind of a perfect match!
Definitely! Sounds like it’s gonna be a really fun night. Now that you have your first weekly show, is it going to feel strange and/or amazing to suddenly be a full-time drag queen?
I’m very excited! VSBU is such a great space, and I’m so excited that I can call it home now! I love entertaining people, and just having fun with them, so the fact that I can do it on a regular basis now is something I’m so grateful for.
Last question: As someone who is now living her dream, what would you say to a kid who is afraid to come out and be his or her authentic self, because of their community/culture/etc?
I would tell them to just remember to be true to themselves. If a little orthodox boy, who was studying to become a rabbi, can become a fabulous drag queen hosting a Thursday night party in HK’s hottest new joint, then anything is really possible. Just take what you know and put that in your performance. Be you, and people will relate, and be thoroughly entertained!
Thanks so much, Lady! Have a great first show!