Besides being one of the most strikingly gorgeous humans in all of drag, this queen of Brooklyn, Manhattan and beyond also happens to be a fiercely intelligent and dynamic performer. And with new gigs all over town–pus an old favorite that’s soon to be resurrected–This Bitch is also Busy. Frankly, Miss Scarlet Envy, we all give a damn!
Thotyssey: Hi Scarlet! So, you had a busy night last night with Distorted Divas and KWIR. How many consecutive hours can you spend in drag before going insane?
Scarlet Envy: Hey, Jim! Honestly, I’m the most sane after a long day in face. I feel that I’m lucky, especially in the alarming climate we find ourselves in, to spend an hour in drag – much less 16+ of them.
Regarding this climate: do you feel more threatened on the street, in drag or even out, then you did in October?
Not so much here in New York, but I think it’s important to remain aware. I still take the train in drag to most of my gigs, and I think that kind of visibility is more important than ever! If anything, just to solidify a queer presence, and smile at a stranger who may have voted against my rights.
Cheers to that. Onto a much potentially sillier problem: Instagram! I noticed a lot of queens recently worrying about not having enough Insta followers, and how this somehow affects their out-of-town bookings. Do you have any insight into this, as a queen who is very visible on social media?
Social media is like many other aspects of drag: you have to enjoy it before it can be enjoyed by others. Try to make it fun, because it’s transparent when it’s forced.
I have booked gigs around the country because of my online presence, but that isn’t why I’m online. I know some people who solely rely on this kind of validation, and it’s a fake existence. Also, if your followers are disappointed when they meet you in person or see you perform live, you need to restructure your priorities. You should be able to do both and make it feel effortless rather than charitable.
I’ll take this opportunity to plug my Instagram [laughs]!
Well-played! Okay, we have lots to talk about, but let’s start at the beginning: Louisville KY is your hometown, correct? What was that like?
Yes, I’m from Kentucky. Louisville is a small blue dot in a very red state, disowning it’s surroundings and embracing a surprising amount of arts, culture and entertainment. My family is still there, and I enjoy visiting often. Last year I was asked to MC their inaugural LGBTQ pride festival with the city Mayor, Greg Fischer. It was an honor to return for that!
You must be quite a celebrity there. Were you out there exploring the scene in your early years?
I wasn’t, actually. I perform pretty regularly at PLAY nightclub when I go home now, but I came out after moving to NYC and didn’t really embraced my eyeliner truth until I was settled here.
I’m open about the time I spent in conversion therapy. There wasn’t much time for exploration with all that suppression, but today I’m grateful for that aspect of my journey because I have a voice to speak up against it, and the experience to back it up.
From what I understand, you went to conversion therapy willingly when you were younger, but ultimately abandoned it (obviously!). If it were up to our Vice President elect, we’d all be forced into going through it, complete with electroshock. So, you might have to warn us all what to expect some day, God forbid.
For those who actually do want to discuss the horrors of conversion therapy further, I invite you to reach out… I will be happy to share more of my story, offer advice, etc. I encourage you to donate to organizations like Human Rights Campaign (HRC) who continue to fight this debunked, dated and dangerous form of discrimination.
So, you came to New York from Kentucky to attend FIT, and that’s where Scarlet was born. Were you studying design there?
Yes, Scarlet was Born at the Fashion Institute of Technology, where I studied Advertising and Graphic Design. I graduated in 2014, and today split my time between drag and freelance design.
What percentage of your own looks today are your designs, would you say?
I make about 40% of what I wear regularly. Although I went to FIT, I didn’t learn to sew there. I’m self-taught since then, but I don’t consider myself a fashion designer as much as a fashion appreciator who knows how to use a sewing machine to dress myself. I’m continually learning from the talented individuals around me.
You’ve always been an interesting performer, because you are a lot more classically glamorous then what we stereotype a Brooklyn queen to be, but also a lot “edgier” and more punk rock then what we typify as a Manhattan queen. Do you feel that your drag is versatile, or just hard to categorize?
I’m versatile, and so is my drag. She has one foot in Manhattan, the other in Brooklyn; spread eagle across the east river like her paycheck depends on it. (Because it does!)
What’s your favorite number to do right now?
I’ve been performing (the prophetic) “Mad as Hell” speech from the Network, mixing it with one of my favorite songs, “Monument” (A Robyn and Röyksopp gem). The number includes all the drama and glamour I love, while presenting a unifying call to action.
That is pretty perfect for you and the times. So, what and where was your first gig here as Scarlet?
My first gig was a weekly show at This-N-That bar, which as you might know, closed it’s doors this year. Coincidentally, I walked past TNT this week to find construction workers carrying out splintered pieces of the stage I started on. It was unexpected, but when I glanced inside, the employee bathroom had never looked cleaner. The bar has finally taken it’s hole-in-the-wall attitude to the next level by becoming a literal hole in the wall! Grateful for all the lessons I learned and memories I made there.
I was gonna ask about how you felt about the bar’s closing. I recall you were out of town when the very sudden announcement of the closing happened, so you didn’t get the opportunity to wish it a proper goodbye. You had long-running shows there, Scarlet Fever, Truth or Bare, This Bitch, and I believe there was a monthly sketch show that you wrote with some sisters for awhile?
Yes, my first solo show was called Scarlet Fever and ran for a little over two years. Sketch is a comedy show we actually started at LoveGun, which is also closed now… probably because Daphne Sumtimez is the iceberg to every venue’s Titanic. [Ed. note: this is clearly a playful joke.]
Truth or Bare is actually in the works to be returning next year, (stay tuned!)
Hosting my own shows provides an opportunity to not only showcase my talent, but to allow guest performers to step into the (generally deserving) spotlight. TNT allowed me to offer a first time stage to many incredible performers you know today. Charlene comes to mind as someone who I watched blossom into personal truth as soon as her first song scratched through the speakers. I’m truly thankful for the whiskey soaked memories, and especially thankful for the nights at TNT that I can’t remember.
The good news for those still craving the TNT experience is this: We have a brand new Bingo night / drag show combo kicking off one block away from good old This N’ That! I’m excited to personally welcome TNT regulars back to the neighborhood to keep the queer spirit near the water. Join us for (a full dinner menu), happy hour drinks and drag bingo on Wednesday, December 14th from 7-9pm upstairs at Falcon Laundry (65 N 7th St Bedford L stop)!
It must feel good to be performing in Brooklyn again, where your core drag family and base are.
While we’re on the subject of gigs, I congratulate you on your GLAM nomination as the Door Goddess of the Friday night KWIR party at Monster, which I guess must be nearly a year running by now! You’re called the door queen of that party, but in reality you’re pretty much the overall host, right?
Thank you! Yes, I run a tight ship under Mitch Ferrino on Friday night’s at Monster Bar for one of my favorite parties! This is my first official ‘door gig’ and I love it! KWIR is a queer friendly, sex-positive dance party featuring pop up shows at 1 and 2:30am every Friday night. At the door, I’ve met some who’ve called Monster Bar home for 30+ years and others who have never been before. Each week, I look forward to welcoming these faces and feel lucky to celebrate queer love regularly. Join us this Friday!
And let’s also talk about this great new gig at the Broadway Comedy Club, Distorted Divas on Thursdays and Saturdays, which I saw and enjoyed for the first time this past weekend. It’s really an all-star cast of our city’s top queens: yourself, Tina Burner, Honey Davenport, Peppermint, et al. The show is a sendup of our greatest divas in every sense of the word. But what makes it interesting is that the impersonations and numbers in the show were already created by the show’s creator Danny Logan for a revolving cast–so you perform them, and learned the exact choreo, like you would a role in a Broadway show. I saw pics of your Miley Cyrus from the show: fabulous! How do you like this type of performance?
Yes, the show is incredible! It’s my first “Off-Broadway” experience. Leave it to these queens to get me above 14th street! I was a bit hesitant to sign on to an impersonation show, because that isn’t necessarily what I want from my drag. But the production value and star-studded cast assured me that I made the right decision!
I love being part of this show, Danny and JawDrop Entertainment present a truly fucked up version of everyone’s favorite divas, and you have to come see it. I don’t want to give too much away, but I play four epic divas in our lineup. Shows are 8pm every Thursday and Saturday night at 318 W 53rd street. Buy tickets here!
Awe, yes those tequila filtered Thursdays were certainly something. We had fun with that show, and I miss her. She’s a married woman in Boston these days.
Now let’s share some brief words on RuPaul’s Drag Race, because Season 8 was fun and a great time for Brooklyn queens with Thorgy’s high profile, and All-Stars 2 was just fun in general. And we still can’t talk about Season 9, but we all know that’s gonna slay. You’d do well on that show, given your look and your range… any interest in trying out for Season 10?
Thank you! I can’t deny that I’ll accept the offer if it comes my way, but for now I’m focusing on gigs, travel, design, family and friends. It’s easy sometimes to get wrapped up in gossipy Reddit drama, to forget that I’m incredibly lucky to lead the life I do, enjoy the rights I have, and continue freely creating my story because of those who have come before me. Only time will tell if Rupaul’s Drag Race is a future chapter.
Anything else coming up or in the works we should discuss?
Nothing more I can say right now, but I’m very excited to be bringing “Truth or Bare” back in a new way, hopefully early next year!
Okay, here’s my final question: what is the worst thing, and the best thing, about drag for you?
In my opinion, the best thing about drag is the fantasy it delivers to both myself and others. It gives people something exciting to focus on, a transformative escape for even a brief moment from the sometimes grim reality of a situation, while simultaneously being a tool of celebration when appropriate.
The worst part about drag for me right now is the uncertainty. NYC has an honest overflow of people trying to make a living wearing grease paint. For the past four years, I’ve accepted any and all gigs that came my way, this year learning the importance of stepping back to reevaluate what I really want from my drag.
While still working a lot in face, I’ve (like many of us do) pursued additional work recently to supplement declined gigs. Only saying yes to the opportunities that forward my personal goals with drag is important, but bills still need to be paid. Bringing it back to uncertainty. I’m lucky enough to continue supporting myself with my art both on and off stage. But it’s a hard job, and very few do it for the money.
At the end of the day, embracing my truth has led me into my own dream. Regardless of tomorrow’s possible uncertainty, I’ve been called to this life and darling, I’m living!
You’re an inspiration, Miss Scarlet! Thanks again!
Scarlet Envy is the door queen and host of the weekly Friday night KWIR party at Monster (10pm). She is part of the rotating cast of the “Distorted Divas” show at the Broadway Comedy Club on select Thursday and Saturday nights (8pm). Beginning December 14th, she will start hosting Winner Winner Chick & Dinner–a game night–at Falcon Laundry in Brooklyn, bi-monthly Wednesdays. Scarlet can be followed on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter & YouTube.