A new queen wins a new crown at a new pageant, and the stars are already aligned for her bright new career. With a monthly show debuting at the West End this week, now is a great time to bask in the glory of this fiery queen–and get the spelling of her name down, Facebook be damned! Meet MisssHell!
Thotyssey: Hello there… Miss Hell? Mish Helle? Misshell? Missssshellllllle?
MisssHell: It’s “MisssHell” [laughs]! All this social media gives me terrible branding, because Facebook won’t allow me to spell my name with the ‘s.
Facebook always makes it impossible for a queen to just own her damn name! So, congrats on your Ultimate Drag Pageant victory, MisssHell! Was this your first pageant win?
Thank you! I am so happy and excited that I was able to get the season 1 victory–there was a lot of great competition! It was my first pageant. I never thought I would be a part of a pageant. But I wanted to step outside the box that I’ve been developing, and that’s exactly what it made me do through the entire competition.
All those weeks, it must’ve been a real challenge to keep coming through!
It was a big challenge–I looked at the list of themes when I was told I was going to be doing the show, and thought “Okay, that’s easy…” But then as the weeks led up to each category, and after hearing judges’ critiques, I got more and more into my head.
What was a personal highlight for you regarding your own performances or looks during the pageant?
I have a bunch of favorite highlights. My favorite numbers would be my Sheri Lewis and Lambchop number, and my “Wrecking Ball” number! My favorite look, I would say High Fashion Week: I did some pasties and a cage corset. It was great… I’m really sad I didn’t get pictures of it, though!
My mental picture is fierce enough! Okay, so before we discuss the new show, let’s go back to the beginning: where’s your hometown?
I’m from Dunellen, New Jersey: a one square mile town where I graduated high school with 70 people. But funny enough, they just started a drag show once a month in Dunellen at Roxy and Dukes featuring Astala Vista and Pissi Myles–their first show was sold out! I am super excited that I get to join them as a special guest for their second show on Thursday, March 16 at 7pm! I seriously would never have thought a drag show would come to a small town like Dunellen.
That’s awesome! Roxy & Duke’s is a major burlesque destination, I’m glad that drag is catching on there also! So given that Pissi and Astala weren’t there during your formative years… what were your earliest creative outlets? Did you always want to be a performer?
Well, I’ve only been doing drag for a little bit: my drag birthday is May 5, 2016. I never thought I would be doing drag, honestly. In high school, I grew up doing theatre, and then once I went to college I stopped all together. I majored in Elementary Education, but in the fourth year I realized that wasn’t for me.
So, I was living in New Jersey… my best friend was living in Astoria,and she was looking for a roommate. So I moved to NYC in September 2012. I was going out seeing performances, and it was something that really got me excited. So, I tried drag!
The first few attempts to paint weren’t great, but then I went out and it was such an amazing time. I felt like something just clicked. At that point I never thought I was going to perform–I just wanted to be a look queen, and turn up different looks. Then someone told me to perform, and I questioned it. But then when I really thought about it, I was like, “Hell, why not?”
The first song I ever did was Kristen Bell’s “Dr. Long John.” It was terrible, but I was feeling myself. And after that, I just fell more in love with drag, and have been pushing myself ever since.
Did any queen take you under her wing/wig when you were first starting?
I honestly started pretty alone. I was painted twice, and each time I learned that I was doing everything wrong. I just take a lot of advice from people. I also observe a lot. So while out at competitions, I would just take mental notes. I guess you could say YouTube took me under its wing… for a lot of things!
Was RuPaul’s Drag Race an influence on you also?
Drag Race is definitely an influence. I think I’ve watched all Miss Fame’s makeup tutorials, I wish Alaska birthed me, and Adore–well, I just adore. They’re all so different, but I find each of them so interesting and inspiring.
You’ve certainly done the groundwork that a young queen must do to get her name out there… you’ve guested all over, and I’m sure you’ve competed in lots of the competitions. From that period, what have been some favorite experiences?
And have there been any really shitty moments yet, like a drunk customer or a shady establishment?
Thankfully I haven’t really had any trouble with those things. You’ll always have the creepy people hitting on you, but you just have to stand your ground or walk away.
So, this is kind of an unusual time in our nation’s history to be making your mark as a visibly queer entertainer. Are you going to incorporate politics into your drag, or do you think a queen’s role in society is to entertain and distract?
Being completely honest: I care about politics, but I hate talking about it. I love that queens who can incorporate politics into drag, because it is so important and there is so many ways to portray it: being funny, serious, meaningful, etc.
I just love to entertain, and hope by what I do people connect. Everyone’s different: there’s so many types of drag. Michelle Obama 2020!
On to more serious matters: did you go see Ariana Grande’s recent NYC show… and if not, do you wish you did?
I didn’t, I was in Jersey over the weekend. My boyfriend and I had that conversation in the car, and I’m just a not big concert goer. I am dying to go to Vegas and see Britney’s show.
I like the idea of seeing Britney, but I worry that she’d give us something so messy and low energy. And wouldn’t that just be so disappointing? Or no, cuz it’s Britney, after all?
I think it’s an “Okay I’m in Vegas, let’s go see Britney” [situation]. But I also think she’s worked her ass off for this show, and she looks hot! I gotta see what she’s come up with.
“Burn Baby Burn,” your new monthly show, is debuting this Thursday at the West End, the venue where you won the first season of The Ultimate Drag Pageant! Is this show part of the prize package?
Yasssss, “Burn Baby Burn!!!!” You could saythe show was an audition? They were looking for a fourth girl to fill the monthly slot. So now, I am a part of the West End family!
Such a great accomplishment to get a show so early in a drag career! What do you have planned for us?
I am so very thankful and very excited, yet very nervous! “Burn Baby Burn” is going to be a mashup of the songs I’ve been playing around with since I started doing drag: I do a lot of ballads,and impersonations of songs– I put my take on them. If I had three words, I want it to be fashionable, playful, and fun!
That would be a winning combo. And you can’t beat that stage at the West End as far as a performing space goes, right?
The stage is great! There’s a little catwalk, too! And the lights are amazing. They just got brand new Broadway-styled lights.
Do you have any ridiculously premature predictions for a Drag Race Season 9 winner?
They all look pretty fierce. If I base my prediction off of social media, I would say Kimora. Aja, or Alexis! And I have to add Farrah in there, too. So top 4!
Good call! Okay, lastly: what is something a young queen has to learn from actually going out and experiencing working a venue, as opposed to perfecting at home watching YouTube and Drag Race?
I would say: go out in and out of drag, talk to people, support, watch people. Remember–when going out, you’re branding yourself. Listen to feedback, but don’t always take it to heart. There’s always something more to learn.
And you’ll be teaching us all someday! Thanks, MisssHell!