Things you shouldn’t do: come for this queen, cuz she don’t play. Things you should do: gag on this queen, because she’s one of Brooklyn’s most beloved entertainers, and because her Alotta Stuff vintage fashion finds are coveted in and beyond the drag world. She shows off her wears weekly at one of the coolest parties in the East Village, and auctions them off monthly in Brooklyn’s longest-running and most celebrated Happening. And in September, she’s gonna be one busy, and benevolent, bitch. Get On Point with Alotta MicGriddles!
Thotyssey: Hi Alotta! Thanks for talking to us. You’re in Italy as of this moment, and I’m so sorry for your timing. Are you near the horrendous earthquake at all?
Alotta McGriddles: Thankfully I was not, but it is all over the news! A lot of people actually reached out to me to make sure I was okay, and I was truly touched.
Are you vacationing?
I am on vacation, but it is more a visit to my family in Sicily. I have a 94 year-old grandfather here, and I want to make sure I visit him as much as I can while he’s still with us! It’s become a regular yearly trip for me.
That’s wonderful that’s you’re seeing your grandpa! Have you been elsewhere in Europe ever?
Unfortunately, no. Whenever I can take a vacation overseas, this is where I go. But I hope to visit Paris and Amsterdam soon!
That would be cool, but family first!
Let’s talk about Alotta for a bit. How would you describe your own style of drag? And is Alotta a fully-realized drag persona, or a heightened version of yourself?
I like to think of Alotta as a version of [my boy self] Dominic, with the volume turned all the way up and the knob broken off. I see Alotta queens looking the same–same tacky clothing, same tacky jewelry–and I try to do something different. If people mistake you for other drag queens, or if you look like everyone else–in my opinion, you’re doing something wrong. I want people to see me and say “oh, that’s Alotta” without a second thought as to what queen I might be.
I’m still learning who Alotta is. I think the great thing about real drag is that you are ever-changing. Stagnancy equals death. I have an appreciation of vintage clothing, and original pieces that stand the test of time. This is something instilled in me by Thorgy, who in fact named me and pushed me to start drag. I wouldn’t be here without her.
I guess if I had to describe Alotta in a few words it would be cunty, contemporary camp. I have an appreciation for old songs, and those who came before me. I think that is always my goal when I perform, to put a new spin on something old. I want the younger generation of gays to know their herstory, and to instill the values of timeless art. If you gag on a queen doing a current pop song and a death drop, I’m probably not the girl for you. I feel when everyone does the same thing, it no longer makes us special. As artists we need to elevate, push ourselves, and not live on a plateau of creativity.
That sounds like a great outlook for performing. I know that, as Dominic, you are very Bear and Leather, and now we see a rise of queens who are incorporating a lot of “masc” into their drag. But you prefer to keep Alotta pure female. Do you think you’ll ever cross over into, or flirt with, Beard Queen world?
I like the dichotomy of my personas. I have several performances where I de-drag onstage. I use my differences in appearance as an impact. I want people to think they know one thing, then turn them on their heads and present them with something completely different. To me, it’s two different things. I appreciate bearded queens and the like, but that aesthetic is not for me. The biggest part of drag, for me, is the transformation.
So Alotta, where are you from?
I’m originally from Long Island, New York!
Sorry to hear that! Just kidding. What were you into as a kid, and what were you like socially?
I was a loner for most of high school. I was teased and bullied tremendously: by teachers, by friends, and especially by people who didn’t know me at all. It wasn’t until I joined the football team that I started to have some kind of social acceptance. But even then I was bullied badly, by most of the members on the team.
When I finally came out in junior year, I decided to quit. It is the biggest regret of my life, because I let the bullies win. I grew up never having a comeback, or support to stand up for myself. I am happy to say now, that if you pick a fight with me, you will be dearly sorry indeed. I guess that’s where most of my strength comes from, because after years of not having a comeback, I now have all of them.
Perhaps this is where my constant defense of being bitchy comes in as well. After years of emotional and physical abuse, I will never let anyone make me feel that way again. It’s a fine line not to become a bully yourself, and I struggle with that. I try not to be mean, just extra saucy and sassy.
Does having that hard exterior make it difficult to form friendships in the drag community, where many queens have similar skins?
Not really. I don’t think you become a drag queen without some hardcore emotional baggage. We celebrate life now because of the constant struggle we had, and most gay people have, growing up. We’ve all been there. We know our struggles. So, it’s great to meet and be with people in the same mindset as you. No matter our differences, we’re all sisters. We’re all giving a big fuck you to society. We can be mean, but it comes with the territory.
Some of my best friends in life now are the queens I work with. Some of them my worst enemies. But I think it’s because they’re horrible people in general, not necessary bad drag queens. In every way of life, you will meet truly evil and horrendous people. It’s more about finding out who they are, and staying far away from them.
And if they happen to be working the same night as you, give them a big smile, and tear up the stage so they know who’s in charge.
Tell me about your time studying opera. What attracted you to that genre, and why did you ultimately stop?
I was a big theater kid in high school. I loved to play violin and sing. When it came time to choose a college, I knew I wanted to go to SUNY Purchase. Incredibly LGBT-friendly. They already had non-gender bathrooms when I arrived in 2004.
I had to choose between whether to pursue violin or voice, so I choose voice. The only problem was, Purchase didn’t have a musical theater program, only opera. So I went for it. There was only about 15 spots available and 500 people tried out for it, or so I was told.
When I arrived, I hated the program. It was incredibly constrictive creatively. I was told how to talk, what to eat, what classes I would have to take. It was a conservatory, so even incoming freshmen has to take something like 32 credits a semester. I thought college was somewhere I could finally do what I want, and not be told what to do all the time. The people in the conservatory and the staff were also terrible: snotty, and real full of themselves. I just didn’t fit in.
By the end of freshman year, I had a terrible cocaine addiction and lost about 100 pounds within a year. Some of it was to cope with my studies, and some of it was a pressure to be thin, if I didn’t want to be cast as the fat comic relief in every opera.
I decided to quit, and take courses that truly interested me like gender studies, sexuality, psychology and etc.. I am happy to say these courses shaped my identity, and were the true motivating force to get over my addiction.
I am also happy to have gotten over that part of my life in college. Drug use is rampant in nightlife, and I see all these young people destroying their health with cocaine and Molly, and I never partake. It’s made me more professional in my work. I’ll never be the coked-out drag queen on stage, unable to move their mouth because of how numb their face is. If anything, college allowed me to get that part of my life out of my system. I see the others ruining their careers and health, and I’m like “Thanks, Boo! I’ll have your gig next week, because nobody likes a sloppy mess to represent their establishment.”
So what got you to Brooklyn after college, and what were the people and places that first attracted you in the scene?
[My college friend] Thorgy Thor of course! After college, I moved in with that witch. I was really down and depressed, because I lost such a major part of my life when I stopped performing. Then I went to go support Thorgy at bars, and was exposed to this completely new take on performance art. No rules, no judgments, just a complete manifestation of internal aesthetic all over your body. It blew my muthafuckin’ mind.
I was terrified to do it myself. I thought, since I was this big burly dude and had many ill-conceived concepts of masculinity, that I could never do it. I would go out and support Thorgy, be her prop, her assistant, help her with a number or a show etc., but that was it.
It wasn’t until I started to read other queens, that Thorgy pulled me aside and was like, “Dom, I love you, but don’t you dare come for these queens if you aren’t willing to do this for yourself.” It was a slap in the face, and I needed it. The very next day, I had her paint my face and put me in a wig so I could be as shady as I wanted.
I used to call her my drag mother. Now I call her my Evil Step Drag Mother, because she did push me to start it but she never let me ride her coattails, like so many try to do now that she’s been on Drag Race. She let me figure out and learn things for myself. I’m a better queen because of it.
I love that!
Are you a fan of actual McDonalds’ McGriddles by the way? I haven’t had one in awhile, but they were yummy.
Of course! You can bet your ass if it’s between the hours of 5am-11am, I will be eating a McGriddle. Sometimes after a gig, I stay up until 5am and get one. Some of the drive-thru people actually know me pretty well! [laughs]
So, I remember when every drag queen was being asked about the nightlife divide between Manhattan and Brooklyn, and most queens were saying that was exaggerated. But I definitely see a divide now, and the two worlds seem as different as can be. Is that… okay? Can the two worlds co-exist?
Absolutely! Different is divine! I think Alotta the Manhattan queens look down on us Brooklyn girls, but some don’t. It depends on the queen.
For me, I used to hate the fact people always called me a Brooklyn queen, because Brooklyn is associated with messiness. But I think it’s more because everyone here is just trying to have a good time, and is more accepting of what you do on stage.
Now I’m proud of the fact that I’m a Brooklyn queen, even though I do host in Manhattan every week, and guest spot here and there. It’s where I got my start. Brooklyn girls come in all forms, whereas Manhattan queens I think aim to be more polished. To each their own. In all honesty, I think I’m a Brooklyn girl by default because I live here, so why would I go into Manhattan to make the same–and sometimes less–coin than I do to just stay where I am? I have made my mark here and I am happy to be a part of something different and special.
If you’re good at what you do and people support you, who cares? We’re all just a clown in a dress, we’re not curing cancer. Shut up and have some fun! I think Bianca Del Rio said that, and I try to remember that whenever people start to take themselves too seriously.
Speaking of Bianca! What did you think of Thorgy’s run on Drag Race? You were hosting a viewing party of her season with your co-panelists of The LQQK at Macri Park. Do you think she was shafted or portrayed unfairly? And did all of Brooklyn lose their shit when she was eliminated?
I absolutely, 100% think she was shafted. But she made her mark, and that’s what counts. When these girls tour and do gigs, I think the public will see who has talent and who deserved to go home sooner or later. I think she has an incredible spirit, and I knew if she ever made it on people would love her, just as much as I do. It’s kind of like, yeah, she went home too soon, but she’s the one who’s gonna get more bookings when all is said and done–not because of how far she got or didn’t get, but about how incredible a performer she is.
That’s why you see girls who make Top 3 slowly disappear: because venues book them thinking they’re getting the best, when in actuality, some of them leave the audience scratching their heads thinking, ”that was top 3!?“ Then they book someone like Thorgy, who only made it half-way, and they can’t wait to have them back. And word spreads who’s incredible and who’s not, despite what we are shown on television. And that’s the real T.
Couldn’t have said it better myself! You and Thorgy still co-host one of Brooklyn’s most popular monthly events at Metropolitan Bar–Alotta Stuff, where you auction off schwag from your closets and beyond. Can you reflect a little on how you two came up with this idea?
Absolutely! Honestly, this event is what propelled me to start drag. Thorgy and I are big thrifters, and we would always go shopping together and find these pieces that wouldn’t fit either one of us. It was always so sad to leave them at the store, when we know people would gag on some of the things we found. So we came up with the idea to auction them off, and kind of pay it forward.
However, I wasn’t doing drag yet. I think she hosted one by herself, and I was like, “I have to be a part of this,” and it pushed me to become Alotta McGriddles at full-throttle.
Now, we are officially becoming Brooklyn’s longest-running drag event on Thursday, September 8th at Metropolitan Bar, with our 5-year anniversary.
It isn’t always profitable. People always think we’re walking away with bundles of cash, when in reality we purchase every single item for the auction. It’s a gamble. I’ve bought things for $5 that have sold for $50, and have bought things for $50 that have sold for $5. In the end it’s about having fun, and I think that’s what has made the event stand the test of time. We love it, and are really proud of it. We’ve been featured in Huffington Post, the Village Voice, Next Magazine, The Cut and more!
And of course some of the items are from our actual closet, that we want to see go to a good home and continue the appreciation of an awesome garment. Also now we have two official sponsors! Out of the Closet Thrift Stores, which offer free HIV and STD screenings at their store; and Life Boutique Thrift, which gifts us some incredible couture items. Thanks, guys!
I read about it everywhere! Thorgy’s coming back for the big anniversary, and you’re going to have lots of guest performers. How epic is it gonna be?
Like, if you’re anywhere else on the 8th…. You’re fucking stupid. Live shows from Thorgy, myself, Ragamuffin, Heidi Glum, Lady Havokk, Untitled Queen and Daphne Sumtimez. Also, we are only putting in the best of the best items this month. People will be screaming, shitting in their hands and throwing it at the wall. I guarantee it.
So, Macri Park, the small sister venue of the Metropolitan Bar where your live talk show panel
The LQQK was situated at for about a year, is re-purposing into a “video bar.” That sadly means that
The LQQK, and several other drag shows that were held there, have been disrupted.
But the good news is, when you return from Italy you’ll be co-hosting the Drag Race All-Stars viewing party on Thursdays there with Miz Jade (because I guess that format gels with their new business model)! Did you get to watch the first episode of All-Stars 2 yet? It was actually kind of amazing.
Yes! I found it on the interwebs, thank God. I can’t believe it. They have some incredible talent on this season, and I hope whoever’s idea it was to put the girls in teams the last All-Stars got fired.
My personal favorite is Alaska. I think she’s fucking genius. I’m also rooting for Phi Phi. I have had the pleasure of hanging out with her several times, and think she was given a shitty hand when she was on her season. She has grown so much, and is just a delight to know. Such a talented queen.
Yes, Macri Park is now a video bar, and because of that The LQQK has been put on hiatus. I was extremely proud of that event. It was really serious, covering hot topics and things in the news, especially after Orlando. It was almost therapeutic, and I had so many people come up to me after the show and say, “thanks, I really needed to talk about that.” I love doing something different for all my events. But don’t worry, I don’t think it is the last you have seen of The LQQK.
And in the meantime, come join me and Miz Jade every Thursday for All-Stars with no cover! I have been hosting Drag Race at one establishment or another for five years now, and I love the energy of the bar when everyone comes together to experience the show. It makes it a lot more fun.
I feel like there are a lot of young queens and club kids these days who want instant gratification and recognition, and aren’t willing to do the work or put up with criticism. How do you handle people like that?
Grow the hell up. Nothing in life is easy. If you are out in a wig and a dress and expect to be paid for basically nothing, you are in the wrong career. You have to pay your dues. Listen to older and wiser queens who have been doing it for longer. There’s a reason they’re still around.
Everyone when they first start thinks they’re God’s gift to nightlife. Be humble. Start at the bottom and work your way up. Don’t expect top dollar right away, because it will only show how juvenile you actually are.
Surround yourself with people you admire, who will be honest with you, that will support you but give you criticism when you need it.
Well said. So at this point in your nightlife career, can you spot the genuine talents and artists from the wannabes and hangers-on pretty quickly?
Oh, immediately. I’m a pretty good judge of character. I’ll be the first to spot [the wannabes], keep my distance and say how awful they are. Then people say I’m such a bitch. A little while later, people will come up to me and say, “girl! You were right about that one!” I try not to do my told you so dance when that happens.
Ugh. I’m sorry to say, I’m pretty ashamed of that moment. Ruby and I have since become friendly, but it was basically right before my first show at Stonewall when she came and tried to throw shade at me. I was like, “girl you wanna throw shade? I’ll throw a muthafuckin’ chair.”
I try not to be that person anymore, but some people remind me so much of the bullying I experienced in high school that I get triggered and see red. I’m happy to say we’ve moved on, and at least got a Slammy out of my idiocy. Thanks Bob, and you’re welcome Ruby!
You two were actually really funny and cute when you accepted that award!
Speaking of crazy nightlife: Strut! That’s Deryck Todd’s old school glam party Tuesday nights at ACME. You’re a hostess and occasional performer there, but you also bring Alotta Stuff to sell there. What exactly is it that you’re selling, and how would you describe that party for someone who’s never been?
I love MCing that party! Thank you, Deryck, for asking me to do it! Basically I bring my Alotta Stuff rack there to give a preview of items to come at the auction and to promote my monthly event. I got asked to be a vintage buyer for Patricia Field because of it (before it closed), and have even gotten a write-up in the New York Times. Recently Michael Musto even gave me a shout out for best place to shop in NYC!
Have you become very well-schooled in vintage–like, can you identify periods and styles and designers pretty easily? Or is it like, “That’s cute?”
I will say I am much more knowledgeable then when I first started out. I know what is a top quality garment vs something you can find just about anywhere. My rack has become slimmer and more refined than what it used to be, but that’s because I know what’s a true treasure!
You host Alotta Trivia on Wednesdays at Metropolitan. That’s always fun! Bar trivia people can be a tough crowd though if they take it too seriously, right?
OMG, you would not believe how crazy people can get! And over a pitcher of Bud Light, too! [Laughs] It’s all in good fun, though. I’ve been hosting trivia at Metropolitan for over a year now. I am so thankful for all of my regulars who come and support. Every first Wednesdays is Harry Potter, second is Disney, third is Who Wants to be a Millionaire and the fourth rotates. Every Wednesday from 9pm-11pm!
I think Gays Against Guns is a charity that everyone in the LGTB needs to be watching and supporting now, and I am so happy that you are hosting a benefit for them at Metropolitan on September 1st with Crimson Kitty & Lady Quesa’dilla. How long have you all been planning to do something like this?
I have had the idea of Sweet Charity in my head for over a year now, but it wasn’t until recently that I decided what organization to partner with. I was deeply affected by Orlando. It could have been any of us. I think about it almost every day. When I saw the demonstrations Gays Against Guns were doing, I knew who I wanted for this event. I marched myself down that very same week to the LGBT Center, where they have their meetings, and gave my pitch. They loved it.
There is a suggested donation at the door of $5, and 100% of that goes to GAG. I think it’s important to give back to a community that has given me so much. So many of us get tied up in money and partying, but I wanted to do more and bring a cause into our nightlife family. It’s literally the least that I, or any of us can do. So come party, shut up and give $5 dollars to an awesome cause. Join us every 1st Thursday at Metropolitan and make an actual difference!
Crimson Kitty is a wonderful person and I enjoy her company so much I though of her immediately–along with Lady Quesa’Dilla, who works at the LGBT Center and has always done so much good for the community. It’s the perfect bunch. Perhaps later we will have more guests, but I encourage anyone in nightlife to come support, perform and add something to the night.
Are you going to support GAG each month?
GAG every month! Until our gun laws change, or they grow tired of me.
Are you performing in Bushwig this year?
I am not, but only because I am in charge of the new vendor section of Bushwig. BUSHSWAG will feature local designers, sellers and artists. I am so excited to add a different element to this year’s event. Thank you, Horrorchata, for asking me to be a part of it!
Do you have any desire to revisit your singing self and go the drag queen novelty song / video route (but with better-than-average vocals, obvs)?
Yes, absolutely. The only problem I face is, I’m very particular of how I want to present myself. I see Alotta drag queens singing along with some track, and I only think of how amateur and karaoke-like it is.
My dream is to have an actual pianist or a band to be with me on that stage. It’s the only way I see myself singing live in the future. But if I get drunk enough at the end of some nights, it does happen!
Okay… in closing: what’s the best advice, aside from what you mentioned above, you could give a young drag queen just entering the biz?
“Do not come for me, bitch.”
And pity the bitch who does! Okay, thank you so much Alotta! Enjoy the rest of your vacation!
Alotta McGriddles is a host and vendor for Strut! at ACME on Tuesday nights (10pm). She hosts Alotta Trivia at Metropolitan Bar on Wednesday nights (9pm), and starting September 1st she will co-host a RuPaul’s Drag Race All-Stars viewing party with Miz Jade at Macri Park on Thursday nights (8pm). Also / later on September 1st, Alotta will begin co-hosting the monthly Sweet Charity show at Metropolitan Bar with Crimson Kitty & Lady Quesa’Dilla, which benefits Gays Against Guns. On September 10-11th, she will manage BUSHSWAG, the vendor department of the Bushwig performance festival at the Knockdown Center. Alotta can be followed on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, and she has a website.