On Point With: Zalika Parsons

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Here’s the fun new queen on the block! The Divine-inspired, ex-preschool teacher (!) Zalika Parsons is taking over the city–no literally, she is Everywhere. And we’re fine with that, because she’s fun and fierce. And lucky for us, she’s got a lot to say! Get down with Thotyssey’s exclusive chat with Lady Z. #TeamTriangles!


Thotyssey: Zalika, hello! Thanks for finding the time to chat with us! Gurl, you busy. What’s your day job, again?

Zalika Parsons: I’m a barista at a Starbucks on the Upper Ease Side a few days a week, as well as a student.

Working at Starbucks means dealing with assholes, like, 83% of the time, doesn’t it?

It’s definitely closer to 97% of the time, but yes. However, as a former preschool teacher, I’ve definitely had much practice with being extra patient. Which coincidentally had been amazing practice for dealing with drunk assholes.

Wow, you were a pre-school teacher? 

[Laughs] Yeah, that happened. Not many people know this, but I went to a specially high school in New Jersey, and they had different academies for people who knew what they wanted to be at an early age. Ever since I could talk, I wanted to be a teacher. So, I tested in and got into their “Academy for Child-Related Careers,” which meant teaching an actual preschool class for three years and interning with a daycare for one year.

I could have stayed there and continued, but once I got the taste for drag my senior year, I knew moving back to New York was my only option. Plus, that entire time teaching pretty much ruined my patience with kids, so there is that.

Yes, as a former teacher and barback, I will say that dealing with kids and drunks is a shared skill set! 

Exactly! It’s nice to know that we can both watch three year-olds and alcoholics! Maybe we should both open a daycare for day drunks and toddlers together!

Goals!

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So, are you a native New Jerseyian?

I don’t claim New Jersey at all, but technically I’m half New Jerseyslovakian. I was born and raised for most of my life in Jamaica, Queens, and moved to Jersey when I was ten. (My loving parents did so because they thought it would be a safer high school option.) But after all the bullying in middle school and the rush to get out in high school, I knew moving back to New York was a priority.

My parents still live in Jersey, and I thank them so much for making that move, for it shaped who I am and gave me so many opportunities. But New York City is and will always be my home.

Speaking of New Jersey and drag, I see that the Drag Diva Showcase at the Den with Davida Sky was your first (of many) drag competitions that you entered!

The Drag Den Diva Showcase was my second time doing drag myself (from head to toe), and I completely blew it. I had just turned 18, and wanted to take New Jersey by storm (I was already a resident of New York, but since there isn’t anything really for 18 year-olds, I was trying anything I could). So, I did this spooky goth look because my ex-drag sister Alec Nox was very into that scene, and I thought I was too. I wore this god-awful pageant wig I bought from some Facebook group that was falling apart, a rainbow skirt and t shirt, and these pleather heels that were two sizes too big.

I did “Wonderland” by Natalia Kills, and verse by verse everything was just falling off or falling apart. As soon as my number was over, I ran out and went straight home. I was literally mortified, and almost just quit. But neither my Dad nor Nox would let me. I thank them for that every day.

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That’s a wonderful support system, and I’m glad you stayed with it! What made you want to try drag in the first place?

Well, it’s kind of a funny story. My sophomore year of high school, I was bit by the fashion bug and kept designing outfits and manipulating fabrics to put together what I called “looks” every day,  because I hated always just showing up in the same boring jeans. And my history teacher at the time asked me about my “fashion sense,” and I said I was inspired by Drag Race to want to  become a designer for nightlife and drag queens. And he told me I should go for it… why couldn’t I become a drag queen? I didn’t really think much of what he said, because I couldn’t picture a hairy, 6’2′’, awkward and overweight kid becoming a queen. But I kept designing.

After that, for my senior year, I tested out to start a head start college program and joined their GSA. I wanted to stay as involved as I could while only being 17. They decided to throw a drag fashion show, and asked if I wanted to be one of the queens. That really being my first taste of drag, I thought it would be fun to just throw something together and see if I could design something.

But actually getting into drag, once I hit that stage, it just hit me. There were no words to describe the feeling. In that moment, I knew I would never look back. I mean, I always loved acting and singing. I joined every show, every choir club I could possibly balance with my then-supermarket day job. I was even up for the high school’s visual and performing arts academy. But I turned it down because I knew just regular acting or singing wasn’t right for me. It didn’t give me the same rush that drag did.

Like, drag was a way I could manipulate a stage in my own way, if that makes sense. And that’s why I wanted to at least try it. A way to get my stage fix, entertain people–but on my own terms.

Well, your effort definitely pays off, because you have a good rep in this city as an entertaining and reliable queen. 

Literally, so proud to hear that! I usually get “one of the hottest messes” or “the disgustingest woman still alive.”

Hey, you even have your own hashtag: #Teamtriangles, referencing your signature eye look. Who came up with that?

My triangles are my best friends, they keep all my secrets. So, #TeamTriangles was kind of my own idea–that I completely ripped off and stole from Ritzy Bitz. I was going through the Internet and realized I needed some kind of gimmick. Like, Momma didn’t raise no fool; Judy Darling has Witch on the Rise, Brita has Anything but Pure… I needed something.

So I was skimming through Facebook  and saw Ritzy kept using #TeamBlended, and thought it would be funny, and commented on one of her photos “Wait, wouldn’t that make me #TeamTriangles?” And it just clicked in my head. (I did ask permission because even I thought it was too close and she came up with first, but it’s all good. She’s #TeamTriangles herself!) I was going to originally write #TeamEyeliner but, so glad I did not. I mean, since me and Ritzy are practically twins, we have to have similar hashtags, right?

How did you come up with your drag name?

It was after a long night–and by that, I mean after work at an old job. I went to go to a “friend’s house” to “study” with the help of Grindr, and after two hours of “studying” with a nice French “tutor.”  I took the F train home.

However, while on the train platform, this girl with a red leather jacket, black leather leggings, 7 inch stiletto black boots and a big blue Afro was pouncing the platform like it was a runway, so I knew I had to say hello. She told me she just got off of work with the MTA, and this was just how she normally dressed, and I was floored. This woman was who I saw my drag character to be: a strong woman who did what she wanted and didn’t give a fuck. And at Parsons Boulevard, she told me her name was Zalika. And I told her, “Well shit, now that’s my name, too.”

Awesome! And I just assumed in the beginning that maybe you were a another Parsons University queen, but I guess not!

{Laughs} nope! I officially started drag at County College of Morris, experimented at Hunter College CUNY, and now go to Arizona State University. I’ve never even been near, let alone inside Parsons School of Design. Ha!

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Did I see correctly that you performed at the Pride Lounge in Forest Hills? That must’ve been one of your first gigs.

That was my first (and last) own weekly show. It lasted three weeks, and was shut down due to the bar converting into straight bar. I’m grateful for the opportunity, and appreciate all I’ve learned. [The show] was given to me by Aja, and I was able to work with one of my favorite sisters, Sunday Lush. Fun!

As Zalika, you have probably done more drag competitions, pageants and guest appearances in the past year then practically anybody else (well, you and Blake Deadly). What’s been been the driving force for you as far as extending yourself this much?

A lot of vodka and Chipotle. No but seriously, performing is something I’ve wanted to do for so long. My father is a big support system and has always told me to follow my dreams, and my mom has always kept me level-headed. I’ve always been striving for a stage, and after winning the crown for Coney Island Drag Race last year, it really hit a nerve for me to go harder and take myself more seriously.

And especially in these last couple months, the friends I’ve made (Catrina Lovelace, Lola Michele-Kiki, Madame Vivien V, Brita Filter, Angel Elektra, just to name a few) have given me so much reassurance and confidence. I just realize that I have so much potential; I’m done not trying. I’m running for it, and goddamnit, I’m here, NYC! Take me or leave me!

Like, as cliche as it sounds, I’ve just been trying for awhile to get my niche, and what I want to do and look like as a character. Once people started getting it, I need to start running faster and harder with it.

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Contests you’ve participated include Star Search, Look Queen, Beat Your Face, Drag Wars at Rise, Miss Lady Liberty at the Ace Hotel… What’s been your favorite of these contests experience so far?

Oh girl, that’s a hard one. I want to say Look Queen, because it pushed me most as a performer. After the first time I did it, I was given the advice from Crimson Kitty and Terra Grenade that I need to come back with a solid look. I was told that my performance was solid and hysterical, which other competitions have told me–however, with this one I needed to step out of my comfort zone and do something that would leave everyone gagging. So I just went for it, and painted my entire self purple.

However, I appreciate all of the competitions I have done (and will be doing) equally, because I have met some seriously amazing performers and new people who love me for what I do… and that’s just the most humble feeling on earth.  Also, the host(s) of each one of those competitions have said or done something that have made me feel welcomed to the NYC nightlife family. They’ve helped me so much and for that, I thank them.

And of course, there was the infamous night of Mx. Nobody in Eastlands, where you died for a night! Everyone was terrified, but in a way it must’ve been nice because you got to see who really cared about you. Remind us what happened!

Oh Lord [laughs], I thought I escaped this! Well, for those who don’t know (and didn’t see social media explode for twenty-four hours) I was the wildcard for the Mx. Nobody Pageant, held by The Nobodies (Arial, Lady Bearica and DJ Accident Report) and was invited to be the final contestant for their finale.

However, what had happened was: I just filled my plate too high. I had worked my day job Friday morning, did a show that night, then worked Saturday morning, then did a show that night, then worked, then did ( and won) Look Queen. And when I got home, I told myself I was going to take a nap right after, and then start getting ready.

Well…. a four-hour nap turned into a twenty hour nap, and that was the day the Earth stood still. I just remember waking up and calling Lady Bearica and her saying “Bitch, I’m going to slap you.”  It was so humbling to realize people cared that much, and to this day I am so sorry to everyone that was there and concerned.

I’m definitely working on taking better care of myself (I only work my day job two to three days a week now) and sleeping more regularly now. (And I’m officially ungrounded from Lady Bearica and Crimson Kitty, so please proceed to book me!)

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Well, thank gawd you’re alive! Otherwise, who would wow us at the door at the monthly party Looz It at Bizarre Bushwick, thrown by Madame Vivien V!  How do you know Vivien?

So we met a little over a year ago, and I’m so happy we did. It was during the Miss Abracadabra Pageant, I was a last minute 24 hour notice alternate and she was also a part of the competition. She did her fire-throwing and I did my crazy shenanigans where I drag my ass all over the bar floor, and we just fell in performance love.

However, we really started talking at Strut! By Derryck Todd for my birthday last year. She pulled me aside and said she just really wanted to book me but had a full schedule. Luckily, I started as a door sub for Bordello, and have so much respect for her. I’m looking forward to working with her more in the future because she is truly such a horrible, lovable person–and in my opinion, a Brooklyn Drag Icon–with how much of a business woman she is. Next month, we are bringing back our “One for the Boys” underwear party at Metropolitan Bar, and I’m super excited!

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By the way, what’s your method of door goddessness? Are you mean and judgy? Kind and hopeful? Calculating?

I honestly just try to make the person hysterically laugh before they’ve even hear that there is a cover charge. I mean, as the first impression of their night, they need to enter with a smile… otherwise, it will probably be a short night for them. I handle most people the same (cater to those who aren’t familiar with going out or just on vacation), but I like to think that unless I make someone feel happy and comfortable with coming in, they aren’t going to be coming back at all. I try to always be nice unless you deserve otherwise.

Unfortunately due to an emergency situation, I was unable to make last weeks LoOz it, however I told my cover the same advice I like to follow: “Treat everyone like your on a first date, or the sex won’t be guaranteed.” Thank the lord my good friend and O.G. Drag sister Alec Nox was able to cover.

And on this Thursday, you’l start the night off at Rockbar?

I’ll I be at Viva Vidalia’s show tomorrow for her finale, I was surprised to see that Viva’s show is ending! I heard it was doing pretty well.  Ugh, I know, it’s horrible! I love Viva and thank her for all she’s done for me. She’s my sister, and I’m happy to see what the future brings for her.

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Okay, speaking earlier of Bizarre and Vivien, your performing for Thursday’s 2-year anniversary of the party/show/circus/beautiful clusterfuck Bordello! You’re not gonna set yourself on fire, are you?

Oh heeeeeeellllll no! I’m flaming enough as it is, I’m just going to make fun of drug addictions and offended everyone. Being offensive and funny is my shtick. Lord knows if I even held a match, I would burn the place down.

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Do you care about being thought of as a Manhattan Queen versus a Brooklyn Queen?

Honestly, I couldn’t give a shit less. To be frank, I consider myself as neither. I’m a  “Where there’s a stage, I’m there” queen. I started out with Brooklyn and without it, I would be literally nobody. Queens like Macy Rodman, Severely Mame, Alotta McGriddles, Aja, Momo Shade and Merrie Cherrie helped guide me in each their own ways, and I appreciate them more then they will ever know. Hell, I have a title with Coney Island in the title.

But people seem to get the idea of me trying to be the next Divine in Manhattan more so then in Brooklyn. It’s weird. Personally, I don’t care. Call me whatever you want, but I have the heart of a Brooklyn queen and nothing will ever change that. I just think Manhattan helped refined what I wanted to do and how I did it.

Speaking of Divine, I’m gonna go out on a limb and say she’s a role model of yours, right? 

Divine is definitely one of my biggest inspirations, because she really was the first plus-size “I don’t give a crap about what you think” drag queens, and she made a name for herself by being outrageous.

What was her best movie?

My favorite Divine movie would have to be Multiple Maniacs, because I’m a huge horror movie fan, so I’m biased. However, my favorite quote of hers for me is when she is being interviewed in Pink Flamingos and they ask her if she believes in God. And without missing a beat she says, “I AM GOD, next question.” Like, what more of a mantra do you need other than that?

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I see that you have a double header on the following night, First, you’ll be a guest for JizzaBella’s Stonewall Invasion! How many Invasions have you done so far?

This will be my third Invasion  I love, love, love the Stonewall with all of my heart, because it was one of the first gay bars I passed when I was younger and was dying to go in, even before I knew what a drag queen was.

And it must be time for your own Invasion soon, right? We’d love to see that.

I am more than ready! Just give me a date and I’ll be there, triangles and all. As of right now, nothing is planned– but with my birthday being the end of next month, we will see what happens.

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Sunday I’m doing Jizzy’s Invasion and judging Look Queen, because why not?

Busy night! And then this is exciting… Back in Brooklyn on August 4th, you’re the featured performer for Sycamore Bar’s monthly Q Train party! I haven’t been to a Q Train yet, do you know what that party’s like?

I am so excited for Q-Train, it’s such an amazing and chill time. My first time was when Catrina Lovelace guested there not too long ago, and I couldn’t believe how much fun it was. It’s such a relaxed bar setting that turns into a dance party with pop up performances ( and not to mention that night we were lucky to see the talents and booty of Go-Go Gadget, woooooooof!) The energy is incredible; I’m just nervous about standing on a bar in heels! Catrina turned it like the dancing queen she is, but I can just see my ass falling fast!

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That always looked terrifying to me.So I’m guessing you have a few guest appearances lined up?

August 1st I’ll be guesting at Erika Klash’s new show, I’ll be at Tacky Tuesday’s with Ari Kiki August 30th, and the Look Queen finale is the last Sunday of August. I’m working on some projects that will come out by the end of next month–knock on wood–and I think that’s it for now.

You mentioned recently that you feel you’re not getting enough respect in the drag community or your day job. Who do you think is disrespectful towards you in nightlife: is it the venues, the audiences, or the other queens?

That status was completely out of frustration. No one is necessarily disrespectful I just get so mad at myself because nightlife can be very aggressive, and it gets dog eat dog sometimes, and I hate that. But when you are in love with something so much, you have to take the good with the bad.

It was also driven by jealousy. I just get worked up because seeing people who have started after me are getting their own shows or winning awards or blady blah… it gets annoying. But even hearing myself say that, I sound so stupid. I think it’s the same thing Chelsea Handler went through with her stand-up comedy. There is enough for everybody, and I’ll get mine when it’s ready. Until then, I just need to go along with this crazy ride.

The only thing I will stand by is that I do think some people need to remember that even though my character is a giant joke, I as a human and performer am not. I have nothing but respect for all performers. Do I like them all? Not necessarily, but I would never disrespect them for what they do. They may not be my cup of tea, however they’re putting themselves out there, doing what they feel like they need to do/say/be and I applaud them for that.

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Got it. Who should win All-Stars Season 2

Bob’s purse. Kidding! Um… I’m completely on the fence with this one because I am team Phi Phi, Adore, Alaska and Katya. I mean, I resonate so much with each one of them. And it’s hard to just pick one!

 What are your drag hopes for the future?

I really just want to continue to make people laugh. With so much hardships that I’ve gone through, humor has always been there for me. So potentially, I really want a show (or two) I can call my own, and also have new talent there to pay it forward. I really just want to–and am excited to–watch myself to continue to flourish.

I’m also working on my degree in Mass Communications in Media, so I want to become a personality for a major LGBT network/company (like Logo), and use my platform as a drag queen to connect with young adults/adults about real LGBT issues; that would be fun. Doing fundraisers for Orlando and the AIDS Walk are things that make me feel like I’m really doing my part, and I look forward to giving back more as well.

Long term goals would also include merch (which might not be too far from what I’m hoping). and eventually my own Eyeliner. #TriangleBlack, could you imagine?
Overall, my hope is just to never give up and keep going. The Pythagorean Theorem is here to stay!

We wouldn’t have it any other way. Thanks, Zalika!


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Zalika Parsons is the door queen for the monthly party “Looz It” at Bizarre Bushwick on last Saturdays. She’ll guest star at Viva Vidalia’s final show at Rockbar (7pm) and perform for Bordello’s 2nd Year Anniversary (10pm), both on July 28th. She’ll appear for Look Queen at Monster as a judge on July 31st (10pm) and again for the finale as a performer on August 28th (10pm). Also on July 31st, Zalika will be guest performing for JizzaBella’s Stonewall Invasion (11pm). She will guest perform for Erika Klash’s Rockbar show on August 1st (9pm), she’ll be featured as the main performer for Q Train at Sycamore Bar on August 4th (8pm) and will guest perform in Ari Kiki’s Boots & Saddle show on August 30th (8pm). Sometime during the month of August, she will partake in the revival of Metropolitan Bar’s underwear party. Zalika can be followed on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter & YouTube.

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