Bestowing upon our city a much-needed sense of southern grace and glamour, pageant queen and songstress Vita Summers has taken NYC by storm in a relatively short period of time. Now with three weekly shows this season, a Stonewall Invasion this weekend and lots of stuff on the horizon, Vita is both a force to be reckoned with and the picture of poise and professionalism. Thotyssey learns the secrets of success from this delightful Dallas diva!
Vita Summers: I have actually done Bootsie’s Sinful Saturdays quite a few times! It’s one of my favorite shows to guest in! We always have a fantastic crowd and a great time!
You’ve been on a great high these past few months, with lots of pageant wins and new gigs in the city. And it’s all happening at once, it seems! Are you surprised, or maybe overwhelmed, that this is all kinda coming together now?
I wouldn’t say overwhelmed, but I am extremely grateful. I spent my first year in New York trying to do everything possible to break into the scene. When things didn’t go well, I had to go back to Texas for a few months to regroup. Now that I’m back, I’m finding a lot more success, and I am trying to stay relevant by not turning any gigs away.
Your fan base is growing! And meanwhile, I see you’re moved into a new fixer upper. Are you excited about the new crib?
Yes! I just moved in to a great renovated place with Lauren Ordair! We are so excited to have a one stop drag shop! I have a feeling there will be a slew of queens on our sofa at all times.
So, let’s start at the beginning with you. You’re from Dallas?
Yes I was born and raised in a town just north of Dallas called McKinney.
Holly Box-Springs bases her drag character on what she labels as a stereotypical type of Dallas girl, with big hair and daddy’s credit card and a devil may care attitude. Did you see that growing up there?
[Laughs] definitely. Big hair and sparkles are a mandatory part of Dallas lifestyle. There is a lot of wealth in Dallas, and wealth is measured by appearance. The more done up you are, the wealthier you are perceived to be. It’s exhausting!
Sounds like Hell’s Kitchen. How else was life like growing up for you? What were your interests, and hopes and dreams, as a kid?
Well, I was always interested in music and dance. I was a theatre kid, and later went on to study–and soon teach–dance. I really wanted to be on Broadway most of my childhood and teen years. Then life happens, and you run off course a little bit.
But I come from a very supportive family. My mother is my absolute best friend, and she along with my aunts and grandmother are some of my biggest drag supporters.
That’s wonderful! You’re really known for your amazing voice… When did you start singing?
I have been singing my whole life. But I think we realized it was something I might be good at around age 12. That’s when my mother and grandmother began putting me in voice lessons and theatre camps.
Who have some of your favorite singers been?
My biggest inspiration was always Celine Dion, and a close second would be Whitney Houston!
When did you first start drag?
I started drag via musical theatre about four years ago. And then about a year later, I started doing drag “seriously.”
So, the prospect of singing female roles in Broadway was one of the reasons you started drag. Doesn’t it seem like no one wants to actually sing the boring guy parts?
Definitely! The best power ballads are written for females. It’s always been a dream of mine to play roles that aren’t written for drag, but could conceivably be done in drag. Like Ursula in The Little Mermaid.
Oh, totally! Now, you were originally called Vita Summers Dalux. What was the origin of that name, and when/why did you drop the last part?
Originally my name was Vita Dalux. Then my drag mother Krystal Summers took me on, and I kept the last part of my name, becoming Vita Summers Dalux, in order to continue to grow the name I started with. Eventually, I realized that one of the biggest advantages to having a very well-known drag mother is getting to exploit the name they give you. So I dropped the Dalux, and for the majority of my career I have been just Vita Summers.
What’s Krystal like? Is she a pageant queen, too?
She is my biggest drag inspiration. She is so hard-working, kind, and maybe the most beautiful creature you will ever see. She was always very supportive of me doing pageants, but it wasn’t something that she was particularly excited about doing herself–until last year, after years of her friends begging her. She finally entered Miss Gay USofA. And after 15 years out of the pageant circuit, she placed first alternate. It was quite a comeback.
Do you enjoy looking at First Beat pics, or is it horrifying for you?
Honestly, it doesn’t terrify me. Everyone starts somewhere. But I can promise you that there are very little–probably close to zero–photos of me when I first started. I got rid of all of them, because I’m the type of person that doesn’t like to be bad at something, and for a long time I was bad at drag and I hate to see evidence of that.
Would you say that now you are a perfectionist… and don’t you have to be, in the national pageant circuit?
I try to be well put together at all times. But we all have rough days. I will say that in a national pageant system, the judges will notice every little detail. So not only do you have to be extremely consistent, but you have to be as close to perfect as humanly possible.
I recall a moment on social media when you voiced concern that a queen who solely sings had less of a chance of making it in NYC nightlife than one who can also be funny, and do comedy mix numbers.
I’m learning that it all depends on the area of town your in. I’m not one to do funny “mixes” like a lot of the queens in the city do. My comedy is in my emcee style. My numbers may not be funny, but that doesn’t mean that I’m not funny. I know that a typical Hell’s Kitchen crowd is more inclined to enjoy a comedy lip-sync number. On the other hand, the crowd in the West Village on a Saturday almost unanimously voice their preference for my live numbers.
Actually, when I first started drag I did Marilyn Monroe live. But after gaining some weight, I quit doing her so much. Illusions have never really been my thing. But after joining the team at Lips (where they have two nights a week dedicated to illusions), I decided to really work on some good characters in order to be a well-rounded employee that can work any of the shows. So I now do Fat Amy, Adele, Meghan Trainor, Christina Aguilera, and I’m working on a live Boy George impersonation currently.
Wow, can’t wait to see that one! While we’re on the subject, how do you like working at Lips now? The queens don’t just perform there–they host and seat parties, take food orders, bartend, etc. It seems like it must be a very specific, unique working environment.
I absolutely love it! It’s one of the most fun places I have ever worked. All of the people I work worth are lovely! And I love interacting with people, so it’s the perfect job for me!
So, as I said earlier, you’ve become one of the great breakout pageant queens, with many crowns and sashes on your mantle. When did pageantry start for you?
I competed in my first pageant (Miss Gay Dallas USofA Newcomer) about six months into doing drag professionally. And then I caught the bug, and never stopped. I competed in my very first national pageant (All-American Goddess at Large) two years ago, and placed in the Top Five. That is the pageant accomplishment that I am most proud of!
If a new queen with potential approached you and said, “I want to try a national pageant this year,” what would be your first piece of advice to her?
Study everything about the pageant. Buy DVDs of previous years. Study the formers. Study the judges. Study the system, and what they expect from a queen. Know it inside and out; that way, nothing will surprise you. It will also show the judges and the board that you are serious about learning and helping a system grow–you’re not just in it for the prize money. Being a national title holder really is a job.
How is it like a job, once you have the title?
A national pageant is a business built to make money. So, your job is to sell smaller preliminary pageants leading up to the big pageant. You are also required to assist in recruiting contestants, help the grow the system, be present and help run the smaller preliminary pageants. It’s truly a second job that requires you to travel many weeks out of the year.
Wow, that is a lot. By the way, congratulations on your most recent local win, Miss Hell’s Kitchen! How was that experience for you?
It was a great experience! So many talented girls, and not an ounce of drama. It was a fantastic show and fundraiser, and I’m so excited to see what next year holds.
Was your Miss Fire Island win last year your first experience with Fire Island?
I actually worked on Fire Island all that summer. I had a show at Cherry’s every Friday night! So Miss Fire Island closed out my first summer working out there.
Okay let’s talk about your shows there this season. First, Naughty Bingo Wednesday nights. What makes the bingo naughty?
When I took over bingo this year, I wanted to make sure that it was something different that we don’t already have on the island. So the owner and I came up with Naughty Bingo. It’s not just bingo, it’s like the gay version of a bachelorette party! Naughty games, naughty prizes, and I’m just nasty all night!
Then on Friday nights you host karaoke there. Any great singing discoveries on the Grove?
There are plenty of bad singers who do it for fun; lots of bad singers who think they are Mariah Carey. And a few really great singers that actually surprise the crowd when they get up to sing! But no matter your skill level, it’s just a fun night to get away from the crazy hyper sexual nightlife of Fire Island and just have some fun!
Speaking of hyper-sexuality on the Island, what kind of vibe are you getting there this season? Logan Hardcore said that she thought maybe FI has actually been becoming more “family friendly” lately.
Family friendly, and also a lot more younger straight people. In today’s society, we obviously get a lot of backlash as a LGTB community. But, being gay is also more accepted–and almost coveted by straight women in particular–then it ever has been. I feel like Fire Island is becoming a place for straight women and bachelorette parties to come play with the gays and the drag queens. As long as they are respectful and don’t get out of hand, I think them coming to visit us is a fabulous thing!
Okay, back to Manhattan. For August, you’re filling in for Honey Davenport (so she can host her own Fire Island gig) as Delilah Brooks’ co-host for her Saturday happy hour show at Boots & Saddle! How do you like that dynamic of co-hosting with her?
I love Delilah! I met Delilah through Honey. She recommended that I host one of the weeks she was out last year. Delilah and I immediately hit it off! We have the best onstage chemistry and friendship!
And then Sunday the 7th, you’re headlining a Stonewall Invasion! You’re bringing along three of your great Lips sisters: roomie Lauren Ordair, Chandilier and Blackie O. They also all happen to be great singers. Will it be an all-singing Invasion?
Yes, I’m very excited to have Lauren, Blackie and Chandi, but I have also invited the fabulous Miss Saline Dijon! We do all happen to sing, but I want to put on the best show possible, so we will give you a little bit of everything. After all, it is my birthday invasion!
Tell me about the DC march this month.
Next weekend, Delilah Brooks and I are off to Washington DC to march with Disarm Hate on August 13th. A great friend of mine, Jason Hayes, has built a huge march on Washington from his kitchen table. The Brady Campaign has partnered with him, and they are expecting a huge turnout. So Delilah and I will be there marching to protect the rights of our LGTB brothers and sisters, and to reform gun laws.
Extraordinary! Good for you and good luck! Here’s a worthy segue: Who should win All-Stars Season 2?
I would have to say that my hometown Dallas girl Alyssa Edwards should win!
Good choice. Okay, last question: what’s one thing that the public might not know about Vita Summers, but should?
I wish I had some great inspirational answer to this question, but I’m not that smart. So, I think the public should know: if you want to buy me a shot, don’t buy me Fireball!
I hope you read that, everybody! Thanks so much Vita, and enjoy everything!
This summer, Vita Summers hosts Naughty Bingo on Wednesday nights and karaoke Friday nights, both 9:30pm, at Cherry’s on the Bay on Fire Island. In August, she co-hosts the Hungry Hungry Hippo Happy Hour with Delilah Brooks at Boots & Saddle on Saturdays (4pm). Vita will guest host Manster at Monster on Saturday, August 6th (10pm), and headline her Stonewall birthday Invasion on Sunday, August 7th (10pm). She’ll march in Washington, DC for Disarm Hate on August 13th, and she’ll pass the crown to the winner of Miss Fire Island 2016 at the Ice Palace on September 10th. Vita can be followed on Facebook, Instagram & YouTube.