This entertainer has only been a drag queen for a little over two years now, but she’s already Rockbar’s Senior Girl, and a featured weekly performer for the West Village’s most eclectic night. With an array of looks ranging from trashy-fun to high end pageant glam and killer Broadway-worthy pipes, she got the goods for a long, long run. Get into Petra Fried!
Thotyssey: Petra Fried, helloooo! Have you recovered from the New Year yet?
Petra Fried: Hello Jim! Yes, I think I’m solidly whipped back into shape.
The most important event of 2016 was obviously the Mariah Carey Technical Difficulties Incident of NYE. What’s your take?
Oh man, I have to tell you, I am an unashamed Mariah fan–especially her MTV Unplugged era stuff. I do a Mariah number at almost every show I do… but wasn’t that all such a disaster? Girl could sing. Girl sang too much. Girl can’t sing like that anymore. I think a career makeover is in order, and she should start singing Irving Berlin and Gershwin classics.
Oh that’s a great idea! That would fit her like a diamond-studded glove! You have a pretty extensive musical theater background yourself, so you’d know… but we’ll get to that it a bit. First off, where’s your hometown?
Loveland, Colorado (when I grew up, it was #1 in church seats per capita in the USA).
Were you from a family of churchgoers?
We grew up Lutheran, but we weren’t church fanatics. It was a 2-out-of-4 Sundays a month situation. And I went through confirmation classes and everything, but incidentally my Confirmation Sunday was the last day I ever stepped into a church as a parishioner.
Were you always performing in some way?
Actually, no! I have a twin brother, and as kids he was always the extroverted performer of the two of us. He would play characters and make all the adults laugh, while I on the other hand was at the kitchen table coloring or drawing or painting. I loved drawing and painting–I thought I would grow up to be an artist and animate Disney movies. It wasn’t until I was maybe a middle schooler that I started itching the performer itch.
That’s interesting! Wait, is he an identical twin?
Alas, no. We are fraternal. In high school some people used to think we were just two guys in the same grade with the same last name.
So, what was your first role?
HA! The Wolf, in the 4th grade classic Don’t Blame It On The Wolf!
Should we have blamed it on the Wolf?
Absolutely. Guilty AF.
Did you study acting in college later?
I took a few acting classes, but my degrees are actually in music performance. So most of my studies were in song rep classes and the like.
What were your musical inspirations back then, or your go-to numbers?
I used to sing “Stars” from Les Miserables all the time! I loved the epic 80s musicals, like Miss Saigon, Phantom of the Opera – I sang “All I Ask Of You” with my 60 year-old voice teacher all the time. And anything from RENT. That show was huge when I started singing. It seems so dated these days, but I have a massive soft spot for RENT. (Not the movie….ick).
So, when did drag happen?
Drag happened years and years later (I’m aging myself here, aren’t I)–June of 2014, for Gay Pride. My first performance was at M’Lady Uppercrust’s Friday happy hour show at the old Boots & Saddle. I did an Elsa look. (Frozen wasn’t quite so tired then.)
What made you want to actually try drag? Was it just being friends with M’Lady?
Partly that, yes. I had been going to her show almost every week for months, and had made lots of friends at the bar, so it seemed like a safe place to try it out–and she was really generous. I had also been graduated with a bachelors and a masters in music for years, wasn’t auditioning, wasn’t performing, was generally unhappy with my non-existent creative life, and I just wanted to perform.
The audition scene was trying on me–I kept getting told I looked too young for how I sounded, and that I would work lots and lots in my later 30s and 40s. So I was frustrated. And I liked drag–it brought me joy as a patron, and I wanted / needed to do something. So drag it was.
Do you recall the moment you came up with your drag name?
I do! Part of my family background is Norwegian and Northern Germanic, so I was just poking through female first names from those regions, and Petra came up. The pun with “Fried” was so obvious and so stupid, I couldn’t resist. Mind you, my initial intention with drag was to be a goofy, boogery clown queen, and the name was so eye-roll silly, I thought it would be perfect.
(One of my other ideas was Brita Pitcher–which was accurate on two levels– but then I was informed of another up-and-coming queen, Brita Filter, so I opted for Petra).
Well, so much for boogery clown queen, you’ve become quite glam!
Thank you! I discovered that all that time playing with crayons and paint helped me really enjoy beating my face.
You’ve been in some pageants, like Miss Boots & Saddle, and most recently Miss Rockbar. What do pageants teach you about drag, do you think?
Pageants: I am still not sure how I feel about them. On one hand I have met some extraordinary talents while competing. I think that actually is the best thing you get from a pageant, and it helps you hone in your own talent in a “higher stakes” setting.
Also, they make me reconsider what I want to put out there. You don’t have a full show to convey who you are, you get a number or two and a few looks, and that has to be enough. That can be difficult when what I really enjoy is planning an hour and a half show that has an arc and balance, and making merry with my audiences. I’m all about the storytelling experience.
But they’ve been a good experience for me. That being said, if I never did another one again, I wouldn’t cry about it.
You were a beard queen for a bit there too, between pageants! Will the beard return someday?
The beard comes back when you least expect it. And always with glitter. Always.
You used to do shows all the time with your galpal Hazel Tart… Do you think you two will perform again soon?
It’s definitely a possibility–time will tell. We definitely have some kickass duets that could use dusting off.
Nice! Okay, so I believe that you are now officially the Senior Queen of the young Rockbar family! How long has the Wednesday night Petra Fried Show (7pm) been running there now?
It’s wild–but yes, I’m the Senior Queen, I suppose. I have to say, hearing that makes me so f***king proud! I started at Rockbar nearly two years ago- only a handful of months after I started drag. [Venue owner] Jason Romas gave me an incredible opportunity, when I still basically had no idea what I was doing (which is maybe still the case).
We hit the ground running, we tweaked the variables, and, with the White Elephant Burlesque Society, and recently with the addition of the Underwear Party with JizzaBella, created a totally rad Wednesday night experience. As corny as it sounds, they really are my parallel universe family.
And now Rockbar has some killer queens–I like to think we are the Brooklyn of the Manhattan scene.
That’s an interesting way of putting it, and you might be right! It’s a very eclectic roster there, and by far the Wednesday lineup at Rockbar Is the most diverse night in Manhattan. Your show is a great platform for your singing: what’s the latest song that you’ve enjoyed adding to your repertoire?
Have you seen Moana??? I’m currently obsessing over that soundtrack, so naturally I had to sing the expository empowered princess girl anthem “How Far I’ll Go!” You have to see it! That movie is stunningly beautiful. And, come on, there’s nothing like a 30-something baritone drag queen singing songs written for 14 year-old girls, right? Right!?
I also have been singing “Somebody to Love” by Queen. That one is great– everyone gets so happy when they hear it, me included.
What I really like to do is take songs originally sung by pop princesses like Ariana Grande and Katy Perry, and shake them up a bit–find great acoustic tracks, and add my Bea-Arthur-meets-Josh-Groban-meets-Johnny-Cash voice.
Another fitting description! By the way, when did your spot-on Bea Arthur impersonations begin?
My first donning of the Bea Arthur skin was in April of last year. I had been doing Bea numbers for months, but didn’t do a full illusion until then. (Side note: Petra’s face takes a solid 2.5 hours. Bea’s? 45 minutes. I look a hell of a lot more like Bea Arthur than Petra Fried–which I think we should point out is a credit to what a handsome lady Bea Arthur was!). I always wanted to do it, but I had such high reverence for it that I was terrified I would fuck it up (I don’t like to half-ass anything).
Then a situation arose where I needed to do a celebrity impersonation, and so I had no choice but to dive in. Now my Bea gets me almost as much attention as Petra. Take away: if it scares you that much, you should probably do it.
Well The Petra Fried Show has doing great, keep it up! Okay, looking ahead at some other Rockbar stuff: I see you’ll be presenting for the Silver Tusk Awards on January 11th, which honors members of the extended White Elephant burlesque family! Have you gotten a little more drawn into the burlesque world since having such close proximity to that crew on Wednesdays?
Absolutely. I had never even seen a burlesque show until I started at Rockbar, and now it’s a part of my weekly routine. Viktor Devonne and The White Elephants are taking burlesque into so many directions: nerdy, humorous, classic, dark, trans, body-positive, feminist… you name it.
And now I have even done a few burlesque acts myself, in fact–and I have more ideas bubbling in my brain. And my closeness with the burlesque community has let me branch out into new venues in New Jersey, or in Brooklyn (like the BEEF show hosted by Lee VaLone).
What really strikes me is how different an audience I (and the rest of the Wednesday night crew) have built up. It doesn’t feel like the audience at other drag shows, which I think is fantastic. It’s less gay-men-centric (which can be totally great, too) and more all-inclusive and queer-friendly, without ageism or elitism or other -isms that you might find in some “gay” spaces.
Totally! And you’ll be performing for JizzaBella’s birthday bash there on February 1st, which is turning into a pretty epic lineup of performing queens! So, um, hey… how old do you think she is????
47. I mean…. 26.
This is a really fantastic event that was put together by a few artists and singer friends I have in the NYC community. In light of recent political events, they wanted to host an event that would directly counter some of the potentially dreadful funding prospects for really important organizations.
The concert is featuring folk musicians, opera singers, musical theatre folks: all raising money for the Audre Lorde Project and the Brooklyn Community Pride Center. This is really exciting, and is important for all of us in the queer community, women, and anyone who gives a damn about the inalienable rights of people.
Great. And now tonight, you and Erika Klash are actually gonna be on the Vodka Soda / Bottoms Up stage with the great Marti Gould Cummings! Will that be your first time performing with Marti, or at VSBU?
I have performed with Marti before–Marti is easily one of my role model queens in NYC (or anywhere). She’s quick, she’s funny, she’s totally unique, such a hard worker and generous, supportive fellow queen.
It will be, however, my Hell’s Kitchen debut at VSBU, which is really cool! I’m bringing my favorite numbers and some bomb-ass looks tonight. Snow be damned!
Word! Okay, anything else?
Rockbar on Wednesdays, 7pm is where I make a fool of myself for the enjoyment of the peoples. Also, the third Friday of each month I get to play with my oldest drag “sisters” Princess Bitch and Lilith LeFae at Boots for their show Black Friday, 8pm (where I serve token white girl realness).
Nice! Okay, last question: what’s something we might not know about Petra Fried, but should?
I’m a Top.
Ok, for real: This is a hard question!
Here’s the kitchen sink: Petra Fried is allergic to caffeine, faints at the smallest sighting of blood, and her favorite color is blue. She has an unhealthy reverence for Bea Arthur and anything Golden Girl. She loves singing dude music while looking fucking gorgeous. She is a glamorous dork, through and through. The only things smooth about her are her pad lines. She can grate cheese on her chest, despite a flawless boob contour (go ahead, touch those breasts sometime) because she is a lumberjack man under it all. Her mom and dad support her and tell her she is the best drag queen in NYC on a weekly basis, always with lots of heart emojis (a cavity, I know…). Her rack is made of lentils, so when she’s running hot, her bra smells like an Indian restaurant. She was never meant to be anything other than a one-time party gal, but has turned into a really important buoy in my life.
I never dreamed this would be such a huge part of me, and I’m shocked a little every day that I get to do this. Thanks Petra, you ridiculous, beautiful, money sponging, sonorous, steadfast lady.
Yay! I too thank you Petra!
Petra Fried hosts her self-titled show at Rockbar Wednesday nights (7pm), and guest performs every third Friday for Princess Bitch & Lilith LeFae’s “Black Fridays” at Boots & Saddle (8pm). Click here for a complete list of upcoming appearances. Petra can be followed on Facebook and Instagram.