This fierce queen made her start in Manhattan, became huge in Brooklyn, and is now owning Manhattan once again. Singing, dancing, writing parodies and being damn funny are just a few tricks of her trade, but this performer is a philosopher at heart. Her new party at Easternbloc debuts this week: it’s Daphne Sumtimez!
Daphne Sumtimez: Glad to be chatting with you! The children at Pieces and Phoenix were supercharged yesterday. The air in this city has been electric this weekend, and it feels good to have the engine revved, to be out and making moves.
I was able to attend some protests on Friday and Saturday before shows, and nothing gets my blood pumping to perform like marching and shouting. It’s invigorating to get every person at Pieces to cry out in unison, “No Trump, No KKK, No Fascist USA!” It’s rewarding to see every mouth at Phoenix lip-syncing with you to “I’m Every Woman,” hours after the Women’s March.
Amazing! You know, my first pessimistic thought was that the protesting wouldn’t do much good this early on, but you can tell that it has already gotten under Trump’s skin.
Honestly, I don’t give a fuck about his ugly skin. His name just happens to be synonymous with white supremacy, misogyny, transphobia, Islamophobia, etc., which are the real targets of protest. I’m heartbroken and terrified about the absurdity of his administration, and it will be crucial to continue to express outrage at every ludicrous, dangerous action it takes.
That said, inequality and violence have been woven into the fabric of this country for over 200 years, and if putting an awful buffoon in office has finally gotten people mad enough to speak out against them en masse, there’s hope.
Also, I’m hoping Kellyanne Conway is stressed enough to buy some more blanched yaki to staple into her dumb head to hide the hair loss. Support the wig industry!
Amen on all counts! So Daphne, I must say that this past holiday season, I really enjoyed those cute Christmas videos you made with Elle Emenope. You two were just singing carols and making corny jokes, but it hit the spot with all the impending doom that’s now upon us! Was that your intention when you made them?
Oh, thanks! That’s exactly what Elle and I were getting at. The two of us and our videographer Adam Harden really did have a day of cookies and egg nog and tree decorating and caroling, and I did sincerely catch a case of the warm fuzzies. It felt like being a kid at home with my family, but imbued with the sparkle of drag and celebrated with chosen family.
I’m so happy to know the videos brought you a bit of cheer! The whole reason I’m a drag queen is to feed an insatiable need to make people happy!
And you do it well! Okay, so let’s get to the beginning. What’s your hometown, and what was growing up like for you?
Alas, growing up in Roseland, New Jersey was fairly uneventful. I spent all of my free time alone in my room reading the encyclopedia until I was like 14. Then I did some theater in high school and fell in love with being on stage, but I never wanted to play anyone but myself or my mother, who is a lovely riot (as are my sisters and father).
In fact, I never actually came out to them. One Tuesday night, when I was about 13, my
mother said, “Get in the car. We’re gettin’ Starbucks.” On the car ride she was looking at me expectantly, and asked “Don’t you have something you want to tell me?” I had no idea what she was talking about. Then she said, “Goddamnit, you’re gay.” I said, “What?” She said, “Don’t you feel better now that you said it?”
10 years later, I’m a fuckin’ drag queen living in the city. Go figure.
Thanks Mom! Love that. So what turned you on to drag, and when did you start doing it?
The first drag queen I really got excited about was Kelly, the YouTube sensation best known for “Shoes.” I think what drew me in was how something so silly could make statements about gender, class, and authority. I saw drag as something irreverent, goofy, and totally enjoyable for a simple laugh, but with layers to peel back and stuff to examine if you want to.
Once I devoured all of Kelly’s content, I dove into the realms of Miss Coco Peru and John Waters films, then somewhere along the line a high school boyfriend introduced me to Drag Race and I was hooked. I started going to Rocky Horror in proto-drag, and I tasted blood and I wanted more.
So, I chose to go to college at NYU so I could live in the city, and Daphne came bursting out of me. I got in drag as often as I could for whatever reason I could come up with.
Five years later, people people pay me and put me on stages and screens!
I got to watch your performance at Dusty Ray Bottoms’ anniversary show at Pieces recently, and you sang a parody of “Impossible” from Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella, and it was amazing! Kind of obscure for the casual drag fan I think, but even if you didn’t know the original song it was still funny. How long have singing and parody been part of your act?
Oh, I’m glad you enjoyed it! I love my stupid little ditties. I’ve been doing them for a little over a year now, and they’re my favorite numbers to perform. I love language and wordplay, and parody stands out to me as one of those grand traditions of drag. I’m actually about to start music rehearsals for a one-woman show of philosophizing through parody!
I actually recall that the first time I saw you many moons ago. You were Daphne J. Twinkle, and you wandered into Holly Dae’s old show at Boots & Saddle, and she let you do a number. That’s the reality when you are starting drag, right? You have to go everywhere and do everything.
I remember that night! I was in a rainbow sequin dress, with a fuchsia Jem wig and a black-beaded bolero, and I had the time of my life to Christina Aguilera’s “Candyman.” I was over the moon that Holly let me do a number.
In my opinion, that’s where good drag starts: joy. Ultimately, whether on the global scale of RuPaul’s Drag Race, or the personal scale of chatting with a lone stranger at the bar, drag is about reaching people. And people are much more receptive to letting you reach them if they can tell that you are happy.
As far as building a “drag career” goes, I think you have to be in it for the sheer joy of being a drag queen. You show up everywhere you can because it’s your pleasure to do so. You want as many people as possible to love what you do, because you love it so much yourself. If you don’t genuinely believe that what you’re offering is exciting, then there’s no reason for anyone else to get excited about it.
What made you go with “Sumtimez?” Is it just as simple as, sometimes you’re Daphne?
Yup! I have a terrible fear of commitment and I’m emotionally inconsistent, so I didn’t want people expecting me to be anything *all* the time.
How far into your drag were you when you signed up for Season 4 of everyone’s favorite NYC competition, “So You Think You Can Drag,” and how did you enjoy that experience? And bonus question: what did you learn from it?
Aw, I look back on SYTYCD4 warmly! I’d been running around the city in drag for about two years at that point, but that was the first drag show I was a part of on a weekly basis. The other girls and I got along well enough, and I’m pleased to call a few of them friends still.
I’m not a terribly competitive person, and I never expected to win, but surrounding
ourselves with other artists is how we improve. The challenge of responding to a specific prompt definitely pushed me creatively, while watching how audiences react to different queens gave me a better feel of how to read the energy of a room. In those ways, competitions are like drag boot camps, where you learn the skills of the trade, so I think everyone should try it at least once.
That said, I’m quite relieved that my competitive days are behind me. I’m too much
of a control freak for all that!
Most gals from that competition traditionally work the Manhattan circuit after its over, but you embraced Brooklyn, and got several gigs there. How did that come about?
Scarlet Fever at TnT, girl! It was the Friday night rage for years. Scarlet Envy was already a good friend of mine, and I tricked her drunk ass into letting me on that stage so many times that Brooklyn had no choice but to put up with me.
Then, as I think these things tend to go, you look around you one day and realize that you’re a part of a family. Brooklyn became home, and I’ve been very lucky that her audiences like what I bring to the table. Funny enough though, most of my gigs now happen to be back in Manhattan.
That’s happened to a lot of Brooklyn girls, particularly since TNT closed. Was that a shock to you when that happened?
Not really, to be honest. Rumors had been floating around for months, and plenty of property around it was getting bought up. It was just a matter of time. Turns out that home bars, like most things in life, come and go, you know?
You had a happy hour show at TNT on Fridays that you’ve successfully reprised with a new name–Funtimez with Sumtimez–at Easternbloc in the East Village a few months ago. Lots of displaced Brooklyn gals have repositioned themselves at that place. What makes Easternbloc so Brooklyn compatible?
Honestly, it surprised me just how well Easternbloc took to Brooklyn drag. A lot of that has to do with the fact that the staff and management are a bunch of sweethearts, and everybody treats each other with a level of respect and appreciation. The room itself also carries that delightful campy dive bar feel that’s so appealing to Brooklyn sensibilities.
What’s the show like?
Fun Timez With Sumtimez has been a hit over there! I treat the show like I’m having a bunch of people over to my living room, so there’s this intimacy that edges deliciously on too-real. Some favorite bits include “Affirmation Circle,” where I share a tongue-in-cheek glimpse into my devastating emotional fragility, and “My LTR with LDR,” where I try to make Lana Del Rey songs performable. Everyone’s been eating it up and a nice crowd has been building!
In fact, Frankie Sharp and I are about to partner up in carrying the happy hour festivities onwards all night with our new Friday night twirl: Dumbclub!
Let’s talk about that. Frankie is of course a legendary producer and DJ of NYC nightlife, the man who brought us Westgay and Metrosensual and Frankie’s at the Jane, and he’s been spinning a party at Easternbloc called Beef for some years now. What’s Dumclub gonna be like?
Frankie’s at the top of the game, and the fact that I get to kick off every weekend with him has me grateful and inspired. I loooove what he spins, and it turns out that manic, hyper-energetic drag mixes super well with sexy boys, great asses, and a killer DJ set! We’re really pumped to join forces in whipping up a debaucherous, unpretentious night
of uninhibited fuckin’ fun.
One of the best parts for me is that we’re having new guest performers and hosts every week. There are so many awesome people in this city whom I haven’t gotten to work with as much as I’d like, and now there’s finally a Friday night bash where all of us from different circles of nightlife can come get stupid and really enjoy how much we have in common. Now’s the time to get back to the basics of loving on each other and having
good, easy fun.
Sounds amazing! What else is going on?
Come see me as go-go hostess at The Box: legendary venue, truly spectacular shows, and me at my zenith of capricious charm!
Usually I’’m there on Wednesdays, but sometimes a few days a week. Anyone interested in hearing more should reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org, because the Box tends to be a bit exclusive about these things. You know the old saying: a girl who’s swanky, stanky, and skanky, gets herself some hanky panky.
Preach. Okay, in closing, let’s jump on this meme wagon: what is a major #alternativefact about Daphne Sumtimez?
I am a healthy, self-sufficient adult who loves herself and doesn’t need a man to be happy. #alternativefacts
Well played Thanks Daphne, and have Fun Timez on Friday!
- See Also: Daphne Always (3.8.2019)