Known for her wide repertoire of drag impersonations of divas ranging from Carol Channing to Big Ang (who was a big fan), the Countess Mascara rode down to our realm from the fair shores of Westchester to conquer us just a few short years ago. Now she’s performing in venues all over the city and beyond, and in September she’ll be vying for one of the most coveting pageant crowns in Dragland. Come get your royalty on with Thotyssey and the the Countess!
Thotyssey: Countess, hello! Thanks for talking to us today. First question that I was always curious about–that promo photo of you standing in a medieval stone doorway… is that the Cloisters?
The Countess Mascara: My drag daughter Golden Delicious took the photo. I wanted to do a little impromptu photoshoot a bunch of months back, because I wanted a nice shot of me for my shirts. I always wanted to do it at the Cloisters, ‘cause it reminds me of a castle. Being “The Countess MASCARA,” the only other obvious place to do it would be in a mascara factory! [laughs]
We were like a couple of spies, though, trying to take that shot. They wouldn’t let us shoot inside, so we walked around trying to get a bunch of different shots till we found this arch, and just jumped in while the staff wasn’t around. And BAM, there she is! I have other pics from that day, but this one was so much fun trying to get. And I felt it is just so representative of who I am.
I think “Countess” has always been my favorite royal title because I’m not sure what it really means (I mean, that Real Housewife was a countess, and so was a character on The L Word), it just sounds fierce. But does being a proper countess take away from your duties as a queen?
I think that being a countess, I can get away with snarky remarks on stage like the countesses before me did on TV. Sometimes the peasants like a little drama. Though, we must carry ourselves proper when off stage, otherwise our kingdom will turn against us. That’s where the demeanor of a Queen must reign supreme, in those one-on-one interactions.
Understood! I see you just did some kind of drag queen Olympics video project with Marti Cummings and some other queens. How did that go?
Oh, that went great! It was fun working with some girls I had worked with before, and some I hadn’t worked with but knew. I’m grateful to Marti for including me in the video project, because I know the end result will be really funny.
You’ve got to give it to Marti! She’s a go-getter. They always told us in acting school to make your own work: be creative and make new projects for yourself, because you never know when it might take off!
So, let’s go back to the early years of the Countess. Where’s your hometown, and what were you like growing up?
I’m from Westchester originally: Buchanan, to be exact. That’s where Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant is. I always say the residual radiation is why I’m so fabulous!.
When I was little, I was always doing crazy characters for anyone who would listen. I’d do impressions of people I knew, and characters on TV like Mrs. Doubtfire. I even went as far as to buy a camcorder with my birthday savings when I was 8 or so, and record all of my crazy impressions.
Did you have a gang of collaborators, or was this your own little universe?
It was all in my own head! I remember one time, my grandmother yelled upstairs when I was staying at her house for me to turn off the TV and go to bed–but it was me, doing different voices or reciting some crazy SNL/MADtv skit I saw. I was always practicing my impressions. The older and more ballsy I got, the more I made my family participate in the little videos.
Did they like doing it, or were they just being supportive?
Yeah, I think they did! My family always laughed a lot.
So coming of age in Westchester, did you go down to the City a lot to hang out and raise hell?
I would go to Splash a lot, and Heaven/Rush/Heaven/?? when I was home on break from school. Me and my friends would go to Broadway shows all the time, too. But I never got into too much trouble.
Where was school, and what did you study?
I went to SUNY Fredonia up by Buffalo. I studied acting.
Is that where you met your good sister JizzaBella? That was her neck of the woods.
No, actually! I met her on Facebook. We both were involved in the online casting contest for Drag Race that year. I think it was, like, a year or so after I graduated. I did my Big Ang impression for the short video, and she thought it was just the funniest thing. And I thought her look was great, and we just became friends instantly!
I see you got to spend time with the late great Big Ang. When did you meet her, and what was she like?
Oh my god. I’m gonna cry now!! She was an amazing person! King Ralphy introduced me to her! I had been doing my impression of her here and there, and he would send her pics of me. She loved her drag queens.
King Ralphy and Phil Chanel arranged for me to meet her at Paradise last summer in Asbury. Kingy was like, “Angela, that’s the queen who does the impression of you that I’ve been sending you!” She goes, “Oh my God baby, come give me a hug! It’s so nice to meet you! You look great!! Just make sure you keep winning!” [Laughs] I think I win every time I perform as her! That impression always makes the crowd laugh and cry. When I’m on stage as her, I’m paying tribute to the larger-than-life person who brought so much joy into the hearts and homes of everyone who watched and knew her! She is extremely missed.
So when did your drag journey actually begin?
Sophomore year of school, I was cast in a show each semester. But then junior year came around, and I wasn’t cast in any of the shows, and was kinda bored. So all of my theater friends said I should do one of my characters for the drag show! I was hesitant at first, but then thought of a really funny performance to my impression of Snooki that I did, so I said fuck it and put on the makeup, heels and wig and went for it!
So many great things start with Snooki! How did that evolve into the Countess?
Originally, the name I chose was Manorexia. But I thought for it to be funny and ironic–I’d have to either be massive or emaciated, and neither were about to happen to me. So after I graduated, I thought: my last name is Mascari, and all my life, everyone called me “Mascara,” so might as well own it.
Oh, as an example… when I was at Nasty Pig for the first time. The guy working there, his name was Ben. He looked at my last name on my card and was like “Oooooh, Mascari! That’s like Mascara; a drag queen would kill for that name!”
They know what they’re talking about over there!
Do you feel pressure to have the most perfect eyes in drag?
I think with a name like Mascara I have to go big or go home! I wear six pairs of lashes on the top. Always with bottom lashes, otherwise it looks lopsided.
What was your first drag show in Westchester?
Actually my first show was performing with Isis Vermouth at her Ego parties up at Primetime near Poughkeepsie! Those parties we epic!
And did I hear correctly that you originated “Are You Smarter Than a Drag Queen?”–a cute bar/drag send-up of the TV quiz show–up there, too?
Yeah, it started up in Westchester as a little thing, and when I moved down here I wanted to get it going again with more queens. I did it at Room 53 in 2014, and then me and JizzaBella did it at Bamboo 52 this year.
Did you ever officially transition into “Manhattan queen” from “Westchester queen,” or do you still rule both kingdoms?
After Primetime closed, I started doing shows with Rhoda Rollins Stone at B Lounge. She started the modern drag movement in Westchester (there was no drag for awhile, to my knowledge, before she started at B Lounge). She gave me, Dotty Spartans, Gigi Cutina and Bella Biscotti a stage! I hadn’t ventured down to the city often, but the more I went out and did shows with my Westchester sisters–and when I would go on adventures with JizzaBella–the more comfortable I got with coming down here.
In late 2014, I moved down to the city, because my mother sold our house in Westchester and she moved to Florida– at least for the winters (kinda jealous about that, to be honest). I haven’t gone back to Westchester to perform but for a few time since then.
You mentioned the NYC version of your show “Are You Smarter…” that ran for a few months at Bamboo52. How do City audiences compare to Westchester audiences?
I think the NYC audiences are much more willing to participate in games and such. A lot of people who played in Westchester honestly just thought it was trivia… They were sorely mistaken [laughs]!
Where do you stand with the big drag pageants these days, any interest in participating?
Well, funny you ask! I’m going to be competing for the title of Miss Fire Island on September 10th! I’ve never done a big pageant before, so this should be interesting.
I had no idea, congratulations! Miss Fire Island or Entertainer of the Year?
Definitely Miss Fire Island. I can’t wait to try my hand at Evening Gown!
Have you found the gown yet?
Yup! But it’s a surprise The song “Blinded By The Light” will be appropriate music
My imagination’s running wild already, I can’t wait to see it!
Okay, so you have a showcase at a restaurant called Benji & Jake’s in the Catskills coming up on Saturday, August 20th. What an interesting opportunity! How did it come about?
Growing up, in the summers my family would go up to our lakehouse in White Lake, NY. I was up a few weeks back with my mother (who is my biggest fan, she comes to every show she is in town for), and she suggested hitting up Benji & Jake’s Pizzeria to do a show ,‘cause they have acts come in all the time! So we did, and they were very receptive!
It’s like my childhood is coming full circle by getting to bring The Countess Mascara up there. It is me showing everyone I’ve known my whole life who I’ve grown up to be! Most of my family will be there showing support as well.
If anyone finds themselves at Bethel Woods–which is just down the street–or up there this weekend for some reason, they should come by! Shows with Me and JizzaBella starting at 9pm!
You’re both probably gonna draw huge crowds of looky-loos up there!
[Laughs] probably! They haven’t seen anybody like us up there!
And the very next night, you and JizzaBella will be guest performers at Drag Race alum Venus D’Lite’s Stonewall Invasion.
I’m looking forward to it!
I was surprised to learn that Jizz was once Venus’ booking agent!
She had booked her for a Diva Brunch show a few years back, which is where I met Venus the first time. I’m just really excited to get to work with her finally! As an impersonator myself, I have so much respect for others who also share the craft!
Should be a great night, especially during Madonna season! You had your own Invasion at Stonewall a few months ago, and you’ve guested for many others. Is that a great venue to perform in?
It’s an amazing place! The staff and management are so welcoming! I was so grateful to Mike Salinari for letting me Invade. It was a special experience! Every time I perform there, it feel like home.
Anything else coming up you wanna talk about?
Rather soon I hope–if I can get all the ducks in a row–I’ll be coming out with some novelty items and new merch that will be available at shows in the near future!
This Thursday, I’ll be using my impersonation talents to do an impersonation of Markus Kelle at his birthday roast at Bette Davis!
Have you been to Bette Davis yet?
Yes!!! It’s so fun! I did my Carol Channing impression there a few weeks ago. I’m so happy that Markus asked me back!
Who should win Drag Race All Stars Season 2?
Alaska! Hands down ALASKA!!! She came to our benefit–we had to raise money to send us NYC girls to Austin a few months back. She was super sweet, and I had her wearing my grey old lady wig all night! Too funny!
So, last question: What’s your favorite aspect about being a queen/countess?
My favorite thing ever is that I get to do my characters and impressions. Now I just need to make the transition into sketch comedy and I’ll be all set!
Lorne Michaels, you better be reading this! Thank you Countess, and have a blast with everything!
The Countess Mascara will perform for the roast of Marcus Kelle at the Hotel Americano’s Bette Davis party on Thursday, August 18th (10pm). She will headline a special show at Benji & Jake’s Pizzeria up in the Catskills on Saturday, August 20th (9pm), and on August 21st (11pm) she’ll be a guest performer for Venus D’Lite’s Stonewall Invasion. She’s competing for Miss Fire Island at the Ice Palace on September 10th. The Countess can be followed on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter & YouTube, and she also has a website.