This gorgeous queen from Florida has mastered the art of “pageant fish,” but anyone who’s experienced her electrifying stage performances and delightfully charming demeanor first hand knows that she’s so much more than that. She’s a Brooks, after all, and that’s a high standard to be held to. Back in NYC after a long summer residency in the Mediterranean paradise of Mykonos, Roxy Brooks will be keeping it hot this winter with gigs and good times!
Thotyssey: Hi Roxy, welcome back to New York and the U.S.! Has your brain reverted back to US time yet, or are you still all over the place?
Roxy Brooks: [Laughs] That’s an excellent question – my brain is still all over the place. I constantly have to remember which time zone I am in and how far away I am from friends and colleagues – i.e. when I can call them, etc.
What’s the time difference in Greece v. East Coast U.S.?
They are seven hours ahead of us.
And what’s the first thing you ate when you got back to the states?
My friend picked me up from the airport in Orlando, and the first thing i saw leaving the airport was a T.G.I.Friday!
Perfect! So, you did shows in a club called @54 in Mykonos all summer, and this looks like such a dream gig for any entertainer. How many years have you been going there now, and how did you land the gig in the first place?
This was my second season. The @54-group sent their manager to NYC to find a drag queen. Epiphany took him everywhere, and I was the chosen one! Typical NYC: right place at the right time!
Oh yeah, we three are close – we would go to the beach or to the pool, and often times I would see them at their show, and they would see me at mine.
So describe @54, and your show there, for us.
@54 is a medium sized dance disco. I did my own show twice a night, and met the customers. My shows were late: around 1am & 2am.
There isn’t really a defined last call time there.
Not really! Some places stay open well until daylight hours, depending on the time of summer.
Sounds like crazy fun. And your audience, is it a mix of tourists and locals, or more one than the other?
People from every country visit Mykonos in the summer. So I got to meet all sorts of people. The locals still visit, but mainly at the beginning of the season and at the end because they all work every day.
How well does the LGBT scene coexist with everybody else there? Like, is there ever any gay bashing or anything like that?
No, there isn’t. Everyone is really friendly, and love the gays.
Yay! And I suppose one’s Grindr must light up like a multicultural Christmas tree there!
[Laughs] Well: you are correct!
You move around so much as a performer, even when you’re not in Greece, gigging all over the world. Do you have a sense of where “home” is, or is home wherever you hang your wig?
I am so blessed to have been given the opportunity to travel the world doing what I do. And I’m not even on Drag Race!
Honestly, the Roxy Brooks brand is based out of NYC. I was disowned by my birth family because I’m gay. I have segments of gay family, so I live here and there! Kinda strange: my drag mother India Brooks lives in Gainesville, Florida. I have gay family in Orlando where I live sometimes. I have my best friend in Austin, Texas, and then there’s my NYC family where I spend most of my time. I’m currently looking for a roommate and/or sublet!
So to answer your question: I’m a gypsy!
Yes but the sexy Cher/Stevie Nicks kind. So, I’m sorry to hear that your birth family was not supportive of you in Florida. Was that because of their religious beliefs?
My father is a southern baptist minister/evangelist/missionary. So yes, they couldn’t get past their religious beliefs.
Wow, that must’ve been rough. But did you always have dreams of being a performer of some type?
Yes, I have always had dreams and aspirations of being an entertainer.
So, how did you first get into drag, exactly?
I was going to school at the University of Florida in Gainesville. I was backup dancing for a woman who (I didn’t know at the time) would become my drag mother. She looked at me and said, “I think I need to put you in drag.” And BAM, the living doll was born!
India must have seen a lot of potential in you from just that one performance.
[Laughs] well, I guess you could say that!
Tell us about what it means to be a Brooks, one of the great American drag royal families! What standards is a Brooks expected to hold?
Well, “Brooks” has lots of meaning: good character, poised and professional attitude: Brookses are talented and memorable, but also helpful and genuinely good people. And we love food!
That’s important! And the Brookses must be very proud of you with all your amazing crowns and gigs! Where were you when you first gigged as Roxy?
I was in Gainesville … it was at the club where I first started: the University Club. It was a Valentine’s Day show.
Lots of New York queens think of Florida queens as being all beautiful “pageant fish” that give less emphasis to stage performing. Do you feel that’s an unfair judgement?
Well, all drag is art and all art is beautiful; I appreciate all forms. Different regions have different levels of entertainment. I believe NYC has some of the best drag entertainers in the world, and I think Florida has some of the prettiest. But there is also a mix with both places, as with other places in the world.
I hate labels/ I’m a female impersonator / drag queen / entertainer [laughs]! I don’t like these “pageant queen,” “comedy queen,” etc. titles. I like to explore all of my talent, and I appreciate seeing people do the same.
How long were you performing as Roxy before you came to New York?
Literally three months! I moved to NYC the May after Valentine’s Day.
Oh wow! So you were totally still a baby queen when you got here. Were you looking for drag gigs here specifically, or theatre gigs, or any work you could get?
I’m not sure I remember Maracas; what were you doing there?
It was a place owned by Lips. So I was a drag waitress, and then I performed also.
And what about the actual Lips restaurant? When did you start working there, and are there any plans to return?
When Maracas closed shortly after I started working there they moved me to Lips. It was the beginning of October that year. I loved my time there, Met some great people. As of right now, I am not going back.
I remember meeting you right before you got your weekly show at the old Boots & Saddle on Christopher Street. That was when drag was still very new there. How long ago was that now? I’m afraid to ask!
Oh my God, it has to be 6 or 7 years ago! So long ago.
Jeez. You had to be a pretty tough kid to be there in NYC without a support system, in a wig and a dress, starting your own weekly show with very little performing experience. Were you secretly like scared out of your mind?
I was nervous, but I wouldn’t say scared. I learned a lot, though!
You have a tight bond with a lot of New York queens.. how did you find them, or how did they find you? I feel like things somehow worked differently then in nightlife networking.
Ya’ know, NYC has its own spark and magical way of putting people together. When I came on the scene, there were not many queens, nor many queens who worked. In the past few years, New York has been flooded with queens. In NYC, you just meet people randomly, or see them and strike up conversation. I like to think there is a core of NYC queens; we stick together and support each other.
RuPaul’s Drag Race was not a huge thing yet when you started (which was why there were so fewer queens then). What do you feel about the impact that show has had on drag, as far as the aesthetic and the influence it has on drag career goals?
Well, I think it has opened a lot of doors. A lot of people think anyone can be a queen – it doesn’t work like that.
I remember the only time you could see a drag queen was at a gay bar.
Being on national television has its perks. I would still like to get on, to show the world Roxy Brooks.
A few months after you got here and started performing your weekly show at Boots, a guy you were seeing and living with got into an altercation with you, and you wound up spending a night or two in jail after being arrested (for assault) on the street leaving a gig in full drag. That was so shocking and upsetting to everyone at the time, but it has since become the stuff of legend. You were cleared of all wrongdoing and that relationship ended. But how do you look back at that experience now? With anger, embarrassment, amusement?
[Laughs] Lots of amusement, actually. I can’t change the past, but it’s a damn good story!
I know I did nothing wrong, and was dating a lunatic. But New York let me have it, that’s for sure!
When you were released, you immediately made fun of yourself and the situation at your Boots show the very next week. It’s important to have a sense of humor about yourself in your line of work, isn’t it?
Oh totally. You have to be able to laugh, and look at life in several different ways.
Another crazy thing that happened with you occured a few years later, when you were hosting a Stoli event at Splash. You were disrupted by protesters who decided that week to ban Stoli because of Russia’s anti-gay policies. I remember hearing how pissed you were with the crowd that showed up to picket Stoli and interrupt your show. How do to look back on that night now?
It’s still crazy. That was a funny night, for sure. The protesters meant well, but they didn’t have their facts straight. I love working with Stoli. They are amazing people with a love for the LGBTQ community.
Do you miss Splash at all?
Ya’ know, I only went a few times. I miss having a large gay venue like that in NYC.
New York probably has much fewer large venues now then most of the other big cities you visit.
Yes, NYC has more smaller, intimate ones. Which is nice, too.
So, what was your first pageant?
Gosh, it was either Miss Boots & Saddle or Our Lady of Saliva.
Ah Saliva, crazy times! That’s where everybody was wearing diapers and setting themselves on fire. Do you remember what number you did for that one?
Oh my God, I totally forgot!
Well, you’ve done a lot, gurl!! When was your first national one?
Miss Gay America [in 2012].
I was there for your Miss Fire Island win in 2013. That was such a gorgeous package and presentation you had! You must’ve been on Cloud 9 that day, right?
Oh my God, I was totally on Cloud 9 in more ways than one [laughs]! It’s such a prestigious title to have. The community on that island is so special. I worked very hard for that title.
I think many people think of you as this career pageant queen because of that win, but all things considered you really haven’t done that many. You’re too busy!
I haven’t actually! But yes, I like to stay busy. I love to work.
Your drag daughter Delilah Brooks is one of Boots’ most popular entertainers now. Are you pleased with how she’s carried on the Brooks name?
I adore my daughter Delilah. She is an amazing soul and it shines through in her entertainment and shows.
Will you be having any more children or grandchildren in the future, do you think?
I’m not opposed to it! I would like to work on finding a boyfriend first, though. Just not a crazy lunatic this time!
Cheers to that! And now just some quick things to clear up: what’s Jiggly Caliente Brooks to you, like a second cousin once removed?
She’s not in my Brooks family, but I adore her too — she’s a good time!
Oh I didn’t know there was more than one Brooks clan. And also, there is/was another Roxy Brooks in Texas, have you ever met her?
I haven’t met her, but I’ve seen her videos on YouTube.
Well, you’re the most important one! And now, you’re Hell’s Kitchen home base is Hardware. You were just there on Thursday night, guesting for Shequida’s show right after you hosted the viewing party there for the Rocky Horror reboot. How did you like the new version, by the way?
I actually really enjoyed it. I thought it was fabulous.
It was cute! So at Hardware you were hosting Skinny Brunch an early Sunday pre-happy hour, before you left for Greece. And now that you’re back, you’ll be hosting the new Saturday version of Skinny Brunch, 3 to 8pm!
And you’ll have a different guest performer each week, starting with Logan Hardcore this Saturday! Have you ever worked with her before?
Logan and I go way back. I use to hate her like almost everyone did [laughs]! We used to work together on Fire Island, and occasional gigs here in there. She’s a good time!
And this should be fun: Sunday night, you’ll be on the Stonewall stage for an Invasion with your Greek sisters, Skyla & Epiphany! I bet you three didn’t get much of a chance to all perform together in Mykonos very much.
[Laughs] We performed every day at our own venues, so we were fine with that! But we three are excited to work together this Sunday.
And come Monday, Halloween will already be upon us. You’ll be hosting a dinner show at Intermezzo. I never went to a Halloween drag dinner before, that should be interesting! Is Halloween fun for you at all, or does being a drag queen kind of make it less special?
[Laughs] It’s dressing up so it’s fun! I’ve worked at Intermezzo most of my NYC career, and it’s always nice to be back.
Anything else coming up?
I’m joining the cast of Distorted Divas on October 29th.
That’s exciting! Okay, last question: what is one thing the world may not know about Roxy, but should?
Hmmmm. People don’t realize but I actually do have a college education! [Laughs]
Beauty and brains! New York is so glad to have you back, Miss Brooks!
Roxy Brooks is now hosting Skinny Brunch at Hardware on Saturdays (3pm), and on Saturday the 29th she’ll also debut as part of the new revue Distorted Divas at the Broadway Comedy Club (8pm). She’ll co-host a Stonewall Invasion with Epiphany & Skyla Versai on Sunday, October 30th (11pm), and on Monday the 31st she’ll host a special Halloween dinner performance at Intermezzo (8pm). Roxy can be followed on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter & YouTube.
See Also: Roxy Brooks (10.24.2017)