Miss Stonewall 2016 Whendy Whaxwood kinda came out of nowhere to snatch up that crown just a few short months ago, and she’s been on the up and up ever since! She’s a contestant for this year’s edition of the world famous drag competition “So You Think You Can Drag?” which pushes the competing queens to their creative edges and beyond. How will Whendy whork it? According to what she tells us in this exclusive interview, gurl’s ready for the challenge!
Whendy Whaxwood: I wasn’t able to attend either…don’t shame me! In addition to having a day job (or three), I also work in theater as a stage manager, and this weekend through tonight I’ve been doing shows of Into The Woods with Afterwork Theater. But I have seen videos from the last couple nights, and I’ve been blown away by the performances and looks everyone served! I have to say, I was especially floored by Tammy Spenks’ crazed Ina Garten number.
Yeah, that one is already legendary! Despite being busy though, you’ve really started making your mark in nightlife since winning Miss Stonewall! How long had you been doing drag when that happened?
I officially started performing in January of 2016, so at the time of the Miss Stonewall pageant I had only been doing it for about four months. That pageant was my first night out in drag in NYC, believe it or not.
Oh crap! That’s amazing! I’ve heard of queens debuting their drag in contests, but never a full-on pageant before, and winning! What motivated you to try that?
Honestly, I wasn’t sure how to get my foot in the door. I didn’t really have any friends in the scene or anything–and one night, at Stonewall, I saw a poster for the pageant and thought, “What have I got to lose?” I was expecting to have a good time and meet some queens, but was completely shocked (and still am) that I won!
Winning Miss Stonewall has been such an amazing experience, and has given me a platform to promote myself on, and a home bar to perform regularly at. Through Stonewall I’ve formed a bond with Ari Kiki and Lola Michele-Kiki, who are two incredibly down-to-earth and hilarious queens that I love performing with. Mike Salinari and DJ Chauncey always take care of me as well.
What was your talent that night?
I did a “Be Italian” mix using the original Broadway cast of Nine, and clips of some of my favorite Italians: Theresa Guidice from Jersey, Sophia Petrillo from Golden Girls, and of course the actual show stopping Patti Lupone. But I think what might’ve closed the deal for me was a “tuck-shot” tambourine dance.
Excellent choices! Are you actually Italian?
Nope – and I’m not a woman either!
So, where is your hometown?
Well, I grew up in Southern California, but my family is from Albuquerque, New Mexico. I spent last winter there, and that’s where I broke the ice with drag.
The scene out there is completely different. It’s much much smaller of course, and in many ways more of a family. No one is coming for anyone’s gigs, because there are no gigs to be had! It’s more a like a weekly review, and everyone gets to do a number.
How did you come up with your drag name, H’s included?
And the H’s are just fun! They pop up in whords you don’t expect and whhhat could be better than that? Ok, maybe I’m a little wheird.
They do add an air of sophistication! What was your motivator to try drag in the first place?
It’s funny, because last summer if someone told me that this year I would be a drag queen I would have laughed at them. It wasn’t really something I had ever thought about doing. But that all changed one night when a friend of mine came over and painted my face for the first time – I can’t even remember why we decided to do that. But that night I recorded a video of myself lip syncing “Poor Unfortunate Souls” and after watching it about a thousand times, became obsessed with myself, and Whendy whas born!
Since then, I’ve learned that I can utilize skills I’ve honed in theater, like coming up with concepts for numbers and telling stories through songs.
Getting to live out the fantasies I’ve had since I was a little boy–dancing in front of my mirror to the Chicago soundtrack and feeling for a moment on stage like I can actually belt like Sutton Foster–are the moments it’s all about.
So, did you come to New York for theater work, for Whendy, or otherwise?
I moved here five years ago, a year after high school, inspired by many things, but most of all theater. Originally I wanted to direct, and then I sort of fell into stage managing–which was awesome, and gave me the opportunity to work in some amazing rehearsal rooms and have some great experiences.
You don’t have to be here long to see that the city can be whatever you want it to be. Now, In the nightlife world, I’m finding new ways to express myself and entertain others.
What part of drag has been the highlight for you so far?
The highlight, besides performing my favorite songs, has been meeting and making friends with so many other queens. Maybe all the shade is thrown behind my back, but I have been met with so much positivity and kindness from other girls just trying to have a good time. Blake Deadly has been one queen in particular that I have made a friendship with, and have fun working with.
And what’s been the most difficult?
Hair removal! And I don’t even shave my legs [laughs}!
Oh my gosh, it was fantastic! That was my first time going to Fire Island at all, and I had such a great time. The Ice Palace was so welcoming to us, and going around to the other bars and seeing the other queens’ shows was so much fun. I think it’s safe to say to anyone who has never been that Fire Island lives up to all of the mystery and and legend that surrounds it.
It is pretty magical! And you’ve already gotten to host your own Invasion at the Stonewall Inn that same month! Was it nerve-racking, trying to get all those numbers down for a long-format show like that?
Ah yes, that night was a blast! While the people who were with me on that day leading up to the show might say I was acting a nervous wreck, I felt great about it! It was finally an opportunity to show a wider range of character and costumes than I had been able to in a single show before. I’m ready to do another one!
Until then you’ll be a guest for Ari’s Invasion on Sunday! How wonderful is Ari?
She’s so great. Seriously, so kind and effortlessly funny. She’s kind of like a mother to all, always looking out and doing the right thing for everyone – even if her character is a hot fucking mess!
Now let’s talk about “So You Think You Can Drag?” which starts up on September 8th, and in which you’re a contestant! That’s another great honor, to have been selected, so congratulations! What made you want to try out for this?
Thank you! I am so thrilled and honored to be a part of SYTYCD season 7! This competition has been on my radar since last season, when I first saw clips of the weekly shows.
First of all, I love a competition. There’s nothing like a competition to get your creative juices flowing, and force you to put out some of your best work. Getting into it this year was my main goal for 2016, and I am so proud to get to perform along side the other contestants and the incredible Broadway Barbie, [hostess] Paige Turner!
Although I like to take inspiration from many artists, I think it’s safe to say that I am first and always a theater queen. Even when I do pop songs, I think I always have a theatrical sensibility about it. And this competition is a great opportunity for queens like me to create and stage new numbers every week. Not to mention getting to work at New World Stages, and the exposure that comes along with a show like this.
Are you a singer?
I sing…[laughs] I’m certainly not trained like many singing queens are, but I can do it well enough for a drunken bar crowd! Or well enough to have a great night at Marie’s Crisis!
That’s all you need! So, SYTYCD is a a lot of work and a huge commitment… I think it’s 9 weeks? And usually very elaborate showcases you’re going to be expected to create. So I guess first of all, do you have that in you?
Hell yes! I’m so excited for all of that! I’m going to show the judges what Whendy is all about! There will be dancers, there will be costume changes; you name it, I’m bringing it! I’m even learning how to sew so I can bring that haute couture, honey!
Awesome! Do you think it’s gonna knock you out though, all the prep and performing for that, plus your day jobs?
It’s going to be a challenge, that’s for sure. But I’m trying to stay a couple weeks ahead of the competition in my planning. And if I knock it out of the park, maybe I can say goodbye to those day jobs…
Did they give you the themes of the challenges yet?
They did. I’m not sure if I can share them with you, but they are really good! You’ll see throwbacks and celebrity impersonations, and of course themes from Broadway and Hollywood.
How well do you know the other contestants? Do you think it will be a drama-free season?
We met last week at a photoshoot, and everyone was great! I’m sure it’ll be all smiles and roses until Week 5…then the press-ons will come out and start to scratch! [Laughs] I’m kidding… who has time to make enemies when there’s a competition to win!
Well, good luck with the competition and enjoy yourself! I’ll leave us off with the “G.I.L.F.” parody you made
with Blake and Hibiscus
of Fergie’s video … looks like you girls had fun with that!
It was great! As soon as Fergie came out with the [original] song, I loved it and thought, "Hmm, how can I do this song and get to pour milk all over myself?” Then the whole granny idea came about, and we went from milk to Ensure real fast! And threw in some diapers and Metamucil for good measure. A hot male nurse never hurt either.
It never does! Thanks again Whendy!
Whendy Whaxwood will guest perform for Ari Kiki’s Stonewall Invasion on Sunday, September 4th (11pm), and she’s competing in the “So You Think You Can Drag?” weekly competition at the New World Stages beginning September 8th (9pm). Follow Whendy on Facebook and Instagram.