On Point With: Sapphira Cristal

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This “very odd child” who prayed at the Church of Beyonce (no, literally) and was schooled vigorously in the performing arts, grew up to be a fierce, funny and drop dead gawgeous drag diva of New York, Philly and beyond.She’s gigging all over the damn place these days. and this weekend she’s vying for the coveted Miss Cherry’s pageant crown in Fire Island. Let’s all give praise in the Cathedral of Goddess Sapphira Cristal!


Thotyssey: Hey Sapphira! I see you performed with the Brooklyn Bordello for the Bridge Street Cabaret at Amarchi last night. How did that go?

Sapphira Cristal: Yes, last night I was a special surprise addition to the Bridge Street Cabaret. I was asked to perform my Dreamgirls number, which is a mix of “One Night Only” and “And I Am Telling You.” I have fed audience members honey in previous performances, but this time I served them red velvet cake.
Then pulled my hamstring again….[laughs].

Oh no! Are you an injury-prone queen?

Not traditionally. But lately, my legs have been hating me and my adrenaline-filled decisions.

Sorry girl! 

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So Sapphira, where are you from?

I’m originally from Houston, Texas but I currently live in Philadelphia. Sapphira was born in Rochester, NY and bred in Boston / Provincetown,

What was a Houston childhood like for you?

Well, I was a very odd child. A social butterfly who observed a lot and had many different friends and interests. I was an only child, and hung out with my parents and my elderly neighbors mostly. My father was a MMA trainer and fighter, and so I grew up taking Brazilian, Jiu-Jitsu and Muay Thai.

I was also brought up in church. I went to the same church as Beyonce and Kelly, St. John’s UMC. There I sang in the choir, performed in mime, praise-danced, taught baby Bible study, and woke up every Saturday morning to feed the Homeless at the Bread of Life.

Wow– did you ever get a chance to see Beyoncé and Kelly there?

Yeah, but every time I saw them I had no idea it was them. Someone told me later on, “that was Beyonce and Kelly.”

I’m speechless! You were in her presence! Give me a moment…. okay!

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So, there’s been an unfortunate slew of attacks on some of our NYC drag sisters lately… do you feel like you can absolutely defend yourself with your martial arts training if, God forbid, you had to?

Well honestly, it’s been a while since i had to fight, but I’m pretty sure that barring weapons and groups jumping me from all sides, I’m pretty sure i’m safe.

No doubt! So beyond church, did you ever receive any schooling in the arts?

I ended up going to the high school for the performing and visual arts, HSPVA. There, I learned how to read and write music. I majored in voice then, and performed in every major production.

I was drawn to composition, so I went to the Eastman School of Music to hone composition skills. It was while in Rochester that I was inspired to start drag. Rochester drag is the ticket.

Eve Black told us a little about the Rochester scene–Muthers

OMG Eve Black? You are taking me back [laughs]! I love Rochester. When I was in college, I went to Tilt and a frat bro of mine was the fabulous Jenna Saisquoi. To see her on really lit the match, but to see my drag mother Deelicious perform–now, that’s what put the match to the fuse. She was so beyond everything you could ask for: a gracious performer and a loving heart that washed over us.  I’m serious, she is fantastic.

[Rochester’s] drag is fun, creative, dramatic, but very attractive. You’d be surprised by that little town that put out three RuPaul’s Drag Race girls.

Muthers was where I had my first performance, got most of my first gigs and met some of the most beautiful souls I’ll ever know. I’m sad it’s gone, but happy to have been there.

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How would you describe your drag aesthetic and performing style?Or in other words, what kind of lady is Sapphira Cristal?

I’m a chameleon. People never recognize me. My concentration in that is female impersonation. I love women and all they represent. So I try to be a physical representation of my adoration.

As far as performance, it depends on the task. I sing a great variety of styles of music live, and I’m an expert lip sync artist, and I love impersonation. I see myself more as a performance artist who loves drag and gender expression.  My original inspirations were the great Divas of Opera, Leontyne Price and Jessye Norman.

Do you actually sing opera, too?

Oh yeah! I studied vocal performance at Eastman and Opera at Longy while majoring in composition. I have a five-octave range. I love singing so much. I burst into song randomly quite often.

I wish I got to hear you sing more! I guess it isn’t always easy to showcase that during certain bar gigs. So, what’s been your favorite gig here in NYC?

I love all my gigs in NYC; people are so amazing everywhere l go. I love Boots & Saddle because it’s one of the few places where people come just to watch a fabulous queen rock their world all day long.

I loved being in the gay pride parade on the Netflix float giving you Crazy Eyes realness. I also loved being on Bravo TV’s Watch What Happens Live as Whitney Houston with my sister Honey Davenport and niece Sasha Pierce Davenport. That was a double: not only was I on TV, but I also got to meet Angela Bassett!

I also love hosting Had It at Pieces. Four hours of me. I take no breaks, and we all go through a spiritual transformation.

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This August, you’re hosting the weekly Wednesday happy hour at the Hamilton Lodge’s Kazza Wine Bar up in Hamilton Heights. How’re you liking that so far?

It’s fabulous! David Stienman put this fabulous happy hour up called the Equality Happy Hour. Honey Davenport is the original host, but with her busy summer schedule, “Summer with Sapphira” became a necessity. The feel is very speak-easy and relaxed. One sangria will put you on your ass, so I usually have a about two because I never learn. Also the Bar boys are just, simply, tasty! {laughs}

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So now you’re relocated in Philadelphia. How’s that town treating you?

I love Philly! It’s the city of Brotherly Love! It’s sunny all the time, and I love it here with my wonderful partner Parker. It’s also close enough to NYC that I can do a show and then go right home. Thus, saving my money I made instead of spending it on… what!? I don’t know, but NYC slowly drains my accounts.

I’m Miss Everything 2 here, and I just won Miss Bob and Barbara’s. That place is a pillar, having hosted the longest running drag show in Philadelphia over 20 years.

You’re tearing that city up! How’s Pissi Myles, she’s there too now, right?

I think she is starting to do more in NYC. But she does have a couple shows here. She is a Philly staple. Hilarious and gorgeous!

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You’re coming back to NY this Sunday for a huge pageant–Miss Cherrys on Fire Island!

I love pageants! I’m very excited! I dressed the current Miss Cherry’s last year [Honey].

Great job! I hope you have a good team helping you this weekend.

Honey is my dresser, and I have a fabulous man of many talents: Parker.

Are you ready to slay for this one? 

I’m so ready I can’t wait!

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Good luck! Anything else coming up?

I’ll be hosting August 27th for Manster at  Monster.

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Fun! Who should win Drag Race All-Stars Season 2?

Katya!

What’s your dream situation in, like, a year from now, as far as where you’re living, what kinda gigs your doing, side projects, side pieces, etc?

This time next year I hope to be touring “The Sapphira Cristal Experience” in theaters across the world. I have plans to compete for the Continental pageant next year as well. When not traveling, I expect you will see my face all over this big beautiful city!

What’s better, an authentic Philly cheesesteak, or a real NY slice of pizza?

I’m from Texas, so Texas BBQ wins. I’m allergic to tomatoes, so pizza is out of the question… and let’s just say in Philly l have the roasted pork sandwich.

Get it girl! have a great time at Cherrys & beyond!


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Sapphira Cristal hosts the Summer With Sapphira happy hour at the Hamilton Lodge’s Kazza Wine Bar on Wednesdays in August (7pm-midnight). She will be a contestant for the Miss Cherry’s 2016 pageant at Cherry’s on the Bay in Fire Island on Sunday, August 7th (4pm). She will also guest host Manster at Monster on Saturday, August 27th (10pm). Sapphira can be followed on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter & YouTube.
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