Nurse by day and pageant queen by night, Champagne Bubbles certainly has one of the most unique positions in nightlife as a champion of both good times and good health. She’ll be slaying at Miss Hell’s Kitchen on Sunday, and get right back to healing on Monday! Thotyssey gets to know Champagne Bubbles and finds out how exactly this all works!
Thotyssey: Welcome, Champagne! You’re a regular presence at the Pines Invasion–you won the Most Glamorous prize in last year’s competition! Did you have fun this time around? I see you Wonder Woman’ed it!
Champagne Bubbles: I always have a great time doing Invasion. Like most queens, [I feel that] the meaning behind it is more important than just dressing up and drinking booze on the 4th of July in Fire Island. Wonder Woman was a look that I have been planning for quite some time; and I’m always on point.
You looked great! Of course, you’re a very interesting person to talk to because you are an accomplished Administrative Registered Nurse at a busy hospital by day, and a pageant-slaying drag queen by night. When you were growing up in Parkesburg, Pennsylvania, did you have any plans to be doing either of these things, and in New York of all places?
Actually, I always wanted to live in New York City. I was raised singing and dancing and in the theatre world, so drag was not such a far reach; yet learning how to conduct myself in a bar setting was, and still is, tricky.
In what ways were music and theatre part of your life growing up?
I was part of the children’s choir at my church I grew up in, and in their musicals. And then I moved on to community and regional theatre; but in high school, I was involved in their plays and theatre programs as an actor and also involved in makeup/wigs/costumes… so I’ve always had that niche for putting an outfit together.
And how long have nursing and medicine been a part of your life?
My mother was a nurse, and I’ve always had the caring gene. As we say in the profession: “once you find a nurse, there’s more in the family”.
I have been a registered nurse for 10 years–just finishing my dual masters degree last year: Masters of Science in Nursing and Masters in Business Administration.
Most of my career was spent in the Surgical Intensive Care Unit of a Trauma Medical Center. But now I am am practicing as a Care Manager at NYU Langone Medical Center, where I coordinate patient care in an administrative role, as well as serve as the Medical Center’s co-chair of their LGBTQ Advisory Council.
I guess that in that last-mentioned role, a lot of your colleagues must know about Champagne. You did march in drag with a Langone group in this summer’s Pride parade, after all.
Yes. This year marked the third year I marched in the NYC Pride March with them. I feel so proud, having an employer that supports our community and provides the best possible equal care for all! #OuttoHeal
So, how far along were you in your medical career when Champagne was born?
It was about three years ago that a friend was having a “Boob Voyage” (breast reduction party), and everyone was sporting their tatas in lieu of our friend having humongous tits reduced. My close friends dared me to go in drag, and I figured, what other character than Jessica Rabbit to sport the girls than her! My name came a short period after.
That’s a pretty good occasion to start drag! So where in nightlife did you make your first performance?
The original Boots & Saddle on 76 Christopher Street, actually. I performed with M’Lady Uppercrust on the 4th of July in her happy hour show, and I did Xtina: “Candy Man” dressed up as my rendition of Rosie the Riveter.
Cute! M’Lady’s another queen with a medical day job. A healthcare professional’s lifestyle is very demanding of one’s time and attention… and of course, so is a drag queen’s. I guess the most obvious question is, how does one find the time and sanity to do both?
Here’s a fun question: What’s the biggest crisis facing the healthcare profession today, in your opinion?
A pretty dire list! On that first point: The state of medical insurance in this country is still a bitch, despite the great strides made by Obamacare. Certainly, drag queens and non-union entertainers still have limited options as far as coverage is concerned. Do many drag queens approach you with insurance questions?
Absolutely! But most of their questions are about trying to get away without having insurance, or “what is the best coverage that I can get for the cheapest price?” But take it from me: pay the premium, ‘cause having coverage for a portion of your monthly income is way better than being fined at the end of the year in your taxes, and it’s also being proactive about your health. I mean: “If you can’t take care of yourself, how the hell you gonna take care of somebody else?”
Ru is the world’s nurse!
Have you ever been in a situation when you were in drag, and had to tend to a sudden “Girl Down” medical emergency at a bar, or something like that?
Ish… I’ve been backstage de-dragging when a sister of mine performing in the next show went down and we thought she broke her ankle… but she ended up with just a sprain.
How would you describe your performing style as Champagne Bubbles? What are you trying to evoke onstage?
Fierce looks, fishy body, and sassy style… all topped off with a side of camp.
Have you ever done nurse-themed drag? Like, I can’t help but not think of Darryl Hannah in Kill Bill, with that red cross eyepatch.
No. I’ve never done nurse drag, but it’s usually the first thing people ask me after I tell them I’m a nurse-by-day. Honestly, I have an actual nursing cap, but im sure my fans would hold me to the utmost level of execution considering that it is one of my professions! Some day, just have a lot of other exciting things in the works at the moment!
You’re no stranger to the pageant scene. You won Miss Cherrys Audience Favorite last year, and you were also the Fan Favorite at Miss Hell’s Kitchen that same year. What drew you to jump into the world of drag pageants and competitions?
I’ve always been a competitive individual–and what gay boy isn’t drawn to the sequins and sparkle that goes along with the pageant gowns? I also enjoy putting together a pageant package and creating looks all while showcasing Champagne!
You also did Ms. Barracuda this year. That pageant really pushes everyone to the edges of their creativity, and you constructed some gorgeous looks. How did you enjoy that process?
If Tina Burner sees that creative gene in you, she’ll push you to get to that level… or just get you drunk till you feel like you’ve hit another level! Honestly, meeting my current roommate was key to one of my looks involving a dress made entirely of duct tape. It was for the “Fantasy Evening Gown” category. The dress was made of white, and had 1,397 individual duct tape payettes on a fishtail train giving Game of Thrones/Chronicles of Narnia vibes.
The competition taught me so much about drag and the level of execution that I expect out of myself. Also, the pageant allows for you to completely transform into each category because they are separated by each week, unlike other pageants where you have to produce a cohesive package.
Speaking of duct tape dresses, you’re collection is growing, I see!
I have had several duct tape dresses in the past year that have made appearances, a total of eight–but I have a couple more in the works!
So, you’re back for this year’s Ms. Hell’s Kitchen on July 17th! That’s another big pageant in the city, and it’s also a great fundraiser for AIDS-related causes. Is that one of the factors that appealed to you when you entered?
I’ve always been one to be a fundraiser as a boy and girl, especially for a good cause!
I know that you and your friend Katie Perpall raised a lot of money for the pageant back in February when you were out on the streets soliciting while handcuffed to each other! What was your technique to get coin?
I basically made Katie start talking to them, and they gave us money ‘cause they: 1- wanted her to shut up or 2- felt bad for me! But again, it was all for a great cause.
I’ve either competed or performed alongside each one of these gals, and all have different strengths. I feel that this year’s lineup gives the most diversity in any pageant I’ve ever competed in before. I’m confident to slay with my pageant package to give the hunties what they want, all while still showing who Champagne Bubbles is!
Bravo! Any other pageants this year?
Good luck! So, I guess with your day job, you can’t really do the weekly bar show thing, right? I mean, some drag queens have 9-to-5′s and can pull it off, but your day job is probably too demanding.
I have a salaried position, so it’s hard to judge when I leave the office on a daily basis, yet I work Monday-Friday. With that being said, if something came up that was regular and fit enough in my schedule, I’d give it some consideration. Drag is my passion; nursing is my career. That’s not to say that things can’t switch at some point.
Okay, finally: What is te one thing that a medical professional and a drag queen have in common?
Me! And the excessive amounts of tape we use…
Hal! Great, thanks Champagne! Good luck this pageant season!
Champagne Bubbles is competing in the Miss Hell’s Kitchen pageant at the Manhattan Movement Arts Center on July 17th (7pm), the Miss Cherry’s pageant at Cherry’s on the Grove on August 7th (4pm) and the Miss Fire Island pageant at the Ice Palace on September 10th. She can be followed on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, and has her own website.