Try to deny the fierceness of this Brooklyn-born dancing queen, who’s high energy performances and high-class-hood glamour have been gagging us for over eight years now. And don’t expect a multiple sclerosis diagnosis to cut her down even a peg–her benefit show this coming Saturday at her home bar Boots & Saddle has already trumped the success of last year’s effort with early merch sales alone. The lineup of queens appearing in this year’s event will be epic, but none more so than the inspirational queen behind and ahead of it all… Miss Prada G. Major!
Thotyssey: Hi Prada! Thanks for talking to us! I know you’re super busy right now getting the benefit show together. So recently for Halloween weekend, you pulled a double: first your own show at Boots & Saddle, and then you hosted the party at FairyTail Lounge. How did it go?
Prada G. Major: That night at Boots was great! We celebrated my sister Jada Valenciaga’s birthday, so it was a little family affair. Then I went to cover Holly Dae’s shift at FairyTail–which was good because there was a bunch of gorgeous men dancing there. So it was a lot of fun. But I am tired, that is the truth!
You don’t often perform in other venues other than Boots, especially lately as you’re preparing for the big event. Does it feel like you’re on another planet when you have to work elsewhere?
I don’t know if it feels like you’re on another planet, but there’s definitely an unfamiliar setting cuz you’re not there every week. I mean, a gig’s a gig, take ‘em where you can get ‘em, girl!
So, how many years now have you been Prada now?
Prada was born March 22nd, 2008 at my boss’s birthday party. I worked at a boutique in Phoenix, and all the employees had to dress up in drag every yer for the boss’s birthday party. So that was when she was born. And here she is, eight and a half years later!
You lived in Arizona, but you’re a native Brooklynite?
Correct: I was born in Brooklyn. My mother got remarried, and then we moved to Staten Island. And the day that I got my high school diploma, I moved to Phoenix. Fast forward a couple of years, I started hanging out in all the gay bars, and that;s how I got into that circuit. I only lived there for about three years, and then I eventually moved back home to Brooklyn.
What are the gay bars in Phoenix like?
I don’t know, they were just gay bars [laughs]. I always hung out at Charlie’s and Amsterdam. Those were my two favorite places. Amsterdam would be like the one where you’d go and get cute to go in. And Charlie’s is a franchise, I think they’re all over. But that was one of my favorite bars.
And how about dancing? Have you been doing that your whole life?
You know what? I actually have never taken a dance class. My parents didn’t send me to dance school. I always loved doing it around the house when I was a kid, but I wasn’t anything. Then once I got into high school, I started seeing all the girls in the dance team, and that’s when I kinda fell in love with it. Then I was on a couple of dance teams in Arizona.
I didn’t really take dance to the full potential that I could, because Prada kind of took over the performance outlet that dance was for me. So, I danced because that’s what I loved to do, but then Prada took over that vice.
That’s interesting! Did you see that happening immediately when you became Prada (drag trumping dance), or did it just kind of sneak up on you?
A little bit of both. I’m always a performer, first and foremost. When people ask “What is your drag?” I say, “I’m a performer.” That’s what I love to do. And the dancing and performing in drag goes hand-in-hand, and into one situation.
You have a clever triple-pun drag name (”Prada” / ”Prodigy” / “G Major”). Did that come to you quickly when you first did drag, or did you have to workshop it?
Originally, I wanted my drag name to be “Brooklyn,” because that’s where I’m from, that’s what I love. But I always thought it would be silly if I moved back to New York, and they were like “Make some noise for Brooklyn… from Brooklyn!”
I was at my old job in Arizona, and my co-worker brought in these knock-off Prada glasses. And I just remember saying, “Oh God, look at you with your knock-off Prada G glasses!” And then I was like *gasp* “Prada G! That’s it! That’s the word!” That’s what I wanted to identify with; that’s who I think Prada is.
And “Major” came from Victoria Bekham, because at the time everyone was like “Sasha Fierce, Fierce, Fierce…” and Victoria just kept saying “major.” And it all stuck!
You’ve always been a fan of the British girl groups. Who’s your favorite?
Oh, don’t do that to me! Obviously I love the Spice Girls. I fell in love with The Saturdays. I love GIrls Aloud… I can’t pick just one! That’s such a hard question [laughs]!
Ha! Okay. But of course you put Nicole Scherzinger on a platform all to herself, right?
Nicole Sherzinger is queen. She is my queen. Done.
By the way, do you own a lot of Prada brand stuff? That shit’s expensive!
I have a Prada bag. I have my Prada sunglasses. I have two Prada reading glasses, and Prada cologne. So I don’t really have a lot, I have a couple.
So, when you moved back to NY, did you fully intend to take Prada with you and perform as her?
To be honest, no I did not. I worked at at the time in Staten Island, and they wanted to do a drag show, or something, and I did it. Then I got my own show at that bar. And then once they went out of business, I started performing at Tranimal, and Cattle Call, and Star Search, and all the little competitions around around the city.
I won Miss Boots & Saddle in 2012, and [as part of the prize package] I was only supposed to have a once-a-month show. But I did January and February, and then Robert [Ziegler, the owner] asked me to do a weekly show. Which I was a little hesitant about, to be honest, because I was like “Do I really wanna do this every week?” But I ain’t complaining now [laughs]!
Your show’s been one of the favorite and most successful shows at Boots, and I think unlike most of the queens, your time slot never changed (Saturdays at 8!) How do you think you’ve evolved as a performer since you started? And what have you learned about yourself as a performer through the show?
I think that, just as a person you change over a course of time. Like, if you work wherever you work and you do your job, you’re going to hopefully progress at it–you’ll get better and better and better, until you’ve reached the highest [level]. And I think that, as a performer and a drag queen–because it’s so artistic–you can truly never stop growing. You will always try and outdo yourself.
Musically, I switch things around all the time, and my mixes have gotten better. Your makeup changes, your wig changes, your look changes. If you pull up a picture of me this week, and me the first week of “Ma-Jor Saturdays,” it’s like two different people. You just grow.
It’s interesting because I think as you grow and evolve as a person and performer, your look becomes more specific. I know you try pretty hard to never repeat an exact outfit / wig combo. At this point, you must not be able to keep track of that anymore!
I’m pretty sure that I have [repeated a look by now]. I just know that I like to dress comfortably because I dance and move around. And I like a certain look, and I like fabrics that move. The majority of stuff that I wear is off the rack, but I throw a couple of rhinestone son it and I make it my own. As long as you feel you look good, and you have confidence, I think that exudes through it.
You do rock the human hair wigs. Should every queen invest in at least one, do you think (as they can be expensive)? And are those more or less annoying to maintain then fake hair?
I think they’re easier to maintain, only because they’re human and absorb products better. If you’re really going to invest in one, I think it’s worth it. But not every queen needs one, because some queens don’t go for that look. I love mine; I have several of them. They were good investments. But some of them are very heavy, so be prepared to have 10 pounds of hair on your head!
You have a small but very tight group of drag sisters: Brenda Dharling, Jada and Ari Kiki. How’d you all meet?
I met Jada at Tranimal, I think I met Brenda at Star Search (or Cattle Call?) I met Ari at Therapy through a [mutual] friend of ours. Over the years, those three have become my go-to girls. I love them to death, and nothing will replace our friendship and our love that we have for each other.
After winning Miss Boots & Saddle and having your show there for a bit, you competed in Miss Fire Island Entertainer of the Year in 2013, and you killed it with a high energy group dance number. You even won a corporate sponsored award (was it Coors?), but I remember you being kind of frustrated that you didn’t place higher, and you didn’t really do pageants after that. Were you just kind of over pageants after that one, or did the right one not come along after that?
Looking back now, I’m definitely not upset. I can still watch that talent number and think it’s fierce and amazing. I was upset at the time just like any normal person would be. You put all your energy, time and hard work into something, and when you don’t get the result you want it’s always frustrating. But you do what you do, and you keep on pushing.
I kinda just haven’t been in the pageant/competition scene lately, No particular reason; I just kinda fell out of the system. I haven’t found one that I really want to do again.
And speaking of Boots, the tiny old location on Christopher Street was an absolutely insane place for a drag show, especially a big, high energy one like yours. It was fun, but crazy. Remember when that bitch threw a bottle at you?
Oh, memories! You know what? Some people are gonna be in your audience and you don’t know what their day is like, you don’t know their story. But as a performer, you have to keep on kicking and doing what you do, and not let somebody’s negative energy rub off on you.
Your job as a drag queen is to enlighten people, make them forget about reality, and get lost in the art of drag for the time period you’re on stage. [Laughs] Memories! Good times! With the good times comes the bad.
As a dancer, it must be a lot better to work in the new, larger Boots location, right?
I love the new location. But I loved the old location! As long as you got a stage and you can do your job, you gotta make the best of it. I truly love Boots, and I think that the new Boots is absolutely fabulous (no matter what other people might say), but we have become quite a family. It’s my home!
And you’re show there is still Everything! you’re also a dance teacher for the rest of the week: your students and co-workers are all big Prada fans, right?
A lot of my students don’t know about Prada because they’re still young, but my boss, Miss Chris and her family have been nothing but supportive of Prada. They’ve come to several of my shows, her daughter has danced with me… they’re my family, just like Boots, and I love them dearly.
So, as far as your condition goes, when did you first realize that something was wrong?
About three years ago, my whole left side of my body went numb, several doctors didn’t know what was wrong… but it went awa,y so I stopped thinking about it. Last year, I started having severe nerve pain in my neck and right arm. I could feel this electricity going through every nerve. That’s when I was like, something is wrong and we need to figure this out…
When you finally got the multiple sclerosis diagnosis, what went through your mind?
I was in denial for awhile because I didn’t find a doctor I liked at the time. But at some point you have to face reality and realize: this is life.
Were you worried that you would have to stop dancing and performing?
Yes. I’ve done several shows while having a relapse.
What are you feeling when that happens?
Basically like getting electrocuted while your arm is dead weight and pins and needles…. Cliff Notes version.
That must be scary. How do you think the medicine and treatments you’re getting now are helping you?
Basically, the medicine I’m on just keeps the MS from progressing. So I still have the same symptoms as before, just now they wont get worse.
After going public with your diagnosis last year, you organized a benefit show at Boots for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society that was very successful; how much did you make for them that year again?
I raised $1,950. That’s how much I donated after the benefit. But people who weren’t able to attend donated in my name as well. This year, the show hasn’t happened yet and I already raised over two thousand dollars.
That’s amazing. And you’ve been in direct contact with the NMSS last year and this year, right? I wonder how directly aware they are with all the great work you’ve done for them.
They aren’t so much hands-on. I’ve spoke to several employees, and they’ve all thanked me for the donations. I do have a voicemail from the president of the NMSS saved on my phone [laughs].
Well like you’ve said, you’ve already raised as much as you did last year on t-shirt sales alone. I love the shirt by the way: you designed it yourself, right?
I only have like 10 shirts left, I’m selling them at the event. [My DJ] T-Boy came up with the slogan “Don’t M.S. with Major,” and I designed them both years.
You’ve been working on this benefit show for months now, preparing costumes and numbers, booking guests, engaging with the NMSS, selling t-shirts… this night has officially become an Event. What motivated you to go all in this time?
Since the first one was successful, I needed to come back and have it just be “Wow.” It’s gotta be bigger and better every year. It really has turned into something major!
I think I have the full list of performers now for November 5th: you, Brenda, Jada, Ari, Logan Hardcore, Tina Burner, Delilah Brooks, Coco De’Ball, Fifi DuBois, Chelsea Piers, Terra Hyman, Jackie Cox, Pattaya Hart, Vita Summers, Juicy Liu and T-Boy. That’s quite a lineup. Do you already have a pretty clear picture of what everyone is doing, the order of lineup, etc?
You know I already have the setlist prepared [laughs]. I’m just waiting on one queen to send me her track and it will be complete. This show is going to be severe, everyone is bringing their A-game. It is going to be such a diverse show because we all are bringing and doing something different.
And it’s it also your birthday show!
I’m going to do my birthday show from 8-10, and then 10-12 is the benefit. The same as last year. Rather than doing two different events, we’re just going to do one huge night!
Amazing, can’t wait to see you there. What else do we need to say here?
At the end of the day multiple sclerosis is only two words. But so is Ma-Jor!
We love you, Prada!
Prada G. Major hosts MA-JOR Saturdays at Boots & Saddle Saturday nights (8-10pm). November 5th will be her birthday show, and she will host the Major Multiple Sclerosis Benefit Show that night immediately after (10pm-midnight). Prada can be followed on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter & YouTube.